Macron’s France Overtakes Trump’s America as World’s No. 1 in Soft Power, Report Says

US President Donald J. Trump (R) speaks with French President Emmanuel Macron (L) while attending the traditional military parade as part of the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris, France, 14 July 2017. Photo: Ian Langsdon/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • France has been ranked No. 1 in the world in terms of soft power in an annual report.
  • Much of its surge in the soft power ranking is attributed to new French President Emmanuel Macron.
  • Trump’s America has slipped to the third spot, after being ranked first in Obama’s last year in office.
  • China and Russia have been ranked as the 25th and 26th in the world’s top 30 countries in terms of soft power.

Led by its new President Emmanuel Macron, France has overtaken the United States under President Donald Trump as the country with the greatest non-military global influence, according to the third annual Soft Power 30 report.

The 2017 Soft Power 30 index, the third so far, is compiled by international consultancy Portland Communications and the Center on Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California.

In the first edition of the Soft Power 30 report, in 2015, the UK was ranked as No. 1, followed by Germany, the USA, France, and Canada.

The second edition of the Soft Power 30 report last year saw, the US in the last year of the Obama Administration climb to the top spot followed by the UK, Germany, Justin Trudeau’s Canada, and France.

It is noted that Harvard University political scientist Joseph Nye, the originator of the concept of soft power, initially set out three primary sources of soft power: political values, culture, and foreign policy.

The Soft Power 30 report’s index builds on those three pillars, using over 75 metrics across six sub-indices of objective data and seven categories of new international polling data.

The authors of the report point out that soft power – defined as the ability to achieve objectives through attraction and persuasion – is crucial to the effective conduct of foreign policy.

France’s Rise

France after the election of Emmanuel Macron as President has overtaken the US and Britain to be ranked the country with the most non-military global influence, according to the 2017 Soft Power 30 report.

France has surged to the top spot, after occupying the fourth and then the fifth position, respectively, in the previous two editions of the annual report.

Compared with last year, the US, some six months into the Trump Administration’s term, went from first to third, while Germany fell from fourth to fifth.

“France’s soft power has no doubt seen a boost with the defeat of the National Front and election of its youngest ever president, Emmanuel Macron,” the report’s authors noted.

The Soft Power 30 index does acknowledge risks that frontrunner France faces with respect to its security – but nonetheless awards the top position to it for a wide range of reasons.

“The threat of terrorism has not stopped tourists flocking to France and enjoying its rich cultural offering, cuisine, and lifestyle – France’s restaurant scene is unrivalled, its film sector continues to flourish, and its museums and galleries are some of the most visited in the world,” the 2017 Soft Power ranking report said.

Among other things, it mentions France’s far-reaching diplomatic network, and the number of Michelin-starred restaurants that it has.

Liberal Democracies vs. the Rest

Almost all of the 30 spots in the 2017 Soft Power ranking are occupied by liberal democracies from North America, Europe, and East Asia (with Japan ranked 6th, and South Korea 21st).

Switzerland, Australia, Sweden, and the Netherlands complete the top 10 countries.

However, major countries which do not exactly fit this category have also made it to the ranking of the top 30 spots.

China is ranked 25th out of the top 30 countries in the world in terms of soft power, while Russia is ranked 26th. Brazil has come in 29th, and Turkey is 30th.

Using data and polls in 25 countries, PR firm Portland Communications working with the University of Southern California school of public diplomacy looked at data from six categories: government, culture, global engagement, education, digital and enterprise. It also included a country’s attractiveness for both tourists and foreign students.

In its introduction, the report argues that in the past power was determined largely by armies and economic might but today it has become more diffuse and has also moved away from governments as “more non-state actors leverage international influence,” due largely to the digital revolution.

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