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China has been making major efforts to increase its ability to influence other countries without force or coercion.In 2007, then-President Hu Jintao told the Communist Party that the country needed to increase its soft power; President Xi Jinping repeated the same message last year. They know that, for a country like China, whose growing economic and military power risks scaring its neighbors into forming counterbalancing coalitions, a smart strategy must include efforts to appear less frightening. As China enrolls countries as members of its Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and doles out billions of dollars of aid during state visits abroad, some observers worry that when it comes to soft power, China could actually be taking the lead over countries such as the United States.Two major factors limit China's soft power, as measured by recent international polls.Instead, it has clung to the view that the government is the main source of soft power, promoting ancient cultural icons that it thinks might have global appeal, often using the tools of propaganda.Even more important, it lacks the many non-governmental organizations that generate much of America's soft power.China, by contrast, has watched its government policies undermine its soft-power successes.As long as China fans the flames of nationalism and holds tight the reins of party control, its soft power will always remain limited.
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