Information operations · Information Warfare

The Soft Power 30 – A Global Ranking of Soft Power 2017

The Soft Power 30 – A Global Ranking of Soft Power 2017

The nature of power has never been more complex. It had long been held that traditional hard power involving armies and economic might ruled the day. This resulted in a straight-forward power exchange – whoever was stronger was dominant.

Now, we are living in an increasingly complex multi-dimensional, and interdependent world. Power has become more diffuse, moving from West to East, as well as away from governments altogether as more non-state actors leverage international influence. This is in large part due to the digital revolution, which has eroded national borders, creating challenges and opportunities in equal measure. It has also allowed citizens to mobilise in new ways, and build bridges across geographical divides.

What does this mean for global affairs? Countries are realising that old-world hard power can no longer influence outcomes and achieve their foreign policy goals as they might desire. Instead, it is the ability to encourage collaboration and build networks and relationships which is the new currency.

As Professor Joseph Nye, who first coined the phrase “soft power” 27 years ago said, “power with others can be more effective than power over others”. But while there is a growing enthusiasm for soft power in global capitals, it has not always been matched by the understanding and capability required to deploy it successfully.

Fundamental to deploying this is a clear and accurate measurement of a nation’s soft power resources.

This is the aim of The Soft Power 30 index – the world’s most comprehensive comparative assessment of global soft power. It combines objective data and international polling to build what Professor Nye has described as “the clearest picture of global soft power to date.”

It can take many generations to build soft power. So it is no surprise that the results of the 2017 Soft Power 30 index are broadly in line with those seen in 2015 and 2016. But while the same countries fill the top five spots, their positions in the rankings have changed. Our findings show that European soft power is recovering. North America’s capability is on the decline, while Asia is on the rise. The US has dropped two places from last year’s top spot, while France has emerged as the overall world leader when it comes to soft power.


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