26 Oct China’s Love Affair With England
It is hard to believe that just a few decades ago China was considered by the West to be ‘Nation State Enemy No.2’ (Soviet Russia being No. 1). But that was in the long, cold dark days of communism. Now communism is defunct. Mao passed over to Maoist Heaven. Some years earlier, Stalin had gone to meet his own particular God. Iron Curtain gets torn down fast. Capitalism wins the argument, at least the economic one, and no one now reads The Little Red Book (Mr J. Corbyn, take note).
Since the capitalist bug bit China then everything Western, and certainly most everything British, has been the buzz. Want the ultimate status symbol? Buy a Rolls Royce. Want to be a Global Citizen? Learn English. Want the best education for your kids? Send them to a British International School and then on to Cambridge University. Cultural Capital – that is what the Chinese middle classes now yearn for. But, alas, money alone doesn’t buy it. You need something else, something uniquely British. You need CLASS.
And which is the classiest nation in the world? The UK, of course. And the Chinese know it. That is the sub-text to President Xi Jinping’s visit this month to the UK. The warm and welcoming smile from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II just melts the heart of this Chinese man (and his attractive wife, of course). Because it confirms President Xi as an ‘acceptable leader to Her Majesty and the British people’. In this context, President Xi is actually paying homage to the most powerful nation on earth, at least in terms of Soft Power – the UK.
By the most recent objective assessment, the United Kingdom is brimming over with Soft Power.
Hard Power is push, Soft Power is pull – and in the age of the internet pull is much more powerful, potent and persuasive than push. (President Putin, take note)
I made this point only last week to the overseas teachers at Nguyen Sieu School, Hanoi. I gave them all a 60 minute lecture on ‘Globalisation, Soft Power, and the International School’. I’ve been doing Professional Development at NSS for the past three months and its been most interesting. Like all international schools following a British Curriculum (CIE), soft power is a deciding factor for the parents. The parents are actually buying Britishness, Westernisation, Englishness when they pay big money to send their kids to a school such as this.
In the age of globalisation and soft power, Nation States are brands. And the UK is the leading brand, no doubt about it.
And in a couple of week’s time, the UK Soft Power is about to get an even bigger boost – the OO7 one.