The Ups and Downs of Soft Power in the Asia-Pacific

A Captain America figure poses for photos with visitors at Shanghai Disneyland in Shanghai, China. Credit: Flickr/John Pasden

The coronavirus pandemic has shifted the relative “soft power” standing of leading powers.

THE DIPLOMAT – By Daniele Carminati March 15, 2021

Brand Finance recently released the second edition of its Global Soft Power Index, an attempt to rank countries according to their international appeal and reputation. The ranking heavily draws upon the ideas of Joseph Nye, an American political scientist who coined the phrase “soft power” in 1990.

The index was released at a virtual summit on February 25, and included hosts like Joseph Nye himself, and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The panelists were asked to share their opinions about the past, present, and future of global soft power dynamics and how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is affecting these developments.

The index ranks 100 countries according to three core evaluative measures – awareness and familiarity, overall influence, and overall reputation – paired with seven “soft power pillars”: business and trade; governance; international relations; culture and heritage; media and communication; education and science; and people and values. In addition, this year’s iteration of the index featured an addition a category assessing nations’ “performance in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic,” an aspect that was unanimously recognized as pivotal at this year’s summit.

Supporting these objective indicators, the index also includes the subjective views of 75,000 respondents from 102 countries, further reinforced by the opinions of 778 experts in disciplines related to soft power.

In last year’s index, the podium was occupied by the United States (which came in first in the index), followed by Germany (second), and the United Kingdom (third). Fast forward one year, and the U.S. has now dropped to fifth position, experiencing one of the major drops in the top ten, while Germany has moved up to first place and the U.K. remains stable in third position. Several European countries also earned top spots, including Switzerland (fifth), France (sixth), and Sweden (ninth), while Canada is fourth and Australia 10th, with minor variations when compared to last year.



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