Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The soft power champ

Every country makes an effort to extend their influence. China has been very purposefully active in trying to extend the reach of their influence through soft power. Maybe it takes more than effort.

Softly does it
HOW many rankings of global power have put Britain at the top and China at the bottom? Not many, at least this century. But on July 14th an index of “soft power”—the ability to coax and persuade—ranked Britain as the mightiest country on Earth. If that was unexpected, there was another surprise in store at the foot of the 30-country index: China, four times as wealthy as Britain, 20 times as populous and 40 times as large, came dead last.

Britain scored highly in its “engagement” with the world, its citizens enjoying visa-free travel to 174 countries—the joint-highest of any nation—and its diplomats staffing the largest number of permanent missions to multilateral organisations… Britain produces more internationally chart-topping music albums than any other country, and the foreign following of its football is in a league of its own… It did well in education, too… because its universities are second only to America’s…

Governance was the category that sank undemocratic China, whose last place was sealed by a section dedicated to digital soft-power—tricky to cultivate in a country that restricts access to the web…

The index will cheer up Britain’s government, which has lately been accused of withdrawing from the world. But many of the assets that pushed Britain to the top of the soft-power table are in play. In the next couple of years the country faces a referendum on its membership of the EU; a slimmer role for the BBC, its prolific public broadcaster; and a continuing squeeze on immigration… Much of Britain’s hard power was long ago given up. Its soft power endures—for now.
St. Edmund Hall, Oxford

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