ARAD Works: “China’s Cultural Diplomacy as the Means of Soft Power Through the Lens of the Confucius Institute”

Having recently completed her master’s thesis, Lynn Fu shares some insight into her topic and her writing process.
Lynn Fu

“China’s Cultural Diplomacy as the means of Soft Power through the lens of the Confucius Institute: A Comparative Study with the British Council and the Japan Foundation”
By Lynn Fu

What is your thesis about? China’s cultural diplomacy as the means of soft power through the lens of the Confucius Institute – a comparative study with the British Council and Japan Foundation

What inspired you to research and write about this topic? The reason why I chose this thesis topic is my personal interest in arts and culture and my belief in the potential of arts and culture in terms of being able to address larger agendas and issues, such as peace building, diversity, environment and sustainable development. Before coming to the arts administration program, I had been working at the British Council Shanghai for more than eight years, dedicated to arts and cultural exchange between Chinese and British arts and cultural organizations and individuals. Based on my professional experience and observation of the evolution of China’s cultural diplomacy in recent years, I decided to study the Confucius Institute, the Chinese equivalent of the British Council. Also, given the geographical and cultural proximity between China and Japan, the Japan Foundation is drawn into this study as well. On the personal level, I used to live in Tokyo for a short period of time and have a strong interest in the Japanese language and culture.

What advice would you give to ARAD students just beginning the process of writing their theses? Don’t panic. Find what you’re truly interested and passionate about. Talk to people. Do research. And the thesis will lead its own way.
Abstract: With China’s rise as a global power militarily and economically, soft power has become a buzzword in China in the recent years. The Chinese government realizes the importance and urgency to construct a national image, which is more positive and appealing to other nations so as to convince the world of China’s peaceful rather than aggressive rise and be able to impact not only economically but culturally as well.

Since President Xi Jinping took office in 2013, China has been focusing increasingly on cultural diplomacy as the means to pursue its soft power. This paper is mainly to discuss the Confucius Institute – China’s major government educational and cultural institution that serves the purpose of promoting Chinese language and culture worldwide, focusing on its arts and cultural programs that are relatively weak as opposed to those of the British Council and the Japan Foundation, the two institutions that are chosen for this comparative study. Since its inception in 2004, the Confucius Institute has grown rapidly with presence in more than 130 countries now. Through a comparative analysis on its background, organization and programming, the author hopes to draw lessons and make recommendations for the Confucius Institute to promote Chinese culture in a more strategic and effective way in the future.

For access to the full paper, please contact the ARAD program at


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