Nouvelle publication de Stéphanie Heng sur le soft power

Stéphanie Heng a publié fin 2015 un chapitre intitulé “Soft Power in the Context of News Production and Circulation Networks of Emerging Countries” au sein de la publication suivante : Power in the 21st Century: Determinants and Contours (Ed. Tanguy Struye de Swielande et Dorothée Vandamme), Presses Universitaires de Louvain (Coll. Scène internationale).


At the end of the eighties, Western media were largely dominating the world in terms of news production and circulation. Periphery countries were not only dominated by unequal vertical news exchanges, but also marginalized by the news exchange among the core. Soft power, as a means to success in world politics (Nye, 2004; Potter, 2009), is especially of interest as for emerging countries.

For instance, China and Russia are now actively taking control over international news flows. China is enhancing its international presence (e.g. Xinhua news agency). Russia aims at developing a similar strategy: launch of Sputnik, a global news agency, to counter a “unipolar” vision of the world, while RT (Russia Today) invites experts from all over the world to share views that are different from the views of experts invited by CNN (e.g. on the Ukrainian crisis). As for India, the soft power strategy is particularly in place culture-wise (Thussu, 2013), but the direction in terms of global communication remains uncertain.

The aim of my paper is to contribute to further developing the soft power theory in the light of evolving links between communication and power on a global scale. China and Russia have had state-owned news agencies for years and strategies described as propaganda. What is changing? Why are we now rather speaking about soft power? Nye disputes that soft power and propaganda are similar: while soft power enables to spread impartial information, propaganda cannot do so. Yet Nye’s approach to soft power has been criticized: soft power is sometimes seen as ineffective (Niall Ferguson, 2004) while some rationalist authors believe that actors solely respond to economic incentives or force. This paper will elaborate on these debates and propose a theoretical approach to soft power that accounts for the emerging countries’ communicative power in global news networks.