While military utility is seemingly waning, the concepts of a nation’s image and soft power are gaining currency. Thus, China attempts to cultivate an attractive national image of a peaceful, trustworthy China. A strong nation brand, or “competitive identity” is predicated on attractive culture and values, political ideals and policies, and a trustworthy reputation. (Nye, Anholt, van Ham et al) It can be buoyed by a healthy tourism industry, history and high-quality brands. Ultimately, it is credibility and truth. (Anholt, 2006: 40-1)
 This can be seen in its role as broker over the North Korean nuclear stand-off and its attempts to win the opportunity to hold the 2008 Olympics (N. Snow & P. Taylor, 2009: 88)
China had always seen itself as the great Middle Kingdom superior to all others (Snow & P. Taylor, 2008: 284). It has been insular and cared little about its international image (Ramo, 2007: 12). China’s public diplomacy strategy was predicated on a number of misunderstandings which have created serious deficiencies. China has a long-held belief that attractiveness derives from a nation’s size and power, hence the government focused on its economic ‘international position and not on its image’ and ‘China assumed its cultural and historical longevity will automatically earn it respect’ (Wang, 2008: 261). China also conflates foreign governments’ sentiments towards China with the, often contradictory, impressions their publics have (Wang, 2008: 260). The reasons for China’s recent focus on its international image are contained in its economic growth model; foreign direct investment and exports, and ambitions to present itself as a viable alternative to US hegemony. China is competing in the global market place over brand export, FDI and tourism (Melissen, 2005: 172), thus how foreign peoples view China is highly significant.
China has been working hard to improve its national image and attractiveness utilising its history, culture, language and particularly its economic wealth. (Snow, N & Taylor, P, 2009: 285) China invests about $10billion annually, in what it terms as ‘external propaganda’, improving its image through the media, publishing, education, the arts, sport (Shambaugh, 2015). This can be widely seen in the foreign aid packages which totalled approximately $1billion in 2004 (Snow, N & Taylor, P, 2009: 283) and rising to $317billion in 2013 dispersed across ninety-two emerging-market countries throughout six regions (China’s Foreign Aid Offensive). It is debatable whether all China’s efforts have had any impact. So, why are China’s significant and numerous efforts not changing its image?
 The regional shares of assistance 2001-2014 (in billions): Africa ($330), Latin America ($298), East Asia ($192, excluding the bulk of China’s aid to North Korea), the Middle East ($165), South Asia ($157), and Central Asia ($69) China’s Foreign Aid Offensive – http://www.rand.org/blog/2015/06/chinas-foreign-aid-offensive.html
Despite the plethora of infrastructure projects and the vast sums of aid there have been question marks over China’s benevolence in Africa due to sub-standard building (domestically China has suffered from numerous structural collapses), trade deficits, ignoring human-rights issues and its lack of employing African labour. Nevertheless, China has responded with rebuttals of the criticisms and to explain its investments in Africa.
 http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2015/06/19/more-tofu-buildings-string-of-collapses-causes-alarm-in-china/ https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2012-08-29/china-s-bridges-are-falling-down http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-27274086 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2192940/Made-China-Motorway-collapses-10-months-built–manage-build-worlds-largest-armchair.html
China has also delivered financial aid to disaster hit areas across East and South East Asia; $2.6million – 2004 South Asian tsunami and donated $2million alongside sending a support team of experts following an earthquake in Java in 2006 (Snow & P. Taylor, 2008: 284). However, despite China’s huge effort to improve its regional and international image it is undermined by recent and current issues such as Tibet, crackdowns in Xinjiang, China’s Taiwan policy, stirrings of discontent in Hong Kong and its predation of the islands in the South China Sea. Despite China’s claims to legitimacy of its building activities on islands and reefs, there has been a vociferous response from several neighbours.
