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Dr Fang-Long Shih
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Identity and Security in Taiwan and China in Comparative Perspective, Reading from William Callahan's "The Negative Soft Power of the China Dream"

Seminar on Taiwan and China in Comparative Perspective

Series:  Seminar on Taiwan in Comparative Perspective

Date: Thursday 7 April 2016, 6–8pm

Venue: Seligman Library, 6th Floor, Old Building, LSE 

Chair: Dr Fang-long Shih (LSE)

Introductory Speaker: Professor William Callahan (LSE)

Panellists: Dr Derek Hird (University of Westminster), Dr Jinghan Zeng (Royal Holloway), Stuart Thompson (SOAS)

Following the success of our previous panel discussions on “What does the Taiwan 2016 Election Signify?”, this time the subject will be approached in relation to the issues of “Identity and Security: Taiwan and China in Comparative Perspective”, focusing on the article “Identity and Security in China: The Negative Soft Power of the China Dream”. 

It is our honour to have the author, Professor William Callahan, present to give an introductory highlight, followed by 3 outstanding panellists who will respond respectively from three different perspectives: Dr Derek Hird from Cultural Studies, Dr Jinghan Zeng from International Relations, and Stuart Thompson from Social Anthropology.
After the talks by the author and panellists, we then open the discussion to all participants, to build a dialogue between Taiwan and China. The article focuses on the China Dream as a heuristic device for domestic social control, and as such it is very pertinent to comparative analysis with Taiwan’s situation.

Professor Callahan argues that “the Chinese discussion of soft power is interesting because it does the opposite: soft power is negative rather than positive, and is employed as a tool in domestic policy more than in foreign affairs”. Is this observation also applicable to Taiwan's case – that soft power has been implemented by Taiwan's government as a tool more in domestic politics than in international relations?

Abstract of the Article

Joseph Nye concentrates on the positive attractive aspects of soft power as a foreign policy tool. This article will argue that the Chinese discussion of soft power is interesting because it does the opposite: soft power is negative rather than positive, and is employed as a tool in domestic policy more than in foreign affairs. It will use Chinese President Xi Jingping's new “China Dream” discourse to explore China's “negative soft power” strategy. Rather than take for granted that we understand what the 'Chinese values' are that inform the PRC's soft power, it argues that soft power discourse is a useful heuristic device for understanding how Chinese policy makers and public intellectuals are actively constructing a 'China' and a 'world' to promote regime legitimacy. The Chinese case thus suggests that we need a more complex view of power that considers the contingent dynamics of its hard/soft, positive/negative, foreign/domestic aspects.

About the speakers

William Callahan is a Professor in the Department of International Relations, LSE. His research examines the interplay of culture and politics in China and Asia, and considers the overlap of domestic and international politics. His books include China Dreams (Oxford University Press, 2013), China: The Pessoptimist Nation (Oxford University Press, 2010), China Orders the World (co-edited, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012), Cultural Governance and Resistance in Pacific Asia (Routledge, 2006) and Contingent States: Greater China and Transnational Relations (University of Minnesota Press, 2004).

Derek Hird is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Modern Languages and Culture at the University of Westminster. He has an MSc (Res) on domestic violence and women's rights in contemporary China (2003), and a PhD on white-collar men and masculinities in contemporary urban China. His publications include Men and Masculinities in Contemporary China (co-authored, Brill, 2013)

Jinghan Zeng is a Lecturer in International Relations in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is also an Associate Fellow in the Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation at the University of Warwick. His research and teaching interests lie in the field of Chinese politics and research methodology, with more specific interests in the study of China's authoritarian system, elite politics of contemporary China, and Chinese foreign policy. His academic papers have appeared (or will appear) in the Journal of Contemporary China, International Affairs, the British Journal of Politics and International Relations, Contemporary Politics, the Australian Journal of International Affairs and the Journal of Chinese Political Science. Before his academic career, he worked for the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs in New York City.

Stuart Thompson was formerly Lecturer in Asian Anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He is also a committee member of the LSE Taiwan Culture Research Programme. He was also Convener of, and a teacher on, the interdisciplinary MA Contemporary Taiwan course. He has been researching Taiwan since his initial fieldwork in 1980. He specializes in the study of education, cultural literacy, social aspects of food, and death-related rites and representations. He is co-editor of Consuming China (Routledge, 2006), and of Re-Writing Culture in Taiwan (Routledge, 2009).

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William Callahan
Text of William Callahan's "The Negative Soft Power of the China Dream" [External Link]