5

Australia

Sydney Opera House, Australia
Sydney Opera House Close up HDR Sydney Australia” by Hai Linh Truong from Sydney, NSW, Australia – Sydney Opera House Close up HDR Sydney Australia. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons.

Australia, by contrast, spends only 0.29% on aid, although it has very fruitful natural resources and earns at least A$20 billion from foreign exchange students alone. How long can it continue to suppose that “We’re a new country” will suffice as an excuse for not participating properly in the world. Sure enough, Australia is an island; but this should only encourage its politicians to engage more intimately with the outside world so as not to be altogether forgotten by it. Australian soft power has the laid back attitude, sun-tanning opportunities and Kylie Minogue to thank.

4

Germany

German Fans
photo by Stewart [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

Playing it safe, Germany refuses to acknowledge its hegemonic power; this is a gesture of politeness and reassurance, yet one that seems to be holding them back. After the US, nobody does brand power like the Germans (brand power, although having been coined much earlier, is a subsection of soft power). Germany has had 102 Nobel laureates, second again to the Stars and Stripes. On every front — economic, cultural, intellectual, sport — it is strong. Memory of past strength keeps the spread of German infection from spreading. Not to mention Angela Merkel.

3

France

Paris, France
photo by trialsanderrors [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

France clings to soft power with its play on nostalgia. Few people today go to Paris to see the Paris of today — Woody Allen made a film about that precise phenomenon in 2012. Perhaps France itself is trapped in this mindset, funding 968 cultural missions (around 20 times the global mean). Nevertheless, soft power is strictly symbolic and nostalgia plays an enormous role in this. Looking at some of your favorite poets or thinkers, you’re more than likely also going to be gazing fondly upon France. Oh, Champs-Élysèes, you might find yourself singing under your breath, recalling a Paris you never knew but so very glad to be doing so.

2

United Kingdom

The BBC
BBC TV Centre” by Panhard – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Commons.

Aside from history with all corners of the world and a language all can share, the BBC is the heart of British soft power (with an audience of 241 million in 32 languages). The influence of media should not be understated. It was, in fact, central to the UK winning top spot last year

Unfortunately, events such as the London riots outweighed the charm of yet another royal wedding, leaving the nation behind. Mixed messages of Britain is great and Britain is a broken society don’t help anyone understand them. Let alone the Brits.

1

United States

The Statue of Liberty
By William Warby (originally posted to Flickr as Statue of Liberty) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

21 years after Nye’s publication, America is on top again, never having strayed far. This might seem strange given the country’s apparent eagerness to show off its hard power — one could even call the fast food chains a MacDonald’s militia. One thing that sets America apart is its superpower of regenerating significant soft power icons that target academic, artistic and ulterior audiences. As a result, people still look to the US as the hub of serious pursuits. It continues to attract the young ambitious, occupying their dream space. So long as this remains the case, America will have impossibly strong soft power.

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