Ever since President Jimmy Carter normalized relations with China in 1977, the world's most populous country has slowly expanded freedoms within its country and used "soft power"—influence through diplomatic, economic, cultural, and other non-coercive means—to expand its global reach. President Carter tells Big Think that China today is more peaceful than the United States, and that it will continue to be so in the foreseeable future because it wants to reassure the rest of the world about its waxing might.
The United States remains the preeminent force in the world in many areas of "soft power." It is still ahead of China in global trade, GDP, and foreign direct investment, and it maintains its presence as the dominant external force in the Middle East and Latin America. But some foreign policy analysts contend that U.S. soft power has declined relative to China as a result of a dramatic decline in global confidence in U.S. foreign policy.
"No matter where you go in the world—in any country in Africa or Latin America and other place—you will find that China is very deeply involved in the affairs of that country," says Carter. "So China, I think, is now destined to be one of the great powers, not only in trade and commerce—they have now exceeded Japan in that respect—but also a great power in international affairs."
Since the end of the Cold War and the acceleration of China’s economic take-off in the mid-1990s, Beijing’s "win-win" diplomatic style has featured greater accommodation to third world countries and an emphasis on short-term, common economic interests. Unlike the U.S., which is still embroiled in two wars aimed at democratizing former totalitarian states, China’s proliferating trade, investment, and foreign aid accords with other countries have stressed mutual benefits.