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Prelims Capsule

International Relations

India vs China Soft Power comparison – Geopolitics

India vs China Soft Power comparison – Geopolitics


  • GS 2 || International Relations || Indian Foreign Policy || Soft Power

What is soft power?

  • Soft power is the ability of a country to persuade others to do what it wants without resorting to force or coercion.
  • Soft power lies in a country’s attractiveness and comes from three resources: its culture, its political values, and its foreign policies.

Concept of soft power

  • Joseph Nye introduced the concept of “soft power“,suggests that it consists of foreign policy, cultural and political influence.
    • Foreign policy influence comes from the legitimacy and morality of one’s dealings with other countries.
    • Cultural influence is based on others’ respect for one’s culture.
    • Political influence is how much others are inspired by one’s political values.

India’s foreign policy clout

  • Overall, among the 25 Asian powers,India ranks sixth and China ranks first in terms of diplomatic influence.
  • On the network, India nearly matches China in terms of the number of regional embassies it has, but it lags far behind in terms of the number of embassies worldwide (176 to 126).
  • Multilaterally, India is equal to China in terms of regional memberships, but its contributions to the UN capital budget are completely dwarfed by Chinese contributions (11.7 percent to 0.8 percent of the total).
  • China ranks first to fourth in four surveys of foreign policy leadership, ambition, and effectiveness, while India ranks fourth to sixth in Asia.

 Cultural influence

  • Cultural influence is then divided into three components, the most important of which are “cultural projection” and “information flows.”
  • In terms of cultural projection, India outperforms the rest of the world in Google searches for its newspapers and television/radio broadcasts.
  • Export of cultural services
    • India also exports a greater proportion of its “cultural services,” which are defined as “services aimed at satisfying cultural interests or needs.”
  • China outperforms in several other metrics.
    • For example, India has only nine brands in the top 500 global brands list, whereas China has 73.
    • India has 37 UNESCO World Heritage sites, whereas China has 53.
    • Respect for the Indian passport suffers as well
      • Chinese citizens can visit 74 countries without a visa, whereas Indians can only visit 60. In terms of information flows, India hosted only 24,000 Asian students in tertiary education institutions in 2016–17, while China hosted 2,25,000.
  • Tourism
    • India received 17 million total tourist arrivals from all over the world, while China received 63 million.
  • India seems to be outperforming China
    • India seems to be outperforming China in the soft power game with much less state control or direction.
    • If governments and government leaders hope to grip the imaginations of people abroad, they must be proactive by providing an attractive model of governance and preserving space for their citizens to provide compelling cultural contributions at a grassroots level.
    • These are things that state-backed propaganda rarely accomplishes.

Influence in politics

  • In terms of political influence, the two were not that far apart in 2017.
  • China>India
    • The governance effectiveness index places India in the top 43% of countries worldwide, ranking 12th, and China in the top 32%, ranking 10th.
    • India ranked 21st and China ranked 15th in terms of “political stability and absence of violence/terrorism.”

Benefits of soft power

  • Leadership-Soft power has always played a very important part in leadership.
  • Reflects credibility-The power to attract, to get others to want what you want. Every Skilful leader has always understood and noted those attractive parts from credibility and legitimacy.
  • Hard power doesn’t work alone-Power has never been won by just a shot of a gun, even harsh dictators have used attraction as well as fear.
    • If someone is using hard power, there is always a soft power in it to help them continue their hard power for a bit more time.
  • Lasts longer– The effectiveness of Soft power lasts longer than Hard power.

Soft Power in India

  • The MEA has embarked on a program to build diplomatic missions and cultural centres using the country’s diverse architectural styles to project India’s soft power across world capitals.
  • Spiritualism, yoga, movies and television, classical and popular dance and music, nonviolence principles, democratic institutions, plural society, and cuisine have all drawn people from all over the world.
  • Soft power as a diplomatic tool
    • India is using soft power in its diplomatic engagements around the world.
    • The International Day of Yoga celebrates yoga’s immense popularity around the world, highlighting its richness as a source of soft power.
  • Cultural and religious diversity
    • India is a civilization that has provided a haven for cultural and religious freedoms for Jews, Parsis, Christians, and Muslims.
    • India is a country where all major religions – Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and Sikhism – coexist, which has been the strength of India’s soft power.
  • Indian diaspora
    • The Indian Diaspora is regarded as ambassadors and bearers of our soft power.
  • Aadhar Programme
    • India’s successful Aadhaar program, which can help other countries do similar things, and India’s IT capability are both significant sources of soft power.
  • Buddhism as soft power
    • Buddhism is an important bridge not only between India and South East Asia and East Asia but also between India and South Asia.

Way forward

  • Utilize the Indian diaspora’s significant cultural and civilizational potential.
  • Innovation and entrepreneurship should be the preferred soft power both within and outside the country.
  • The education system as a soft power tool
    • India must have a well-organized higher education system that attracts a large number of students.
  • Developing Indian tourism
    • Develop the Indian tourism sector to a large extent, which will also result in economic gains.
  • Strengthening of position through various means
    • India should strengthen its position through good governance, work toward good economic growth, and raise the standard of living for the common man.
  • India must capitalize on the goodwill and potential soft power it has generated.
  • This will assist India in reaching greater heights in terms of soft power.


  • India’s culture, heritage, and pluralism are its greatest assets.
  • We have the potential to be world leaders not only in terms of economics, but also as a free, vibrant, and dynamic nation.
  • India must leverage and accelerate its growth through the use of soft power.

Mains model question

  • Analyze the effects of recent developments on India’s soft power paradigm.