Jeremy Goldkorn

China is trying to put up a nice face by using ‘soft power’ to get things done globally, but it meets mostly distrust, illustrated by a troubled bid from a Chinese tycoon to buy a part of Iceland. Beijing resident and media watcher Jeremy Goldkorn tells the New York Times why.

The New York Times:

“I was moved by that bleak, wild nature,” [developer Mr. Huang] told The International Herald Leader, a newspaper affiliated with Xinhua, the state-run news agency.

The developer, who has climbed Mount Everest twice and published six volumes of poetry with titles like “Don’t Love Me Any More,” “looks forward to become a wandering poet and lead a wild life,” according to his company’s Web site.

“Why do people want to ruin this win-win investment?” he asked in the newspaper interview.

One answer: deep suspicion about a country with increasing global weight but little “soft power,” analysts said.

“It does show what a failure they’ve been at their soft-power efforts,” said Jeremy Goldkorn, the founder of, a Web magazine and research firm, and a 16-year resident of China.

The phrase “gets bandied about in various ways,” said Mr. Goldkorn. “It should mean that you have the power of attraction, and China’s been very bad at that,” he said, citing its lack of transparency, harsh treatment of dissidents, hard-line stance over claims in the South China Sea and food safety scandals.

“The soft power that they are getting is exclusively because of their money,” he said. “They haven’t managed to build a country where people feel safe.”

More in The New York Times

Jeremy Goldkorn is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch.

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