This paper compares the soft power capital and public diplomacy strategies of Taiwan and the People's Republic of China. The premise is that Taiwan's international status and the absence of formal diplomatic recognition by major powers are a serious constraint on Taiwan's ability engage in meaningful outreach with the global community. The focus of the discussion is a paradox: Taiwan should be more successful at soft power since it is the personification of political values which should make it attractive to the liberal-democratic world; and yet the People's Republic of China – an authoritarian regime – is attracting far more attention and seems to possess and exercise far more soft power capital than Taiwan. This suggests that measurements of hard power and the models advanced by traditional approaches to international relations are more convincing ways to understand Taiwan's present predicament and its soft power. However, current strategies – operationalised by both Taiwan and the PRC – enjoy limited success for different reasons.