The Soft Power 30

Welcome to
The Soft Power 30
A Ranking of Global Soft Power

What is Soft Power?

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 shuns the traditional foreign policy tools of carrot and stick, seeking instead to achieve influence by building networks, communicating compelling narratives, establishing international rules, and drawing on the resources that make a country naturally attractive to the world.

In short, “hard power is push; soft power is pull”

Joseph Nye, the originator of the concept, 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.

Our 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.

Engagement

The strength of a country’s diplomatic network and its contribution to global engagement and development

Culture

The global reach and appeal of a nation’s cultural outputs, both pop-culture and high-culture

Government

Commitment to freedom, human rights, and democracy, and the quality of political institutions

Education

The level of human capital in a country, contribution to scholarship, and attractiveness to international students

Digital

A country’s digital infrastructure and its capabilities in digital diplomacy

Enterprise

The attractiveness of a country’s economic model, business friendliness, and capacity for innovation

Polling

We polled over 7,000 PEOPLE in twenty countries covering each region of the globe.

The Top 10 - 2016

# COUNTRY SCORE
1. UNITED STATES 77.96
2. UNITED KINGDOM 75.97
3. GERMANY 72.60
4. CANADA 72.53
5. FRANCE 72.14
6. AUSTRALIA 69.29
7. JAPAN 67.78
8. SWITZERLAND 67.65
9. SWEDEN 66.97
10. NETHERLANDS 64.14

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This index was created by Portland, in association with Facebook

To read our findings in full, download our report.

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INDEX RESULTS
The Soft Power 30 is determined by a composite index that combines both objective metrics of countries’ soft power resources and subjective international polling data. This dualistic approach has created what we believe to be the world’s most comprehensive and accurate index of soft power to date.

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Overall Ranking 2016

SCORE

Digital

1

Culture

1

Enterprise

9

Education

1

Government

16

Polling

10

The United States takes the top spot of the 2016 Soft Power 30, beating out last year’s first-place finisher, the United Kingdom. America topping the rankings this year is perhaps a strange juxtaposition to Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, currently threatening to tear up long-held, bi-partisan principles of American foreign policy – like ending the US’s stated commitment to nuclear non-proliferation. On the other hand, President Obama’s final year as Commander-in-Chief has been a busy one for diplomatic initiatives. The President managed to complete his long-sought Iran Nuclear Deal, made progress on negotiating free trade agreements with partners across the Oceans Atlantic and Pacific, and re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba after decades of trying to isolate the Communist Caribbean Island. These major soft power plays have paid dividends for perceptions of the US abroad, as it finished higher in the international polling this year, compared to 2015. Perhaps not dragged down as much by attitudes to its foreign policy, the US’s major pillars of soft power have been free to shine, as measured in our Digital, Education, and Culture sub-indices. The US is home to the biggest digital platforms in the world, including Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, and the US State Department sets the global pace on digital diplomacy. Likewise, the US maintains its top ranking in the Culture and Education sub-indices this year. The US welcomed over 74 million international tourists last year, many of whom are attracted by America’s cultural outputs that are seemingly omnipresent around the globe. In terms of education, the US has more universities in the global top 200 than any other country in the world, which allows it to attract more international students than any other country – by some margin as well.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Home to many of the biggest tech brands in the world, the US is the global leader in digital technology and innovation. The Obama Administration and State Department developed the theory and practice of online-driven campaigning and ‘digital diplomacy’. The way the US has developed and leveraged digital diplomacy, gives the nation a significant soft power boost.
Weaknesses
It’s not just foreign policy that can drag down the image of America. Regular news stories of police brutality, racial tension, gun violence, and a high homicide rate (compared to other developed countries) all remind the world that America has its faults on the home front too. Speaking of which, the forthcoming Presidential election will have leaders in a lot of world capitals nervous at prospect of a Trump presidency.
Portland Recommends
In truth, making any substantive recommendation before the results of November’s Presidential election are known would be an academic exercise. The two possible paths for US foreign policy under a President Clinton or President Trump are so widely divergent that one can only wait to see how the American electorate vote. In the meantime, President Obama’s recent diplomatic successes have been a boon for US soft power. If he can continue to build bridges and foster greater economic and political cooperation across the Atlantic and Pacific, he will leave office having re-established the US as the world’s preeminent Soft Power. This would certainly allow for a future Clinton Administration to hit the ground running on US foreign policy priorities.

