China’s soft power collides with the hard realities of the Russo-Ukrainian War: A conversation with Maria Repnikova


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This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Maria Repnikova, assistant professor of global communications at Georgia State University, who recently published a short book under the Cambridge Elements series called Chinese Soft Power. A native Russian speaker who also reads and speaks Chinese, Maria has been a keen observer of China’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and offers her perspectives on Chinese media coverage of the war and the impact of China’s pro-Russian tilt on Beijing’s soft power ambitions. She recently co-authored a piece in The Atlantic arguing that China’s apparent pro-Russian position is about one thing only: the United States and China’s opposition to American unipolar hegemony.

4:25 – Definitions of soft power: Joseph Nye’s and China’s

8:49 – The Chinese discourse on soft power: three major schools

14:09 – How talking about soft power allows the airing of hard truths

23:24 – Chinese soft power in the global South

37:49 – How badly has the Russo-Ukraine War eroded Chinese soft power?

41:44 – How Russian media has been talking about China since the invasion of Ukraine began

44:50 – Why China’s pro-Russia lean is really all about America

54:40 – Is Russia’s media style the future of Chinese media? On the “RTification” of Chinese media

A full transcript of this podcast is available on


Maria: Prototype Nation by Silvia Lindtner; and an anti-recommendation for the show Inventing Anna, which is streaming on Netflix

Kaiser: Season 5 of the show The Last Kingdom; and the sequel to Vikings, called Vikings: Valhalla. Both are on Netflix.