The Smiling Dragon

Great Power Dynamics: China's Soft Power Projection in Southeast Asia and Europe – Lessons learned?


China’s power and ambitions abroad are expanding and tensions with the West have increased in recent years. In 2021 NATO declared that China presents a security risk to the Euro-Atlantic alliance. In the context of the coronavirus pandemic and negative international reporting on human rights and security issues, Beijing has relied more strongly than before on soft power to mitigate reputational damage and protect China’s appeal, thus intensifying a rising trend in its outreach. China’s soft power efforts range from infrastructure investments and media outreach to varied forms of diplomatic, academic, professional, and cultural exchange, to medical aid and humanitarian assistance. The PRC’s newest soft power tools are known as “vaccine diplomacy” and “Wolf Warrior” diplomats but also combine the nexus of economic and security through economic sanctions policy. The example of China's trade sanctions against Lithuania in the conflict over Taiwan affect the European Union and is a “litmus test of EU-China relations”.

In recent years the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) has carefully traced China’s increasingly sophisticated influence on all continents. Developments in Southeast Asia, a region with 650 million inhabitants and a combined GDP of three trillion US dollars, but also territorial disputes in the South China Sea and strategic competition among major players, are of highest importance for decision-makers and interested observers across the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, and beyond.

This side event aims at discussing the extent, impact, and potential implications of China’s soft power projection in Southeast Asia and European member states and which common lessons can be learnt from it. This panel will discuss key questions like: What does Chinese soft power mean in practice in Europe and Southeast Asia and which forms does it take? Which lessons can be learned from the respective experiences? How can regional organizations such as ASEAN and the EU constructively deal with China?





2 pm: Welcome remarks and launch of KAS study

Christian Echle, Director Asia and the Pacific Department, Division European and International

Cooperation, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Berlin

2:10 - 3:30 pm: Soft Power Projection in Southeast Asia and Europe – Lessons learned

Ms. Hoang Thi Ha, Fellow and Co-coordinator of the Regional Strategic and Political Studies
Programme at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore

Felix Heiduk, Head of Research Division Asia, German Institute for International and Security,

Ivana Karásková, European China Policy Fellow, MERICS, Prague

MP Matas Maldeikis, Member of the Parliament in Lithuania, Head of Parliamentary Groups for
Relations with Taiwan and Russia, Vilnius

Moderated by: Dr. Céline-Agathe Caro, Director KAS Office Thailand, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung,

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Isabel Weininger

Isabel  Weininger

Policy Advisor Southeast Asia / interim head of the Asia and the Pacific

isabel.weininger@kas.de +49 30 26996 3941
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May 27, 2022
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