Constraints on the Soft Power Efforts of Authoritarian States: The Case of the 2015 Military Parade in Beijing

Camilla T. N. Sørensen


Is it possible for authoritarian states such as China, Russia, and Iran to combine the soft power narratives directed primarily towards an international audience with the narratives directed primarily towards a domestic audience that are aimed at maintaining regime security? To investigate this question, this article analyses the 2015 military parade in Beijing, using this case to highlight and discuss the constraints on Chinese leaders’ efforts to project soft power. The key finding is that soft power will continue to be the weak link in China’s pursuit of a great power position and status as long as what continues to count as “Chinese” is defined in opposition to hostile “others” and the humiliation narrative continues to function as the central identity marker in the party-led construction of national identity (the “us”).

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