Tuesday, 19 May 2009


Obama shows his smart power

Peoples Daily Online
April 17 2009

US President Barack Obama announced on April 13 that
he would eliminate the restrictions imposed on US citizens,
which prevent them from visiting their families in Cuba and
remitting money to their relatives in Cuba. The New York
Times said this is the most significant change in US policy
toward Cuba over the past few decades. Expressing friendship
to Cuba is just one of the highlights of Obama's soft diplomatic
policies since he took office.

From East Asia to the Middle East, from South America to
Europe, Obama and his senior officials have launched a
"springtime diplomatic offensive" with smiles and olive
branches. In Turkey, Obama said that he has never wanted to
make war with the Islamic world and that he wishes to hold
dialogue with Iran. In Europe, he raised the
denuclearization issue and said words that European people
like to hear. In Geneva, the US and Russia promised to
"reset" their bilateral relations. In Asia, US Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton visited four countries as soon as she
took office, which has become known as "a journey of
listening." Obama's diplomatic policies have begun showing
notable differences from the previous administration.

The US is the world's number one power, and is a dominant
power in the existing international order. The shift in
diplomatic policy by the US will inevitably have
far-reaching impacts on changes to the international
situation. Looking at the current momentum, this type of
"smart power-oriented" diplomacy has already played a
certain positive role in raising the image of the US and
easing the deterioration of main issues on the global

The adjustments to Obama's diplomatic policy is favorable
firstly for restoring relations between the US and certain
countries, as well as for reinforcing cooperation with its
allies; secondly, from the perspective of the current
general background of the changing political environment,
the influence of public opinion is increasingly important,
and has become the focus of competition between each power
on the international stage. Obama's diplomatic policy is
clearly helpful for improving the US image in the world;
thirdly, facing the current serious financial crisis, the
US should make more use of soft power and less use of hard
power, which will ease its burdens and will be more
favorable for US efforts to put enormous financial,
personnel and physical resources into its economic

Obama's diplomatic policies have shown the world the
following outstanding features: more flexibility, more good
will, more affinity, and more reliance on diplomatic
negotiation. In essence, this type of diplomatic policy is
aimed at forming a sort of moral and just influence. Such
policies are aimed at dominating the commanding height of
morality and justice by means of "skillfulness and wisdom"
such as "flexibility and good will."

The US will not give up its dominant role in world affairs.
In the past, perhaps it relied more on the deterrence of
its military power to meet this strategic goal. Now and in
future, it will rely more on its moral and just influence
to influence the world.

Of course, influence in international affairs through moral
force does not mean completely throwing away big sticks and
picking up sweet carrots. Wrapping a big stick in a layer
of soft sponge or putting a carrot at the front and a big
stick at the back, the US has never given up its powerful
military force. However, more initiative and active
employment of soft power by the US is likely to help it
change form a binding force or a dominant force into a
force that respects public opinion around the world.

Diplomatic policy is also a kind of political game. One of
its fundamental principles is to obtain the largest benefit
at the least cost. The adjustment of Obama's diplomatic
policy notably predicates reduction of cost, without any
change in their goal to obtain the most benefits. In the
future, it remains to be seen what impact the US reduction
in hard power will make on global political, economic and
security patterns; in particular, when meeting with less
traditional security challenges, can the Obama
administration continue to make the most effective response
at the least cost?

By People's Daily Online

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