China’s Soft Power Strategy: Education as an Apparatus of Influence in Southeast Asia

Joseph Ching Velasco

Department of Political Science and Development Studies, De La Salle University

Vol. 16 (2022): 71-93 | Download PDF


Soft power has become a ubiquitous concept in international affairs and an important analytical tool in foreign policy. While there is abundant scholarship on the theoretical aspects of soft power, limited attention has been allocated for analyzing the intersections of soft power and education as a state-sanctioned tool of diplomacy. In view of this gap, this work examines the concept of soft power in the context of China. Specifically, this work maps out the strategies used by China in positioning its higher education sector as an apparatus of influence toward Southeast Asia. In addition, I unpacked how it is leveraging its universities as part of its soft power strategy. I argue that China’s educational diplomacy hinges on three pillars: increased student recruitment, offshore campuses and programs of Chinese universities, and Confucius Institutes. Through its soft power strategy, China is continuously influencing the regional and global order and attempting to alleviate discontent among its neighbors.


Soft power, international student mobility, Sino-ASEAN relations, Chinese diplomacy, double first class