Digital

3

Culture

2

Enterprise

14

Education

2

Government

13

Polling

5

Although beaten to the top spot in this year’s index, the UK continues to boast significant advantages in its soft power resources. These include the significant role that continues to be played by both state-backed assets (i.e. BBC World Service, DfID, FCO and British Council) and private assets and global brands (e.g. Burberry and British Airways). Additionally, the British Council, institutions like the British Museum, and the UK’s higher education system are all pillars of British soft power. The UK’s rich civil society and charitable sector further contribute to British soft power. Major global organisations that contribute to development, disaster relief, and human rights reforms like Oxfam, Save the Children, and Amnesty International are key components in the UK’s overall ability to contribute to the global good – whether through the state, private citizens, or a network of diverse actors. The UK’s unique and enviable position at the heart of a number of important global networks and multi-lateral organisations continues to confer a significant soft power advantage. As a member of the G-7, G-20, UN Security Council, European Union, and the Commonwealth, Britain has a seat at virtually every international table of consequence. No other country rivals the UK’s diverse range of memberships in the world’s most influential organisations. In this context, a risk exists that the UK’s considerable soft power clout would be significantly diminished should it vote to leave the European Union.

Country Analysis

Strengths
There is no dearth of soft power strengths in the UK’s assets, strong government, vibrant culture, considerable heritage and history, and strong digital capacity make the UK one of the most admired nations in the world. Over 1700 foreign correspondents are based in the UK, and with a dynamic media market of its own, London is global media capital.
Weaknesses
Brexit, the rise of UKIP, and increasingly incendiary rhetoric on immigration continue to send a message that the rest of the world is not welcome in the British Isles. While the Department for Business Innovation and Skills seeks foreign students in large numbers, the government’s immigration message suggests otherwise – much to the chagrin of British Universities.
Portland Recommends
Britain goes to the polls to vote on its continued membership of the European Union in June, which leaves a huge question mark hanging over the future of British soft power. A move for the exit door would definitely set British global influence back by forfeiting its voice in European affairs. Barack Obama, Christine Lagarde, Kofi Annan, Hillary Clinton, and Justin Trudeau (to name a few), have all raised their concerns about Brexit. Of course, the issue is one for the British electorate to decide, but a post-Brexit Britain would certainly see a decline in its soft power stores.

Digital

4

Culture

4

Enterprise

15

Education

5

Government

8

Polling

7

What a difference a year makes. Last year, Portland concluded that the world would be ‘happy to see more German leadership’. And Germany has certainly taken the lead on one issue – the refugee crisis. A country that has historically been reluctant to take the driver’s seat on foreign policy issues, it seems to have finally put itself out front. But Angela Merkel, who only last year was labelled by the Economist as ‘the indispensable European’ for her bold and principled stance, now looks increasingly isolated as resistance to her ‘Wilkommenskultur’ grows. The rise of right-wing movements in a country that, for historical reasons, has resisted such ideals has not gone unnoticed, attracting a great deal of international attention. Germany’s drop from second to third is therefore not surprising. But it is hardly Germany alone – it joins a number of other European countries who have slipped in this year’s ranking. Germany has maintained strong scores, particularly in Engagement, Culture and Digital. The draws of a strong economy, and the comparatively low cost of living and vibrant culture in cities like Berlin, mean that foreigners are flocking to Germany. German language uptake is also on the rise – in 2015, some 15.5m people studied German, 4% more than five years ago. German ist wieder geil.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Germany hasn’t always been great at exporting its culture. Its European rivals, particularly the UK and France, have been more ambitious and successful at this. But this is changing. Among other things, the vibrant tech, art, and music scenes of cities like Berlin are drawing more and more young people to Germany – often from unexpected places and for much longer than just a weekend city break.
Weaknesses
The realities of dealing with the refugee crisis have necessitated complicated political manoeuvring, not least with Turkey. Likewise, conflicts with Hungary, Austria, and other Eastern European countries have been at times embittered. All in all, it has been a tough year for Germany, both domestically and internationally. Unfortunately no easy solutions appear in the offing.
Portland Recommends
German is hip again – with language uptake on the rise, now is the time for a concerted push to export Germany’s cultural assets – from design, to film, to street style. We’ve had Scandi-cool, now it’s Germany’s time to shine.

Digital

2

Culture

8

Enterprise

11

Education

3

Government

9

Polling

1

We all like Canada – which, for a second year in a row, has maintained its position as the country people feel most favourably towards in the world. Canada’s soft power score reflects that of its people – diverse, polite, and generally impressive. It wouldn’t be possible to analyse Canada this year without mentioning heartthrob Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has won the world over with his politics as much as his looks. He utilised his opportunity at the World Economic Forum to promote feminism, and in line with the trustworthy perceptions of Canada, walked the walk by appointing a perfectly gender-balanced cabinet. But while people think fondly of Canada, their comfortable seat in the above average range might be overly solidified. It can also mean that they are unlikely to ‘wow’. Their predictability can be seen as a welcome anomaly in an otherwise turbulent world, but it can also be seen as overly complacent. Generally, beyond friendliness, they probably won’t blow you away, either with the bad or the good. But this fits honestly into their rhetoric: they’re not always trying to convince you that they’re the world’s greatest – Canadians are satisfied with just being them. A mind-set that is impossible not to admire.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Canada maintains its popular image with carefully calculated domestic and foreign policies, ensuring that even their worst mistakes are globally regarded as “not that bad”. In such an open environment, both with regards to landscape and political discourse, Canada’s strongest asset is its inclusion.
Weaknesses
Global engagement. With a small diplomatic network and few diplomatic cultural missions to speak of, Canadian soft power may be seen, but it’s not very heard.
Portland Recommends
Keeping an eye on Trudeau’s plans for Canada. If he can run the country with as much ease as he can explain Quantum computing, Canada would be in a strong position to start overtaking some of its competitors. The outcome of the US presidential elections in November will also have a profound impact on its friendly northern neighbours and will test whether Canada can stand its independent ground.

Digital

5

Culture

3

Enterprise

18

Education

9

Government

15

Polling

9

With nearly 84 million tourists arriving annually, France maintains the title of the world’s most visited country. Yet while the strength of its cultural assets – the Louvre, its cuisine, the Riviera – have helped it hold onto this title, the country remains vulnerable. In the last year, France made headlines for the horrific terror attacks that shook its capital. Since the beginning of his mandate, President François Hollande has struggled to revitalise the French economy. Unemployment has risen steadily, and businesses are weary of France’s seemingly over-regulated and overprotective market. Its “new-blood” Minister of the Economy, Emmanuel Macron, is labouring to shake things up. His newly announced political movement, En Marche! (Forward) hopes to break party lines and revive the Eurozone’s second largest economy. Only time can tell if the initiative will pay dividends. Until then, France can still count on its unequalled diplomatic prowess to safeguard its position near the top of the Soft Power 30. It remains a global diplomatic force, asserting its presence through one of the most extensive Embassy networks.

