Solution: “SMART POWER”

“The ability to use the carrots and sticks of economic and military might to make other follow your will” – Joseph Nye


Joseph Nye

The quote mentioned above gives as explanation of the definition hard power by Joseph Nye. But is this the most important tool concerning the acquisition and use of power in the 21st century? Ore is a combination of hard and soft power, known as “SMART” power the better way to head for? The following text will give a clear definition of “SMART” power and why it is far more influential and well thought of in the century we live in today especially regarding the relation between the United States of America and the Peoples Republic of China. The definition “SMART” power will be underlined with different arguments presented by the following ‘International Diplomacy and Protocol’ students:

Marvin Golser (German)                                            International Logistics Management

Song Han (Chinese)                                                 International Logistics Management

Joris Wigger (Dutch)                                                 International Hospitality Management

Benedikt de Wet (German/South-African)                   International Hospitality Management

Smart power can be seen as the best strategy when working together with different legal entities. The definition of smart power is stated as the link between hard and soft power to deal with new problems we face in the 21st century, this by networking and cooperating between nations for the overall good.


Hard vs. Soft Power

Before going into detail concerning smart power, two other definitions must be taken into consideration. On the one hand there is the term power transition that looks at the shift between states power from west to east. In today’s world a shift from the western powers to the eastern powers can be noticed mainly because of the rapid economic growth in eastern nations. On the other hand power diffusion on a global scale plays a crucial role in power. This has to do with the complex world with more actors arising, especially non-state/non-governmental actors, and therefore the influence form different instances occur through simplification of communication. This makes the need for new theories important to keep to the new power situations. The state, as we have known it for many years, has seen a decrease in power as non-state actors increased in power. Examples of non-state actors that have increased in power are Oxfam for example. Furthermore, al Qaida can also be seen as a non-state actor with a big impact on a global scale, even though with criminal intentions.

The common definition of power is the ability of party A to make party B, do what A wants it to do. To be more precise, the ability to affect others to get the outcome you want as more powerful entity in this case concerning powerful actors between each other.  The definition “power” is seen by many as the degree of military might you have over other players. It is important to state that this is not the case, especially in the 21st century.

As already mentioned there are different degrees of power. Hard power is seen as the military and economic power to get others to do what you want them to do. Soft power on the other hand, is the direct opposite. It is the ability to affect others through the co-optive means of framing the agenda, persuading, and positive attraction in order to obtain preferred outcomes. Every strategy has its pro’s and con’s. This is where smart power comes into play. We see smart power that tries to take the best of both, as the best solution when nations need to deal with each other in a bilateral way.

As the U.S. – China ties get more and more important making use of each power becomes immanent. As Hillary Clinton, the former United States Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013 serving under President Barack Obama came up with the term “smart power” as a meaningful strategy to create a bridge between the U.S. and the Peoples Republic of China. This strategy in the theme of collaboration will create a better bilateral relationship. Moreover, in 2010 under secretary McHale it was stated that the U.S. – China ties must be viewed as an opportunity rather than as a threat to U.S. interests. These aspects show a 360 degree in U.S. foreign policies regarding China under President Obama from 2009 onwards. Examples of growing U.S. – Sino relations via smart power usage are several meetings with both parties talking about economic, political, peace and especially human rights topics. This can be seen as a breakthrough, especially the topic of human rights regarding China. Concluding, using smart power enhances bilateral relationships between both superpowers.

Soft Power

China’s Vision SMART Power

Next, smart power enhances the overall good that we know as the global good. The diffusion of power and other external factors cannot be influenced by one single entity/government. Climate change or natural catastrophes need to be dealt with in a bilateral way. U.S. and China as world powers need to think of the global good and react together to help victims in situations like this. Acting together is the key to success. By using smart power, both parties do not lose relative power and decrease interstate tensions. If problems occur, irrelevant of type or time, smart power must be looked at before making to haste decisions. On the long run both parties will profit from this.


Hillary Clinton “SMART POWER”

Concluding, we see smart power as the ideal balance between hard and soft power. Making use of the benefits of both strategies will create far more positive relationships between the United States of America and the Peoples Republic of China. As both countries have to share their statuses as world powers bilateral communication and actions are important. The U.S. under President Obama made a positive step to enhance smart power in their foreign policy towards China. China on the other hand met with the U.S. on several occasions to talk on different topics. Topics such as human rights respect in China was a clear indication of China’s step towards America. This creates a solid foundation for the term “global good”.


Global Good

We need to start enhancing the abilities of today to work together, instead of throwing stones in each other’s way. Smart power creates a bridge between nations. This can be done by overcoming their differences and utilizing their common needs, as can be seen between the U.S. and China.



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