RIETI Open BBL Webinar

Trade Tensions and the US Soft Power


One of the unintended consequences of economic tensions between the United States and China is its effect on the US soft power. It has been long recognized that an appreciation for US movies by citizens in other countries constitutes a form of US soft power in influencing world affairs, extending and complementing its “hard powers” in military and economic might. The trade war, increases in US tariffs on imports from China beyond its WTO commitment, launched by President Trump and maintained so far by President Biden, can either enhance or diminish the US soft power in China. If citizens in the target country regard it as a righteous and justified penalty for their government’s unfair trade policies and other transgressions, they may respond to the trade war by increasing their appreciation for US movies (and other symbols of US soft power). On the other hand, if they regard the US tariff increases as a tactic to increase narrow US commercial interests, inconsistent with the US brand image as a defender of a rules-based world economic order, it can backfire and reduce their demand for US movies. We use changes of viewership of US movies in China as a lens to investigate how the trade tension has affected the US soft power in China.


  • Time and Date: 12:15-13:15, Wednesday, June 7, 2023 (JST)
  • Venue: Online
  • Language: English
  • Admission: Free
  • Host: Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI)


  • WEI Shang-Jin (Professor of Finance and Economics, Professor of International Affairs, and N.T. Wang Professor of Chinese Business and Economy, Columbia University / Former Chief Economist of Asian Development Bank)
    Dr. Shang-Jin Wei is N.T. Wang Professor of Chinese Business and Economy and Professor of Finance and Economics at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business and School of International and Public Affairs.
    During 2014-2016, Dr. Wei served as Chief Economist of Asian Development Bank and Director General of its Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department. He was ADB’s chief spokesperson on economic trends and economic development in Asia, advised ADB’s President on economic development issues, led the bank’s analytical support for regional cooperation fora including ASEAN+3 (China, Japan, and Korea) and APEC, growth strategy diagnostics for developing member countries, as well as research on macroeconomic, financial, labor market, and globalization issues.
    Prior to his Columbia appointment in 2007, he was Assistant Director and Chief of Trade and Investment Division at the International Monetary Fund. He was the IMF’s Chief of Mission to Myanmar (Burma) in 2004. He previously held the positions of Associate Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University, the New Century Chair in Trade and International Economics at the Brookings Institution, and Advisor at the World Bank.
    He has been a consultant to numerous government organizations including the U.S. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, United Nations Economic Commission on Europe, and United Nations Development Program, the Asian Development Bank, and to private companies such as PricewaterhouseCoopers. He holds a PhD in economics and M.S. in finance from the University of California, Berkeley.
  • SAHASHI Ryo (Faculty Fellow, RIETI / Associate Professor, Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, the University of Tokyo)
  • ZHANG Hongyong (Senior Fellow and Policy Advisor, RIETI)
  • YIN Ting (Fellow (Specially Appointed) and Policy Advisor, RIETI / Associate Professor, Center for Intergenerational Studies, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University / Associate Professor (Specially Appointed), Tokyo Gakugei University)