Soft Power Means Getting People to See Your Point of View

Danny Quah
2 min readDec 10, 2020


What do you think is the US’s big problem with China?

Soft power means, at a minimum, getting people to see your point of view.

If you have soft power then not only should others like and admire you, but the narratives you weave should have your admirers standing up and cheering, and even your detractors saying, Gosh darn it, there you go again; you got it right once more.
So how successfully has the US communicated to the world its single most egregious complaint about China?
My poll question was, What do you think is the US’s big problem with China? I suggested three possible answers:

1. China seeks to disrupt the workings of the international trading system. Out of the goodness of its heart, the US is only trying to safeguard everyone else in the world from a China that bullies.

2. By its running a trade surplus against the US, China is stealing jobs from American workers. The US is just retaliating against a cheat.

3. The details don’t matter. The US simply cannot bear the thought of any other nation being no. 1 in the world.

In the event: 1. — 7%; 2. — 13%; 3. — 81% // adding to 101% from rounding error.

(In case anyone gets carried away, please, this is a blogpost; N is 88, and a group of Southeast Asian bankers and industrialists is obviously no random sample.)



Danny Quah

Danny Quah is Dean and Li Ka Shing Professor in Economics at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS.