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Soft Power Index of the World

An index of “soft power”—the ability to coax and persuade—ranked Britain as the mightiest country on Earth.

An index of “soft power”—the ability to coax and persuade—ranked Britain as the mightiest country on Earth. Britain is followed by Germany, the United States, France, Canada, Australia, Switzerland and Japan. China, four times as wealthy as Britain, 20 times as populous and 40 times as large, came dead last.

Portland, a London-based PR firm, together with Facebook, which provided data on governments’ online impact, and ComRes, which ran opinion polls on international attitudes to different countries. The researches polled over 7,000 people in twenty countries covering each region of the globe.

Power is the ability to affect others to get the outcomes one wants, and that can be accomplished in three main ways — by coercion, payment, or attraction. Power in international relations has traditionally been defined and assessed in easily quantifiable ‘hard’ terms, often understood in the context of military and economic might. Hard power is deployed in the form of coercion, using force, the threat of force, economic sanctions, or inducements of payment. In contrast to the coercive nature of hard power, soft power describes the use of positive attraction and persuasion to achieve foreign policy objectives. Soft power eschews the traditional foreign policy implements of carrot and stick, seeking instead to alter the preferences of others by building coalitions, communicating compelling narratives, establishing international norms, and drawing on the resources that endear one country to another. Harvard’s professor Joseph Nye, the originator of the term ‘soft power’, initially set out three primary sources of soft power as he developed the concept. Nye’s three pillars of soft power are political values, culture, and foreign policy. But within these three categories, the individual sources of soft power are manifold and varied. Soft Power Index builds on those three pillars and draws on metrics from a total of six categories: engagement, culture, government, education and human capital, enterprise and attractiveness of a country’s economic model, business friendliness, and capacity for innovation.

China and Russia make the mistake of thinking that government is the main instrument of soft power. In today’s world, information is not scarce but attention is, and attention depends on credibility. Government propaganda is rarely credible. The best propaganda is not propaganda. Soft power springs largely from individuals, the private sector, and civil society.