Nye’s New Understanding of Changes to and Tendencies of America’s “Soft Power”

Research on national strength

National strength is an important part of Nye’s research, and Nye has made unique academic contributions while looking at the historical experience of the west and America. He has repeatedly argued that the sources of national strength were different during different periods. Sixteenth-century Spain relied on colonies and gold, seventeeth-century Holland relied on trade and finance, eighteenth-century France relied on its large population and army, nineteenth-century Britain relied on its leading position in the industrial revolution and great naval power, and today’s America relied on many factors, including its advantage in the information technology revolution and economic globalization.[1]

In the twenty-first century, changes to powers in the world and their directions are mainly in two ways: one is “power transition,” another is “power diffusion.” “Power transition” refers to the power that is transited from a dominant power to another power which has status in the world. Nye believes that a current outperformance of power transition is happening, that national powers of Asian countries have increased rapidly, and that a trend of power being transited from the west and America to the east has emerged. “Power diffusion” refers to the fact that more and more actors have joined the world stage along with its increasing openness, and power is spread among state actors and non-state actors. “Power diffusion” is a relatively a new process, which is more difficult to control for some actors. In this globalized information age, the common challenge that all countries (including superpowers) confront is that world politics will not be limited among states but will be far beyond control.[2] What’s more, “power diffusion” may be much more dangerous than “power transition.” Traditionally, the most powerful country is no more than that which has a large army, while in the new era, countries without military power or nonstate actors can also be prominent, and different modern races and nonstate actors are probably much more threatening to the US. [1]

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