Overseas Chinese’s Engagement in Beijing’s Soft Power Program: Dynamics, Institutions and Transnational Outcomes

A/Prof Ying Zhou2

2Jinan University, Guangzhou, China

China has established the global network of Confucius Institutes (CI) and the extension form of Confucius Classroom to promote language and culture in an effect to enhance national soft power and create a more positive attitude toward China. Yet the overseas Chinese’s extensive participation in establishing and operating oversea CIs has been literately ignored by existing studies. That is prominently demonstrated in Southeast Asian countries. Why do the oversea Chinese actively engage with this government-sponsored soft power program? How do they engage? What are the transnational outcomes of their engagement in CIs and the implication for China’s foreign relations? This article drew on the theory of agent and the concept of soft power in international relations to reveal the role of overseas Chinese, one of the multiple types of agents that embody Chinese culture within soft power projects. Based on case studies in Thailand, Indonesia and Philippine, this article argues that the overseas Chinese’s engagement in CIs produced complex results and even contradictory goals and effects for China’s soft power.


Ying Zhou is an Associate Professor in the School of International Studies (Academy of Overseas Chinese Studies) at Jinan University, China. Her research focuses on Confucius Institute, public diplomacy, soft power, and international relations in East Asia.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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