 http://www.spectator.co.uk/2014/10/hong-kong-vs-china/ https://www.ft.com/content/8e54c51c-e7a7-11e6-893c-082c54a7f539 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-35068501 http://globalnews.ca/news/1587652/hong-kong-protests-key-issues-and-people-in-the-dispute/
China has also used its newfound economic muscle to host a series of prominent international events; the Olympics in 2010, the Shanghai expo 2010, and setting up the Chinese Super League. Unfortunately for Beijing the Olympics was not without controversy; human rights, environmental issues and fake performances. This, of course does much to undermine China’s nation branding efforts in the areas of people and governance but it does not end there. If one considers the governance aspect of the hexagon which connects to FDI, China hardly has a great reputation either. China has been plagued by issues related to corruption and missing businessmen, dumping on international markets, deliberately devaluing its currency and international companies hardly compete on a level-playing field. Additionally, it has suffered several serious health related scandals; SARS and baby milk powder amongst others. An aspect of the hexagon which China has made great efforts to export and should excel is culture and heritage which also links to tourism, a very lucrative industry for China. However, this is nullified by unfavourable images abroad of life in China and media stories of artists under (house) arrest and not being able to travel abroad.
 https://backchannel.com/when-it-comes-to-china-googles-experience-still-says-it-all-bdc4eeedd32c#.k5cpiglc4 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-36561428 https://hbr.org/2006/11/hedging-political-risk-in-china
 http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/is-ai-weiwei-chinas-most-dangerous-man-17989316/ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/11155045/Four-years-on-Nobel-Prize-winner-Liu-Xiaobo-still-unable-to-collect-prize-from-Chinese-prison.html
What can China do? Can China rebrand its image in a similar fashion to that of post-war Japan and Germany; national image reinvention based on use of high-quality products and sporting achievement? (Anholt, 2006: 91, Melissen, 2005: 172) This seems highly unlikely as both nations were ostensibly US satellites. More problematic for China is the international view of its products, with the exception of Lenovo, as either cheap or fake. The Chinese government is attempting to tackle the problems though and to learn from past mistakes. (Snow, N & Taylor, P, 2009: 287) However, the problem for China is that perception often exists long after the reality has died. (Anholt, 2009: 112) China counters the negative impression is a result of its weak position in the global media environment, probably due to restrictions on its domestic media, and thus not being able challenge the dominant western media. (Wang, 2008: 9)
Despite the criticisms of western media dominance, the roots of the problem reside in the government and its determination to maintain a one-party state. Its public diplomacy efforts are largely construed as contrived propaganda, its benevolence to Africa as self-aggrandisement and its initiatives government orchestrated rather than naturally emanating from its civil society or business sector. Thus, its efforts lack the credibility that is so essential for creating a strong nation brand. The best thing China can do is to release the shackles, allow democracy to flourish along with greater human rights and media freedom which should foster a civil society, innovation and entrepreneurialism and allow its people and manufactures to speak for themselves. That, however, seems a long way in the future.
 Thus they neither needed to build a military or engage in international political leadership.
 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2016885/Fake-Apple-store-China-convincing-staff-fooled.html http://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/08/amazons-chinese-counterfeit-problem-is-getting-worse.html http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=130381
Anholt, S., (2009). Places: Identity, Image and Reputation
Anholt, S., (2006). Competitive Identity: The New Brand Management for Nations, Cities and Regions
van Ham, P., ‘Place Branding: The State of the Art’ in G. Cowen and N. Cull (eds), Public Diplomacy in a Changing World
Melissen, J., (ed.), (2005). The New Public Diplomacy. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
Ramo, J., (2007). Brand China. London: Foreign Policy Centre http://fpc.org.uk/fsblob/827.pdf
Shambaugh, D., (2015) China’s Soft-Power Rush https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2015-06-16/china-s-soft-power-push
Snow, N. & Taylor, P., (eds), (2009). Routledge Handbook of Public Diplomacy. New York: Routledge
Wang, Y., ‘Public Diplomacy and the Rise of Chinese Soft Power’ in G. Cowen and N. Cull (eds), Public Diplomacy in a Changing World