Prof. Joseph Nye visits Yenching Academy


On January 5th, 2017, Professor Joseph S. Nye from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government visited the Yenching Academy of Peking University to participate in the Expert Lecture Series. The interactive discussion session with Professor Nye was hosted by Professor Lu Yang, Director of Graduate Studies at Yenching Academy, and was well attended by Yenching Scholars.

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Professor Joseph S. Nye started the conversation with a reflection on the recent US Presidential election, offering some insights on Sino-US relations under the Trump Presidency. Professor Nye predicted the weakening of Sino-US relations within the coming year, alongside an improved US-Russia relationship as Trump takes office. Despite this initial rebalancing, Professor Nye predicted that the trajectory would not last over the long term.

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After sharing his thoughts, Professor Nye opened the floor up for discussion with Yenching Scholars. Joe Mazur, a 2015 cohort Yenching Scholar, asked for Professor Nye’s reflections on China’s soft power: What is the country’s greatest soft power tool, and how China can build upon its soft power? Professor Nye, who pioneered the term “soft power,” first described the concept in more detail. Soft power, he said, is the ability to get what you want with attraction rather than coercion. He then explained that China’s rich culture remains one of its biggest soft power assets, especially as the country expands its network of Confucius Institutes and opens up Chinese universities to international students. Both of these projects, he said, reflect China’s current soft power strategy.

Beling Tang, a 2016 cohort Yenching Scholar, asked a follow-up question about Confucius Institutes and programs such as Yenching Academy. How, she asked, do institutions such as Yenching Academy fit into China’s concept of soft power? Professor Nye acknowledged that institutions such as Yenching Academy can be a positive development for all, as deeper understandings can help to avoid conflicts. If you understand the assumptions of other cultures, Professor Nye said, you are more likely to resolve conflicts peacefully.  

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In addition to a fruitful discussion with Professor Nye regarding China’s soft power strategies, Yenching Scholars also spoke with Professor Nye about cyber security, Twitter, and the role of the digital world in international relations. Finally, the group discussed what the Trump Presidency will mean for Eastern Europe, and for the world at large.

This Expert Lecture Series event with Professor Nye was well received by Yenching Scholars, who enjoyed the stimulating interactive discussion.

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