There’s nothing like seeing a rival’s success to make you feel envious – and nothing worse than seeing them doing well in an area in which you have found failure. Given the popularity of Japanese and South Korean pop cultures, from manga to K-pop, there’s no doubt that China often feels that it should be improving on its “soft power” – its cultural attractiveness, its ability to win hearts and minds. Therefore, China’s leaders have decreed that Chinese culture should be more broadly disseminated and China’s story should be told in more strident terms.
This is a reasonable aim for any nation and China finds itself an increasingly dominant force in international affairs yet one whose soft power is poor at best. True, the country has enormous historical cultural assets it can call upon, and considerable ecological and natural gifts, from pandas to those remarkable karst mountains in Yangshuo (as seen on every RMB20 note), from the wonders of the Temple of Heaven to the pleasures of its marvellous cuisines and dining culture.