Many scholars of Chinese soft power commonly believe that despite the fact that China has been working hard to achieve successful soft power expansion, one of the biggest factors that leads to Chinese soft power deficit or failure of the Chinese government to effectively trump “China threat” is its inability to use its cultural industries as a tool to fulfill its soft power expansion goals. This is a major obstacle to China in achieving its goal of successful Chinese soft power expansion, as it is said that culture is the most traditional and powerful source of soft power expansion. This paper, through its exploration of a specific cultural industry of China – its film industry – and China’s failure to use it successfully as a tool of soft power expansion, will strive to find out what is inducing this failure in order to produce a concrete lesson that China can take away to tackle its soft power deficit issue. This phenomenon in which China is unable to achieve successful soft power expansion through films is an interesting outlier case, for films are viewed by scholars as one of the most “powerful” cultural tools of soft power expansion (Lovric 2016). Through looking at the case studies of Japan and South Korea of how their film industries have granted them successful soft power expansion, and by comparing these cases to the unsuccessful case of China and its film industry, this paper will argue that the barrier to the Chinese government’s soft power expansion achievement through its film industry is not the government intervention in itself, but the fashion in which the CCP intervenes: in the form of censorship that discourages creative content from flourishing in a bottom-up fashion (due to its historic and present view of films as medium of spreading political propaganda). This leads to the overarching argument of this paper that: although cultural industries like films have the capacity to serve as powerful tools of soft power expansion, governments should note that a condition to this success is that cultural industries should be encouraged to develop organically from within the society rather than in a top-down fashion with heavy governmental involvement in the form of censorship.

First Advisor

Pierre Ly

Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in International Political Economy

Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2017