Competition with Russia, China revives need for soft power

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Seventy-five years ago this month, Secretary of State George C. Marshall gave a speech at Harvard University on the post-war reconstruction efforts in Europe. The speech led to the creation of the Marshall Plan, named after the World War II hero serving as secretary of state under President Harry S. Truman (and later became his secretary of Defense). Marshall was almost universally revered.  

Formally known as the European Recovery Program, the Marshall Plan was the first U.S. government-sponsored foreign assistance initiative. In 1947, Europe remained largely in ruins, transportation was stalled, food was scarce, and there were increasing fears that local communist parties with support from Moscow would take advantage of the situation. 

The plan was targeted toward economic recovery and rebuilding institutions in 16 countries and was in effect from April 1948 to December 1951, costing the American taxpayers up to $13.3 billion (amounting to $150 billion in 2020). The Marshall Plan was designed to rebuild Europe and push back against the Soviet Union, creating political and socioeconomic stability needed for these states to sustain democratic and market institutions. In many ways, the Marshall Plan can be described as an act of

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