Country Analysis

Strengths
France’s soft power strengths lie in a unique blend of culture and diplomacy. It enjoys, for historic reasons, links to territories across the planet, making it the only nation with 12 time zones. Its network of cultural institutions, linguistic union “la Francophonie” and network of embassies allow it to engage like no other. Its top rank in the Engagement sub-index comes as no surprise.
Weaknesses
France continues to struggle as a result of the global financial crisis and President Hollande’s failure to lift the nation’s economic competitiveness has delayed its full recovery. Germany’s economy, in comparison, makes France look in need of reform.
Portland Recommends
The standard Anglo-American remedy of liberalising economic policies sounds cliché, but it would help France on the Enterprise sub-index. A more economically dynamic France could unlock its full potential by leveraging its global footprint to establish itself as an even more attractive global partner.

Digital

7

Culture

5

Enterprise

5

Education

4

Government

11

Polling

4

Following a relatively unstable political period, which saw five prime ministers take the helm in as many years, it seems Australians have finally found a leader they support in Malcom Turnbull. But Turnbull’s more progressive views on climate change and same sex marriage have not yet managed to resonate on the international stage. Given another four years in power, Turnbull may be more successful in pushing his agenda and making a global name for himself. With Australians heading to the polls in July after Turnbull’s decision to call double dissolution, only time will tell if the leader is given the chance to translate his vision into reality. Stepping away from politics, Australia’s most significant movement this year was a massive jump in the Education sub-index, rising from 11th to 4th. Outperformed only by the US, UK and Canada, Australia’s impressive performance proves that the country remains a highly attractive and desirable destination for international students.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Australia continues to earn its moniker as the ‘Lucky Country’, and an improvement in its international polling score proves that the global community still admires its hospitality, culture, and flat whites and shiraz. Positive global perceptions have once again benefited Australia’s booming tourism sector, with the nation head and shoulders above the rest in terms of average spend per tourist.
Weaknesses
Australia may have come close to securing the Eurovision 2016 title, but the country has once again underperformed in the Engagement sub-index. The land Down Under mustn’t use its geographical isolation as an excuse for failing to compete with the likes of the US, UK, France, or even Canada in terms of diplomatic network and global reach.
Portland Recommends
No Australian political duo has been more prolific and engaging on social media than Malcom Turnbull and Julie Bishop, but Australia has slipped slightly overall in the digital metric this year. While it’s clear that the government is making significant inroads in its digital diplomacy approach, it must continue to push this agenda across all departments to ensure its voice is heard abroad. Making strides in digital diplomacy may go some way in compensating for Australia’s comparatively small diplomatic footprint.

Digital

12

Culture

10

Enterprise

4

Education

12

Government

17

Polling

6

In this second iteration of the Soft Power 30, Japan improved on its already high standing, rising to 7th. It continues to be known for its efficiency in the private sector as well as in the public: Japan’s competitiveness remains among the highest of the countries surveyed, and its governance has been shown to be effective. Japan has history on its side – it was one of the first countries in the region to integrate into the international system, and was the first Asian economy to experience a massive economic boom. This international notoriety, paired with its reputation for excellence, provides Japan with significant soft power on the global stage. It is one of the most widely represented states diplomatically, with embassies in 144 countries. Interestingly, though known as one of the most high-tech countries in the world, Japan does not count among its strengths digital diplomacy, having low digital engagement by its Premier and Foreign Minister. Indeed, Japan does not seem to focus too heavily on public diplomacy, as it has very few cultural missions abroad. Yet this does not do extensive damage to Japan’s soft power, as it continues to play an integral role in many international organisations and to be viewed favourably by the majority of global public opinion.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Aside from Japan’s well-recognised economic competitiveness, its cultural exports are one of its main strengths. Japan hosted 13 million visitors in last year. Japan also has a hugely popular music industry (J-Pop), which is appreciated throughout Asia. Its culture is so effectively exported globally that the government itself puts little effort into cultural promotion.
Weaknesses
Where Japan’s soft power falls short is in its relations with neighbouring countries China and South Korea, both of which scored Japan very low in our international polling. Japan would do well to take a leaf out of Germany’s book in its approach to strengthening regional relations.
Portland Recommends
Japan has performed well across the board in both iterations of the Soft Power 30, yet it mustn't become complacent in its position. With regional rivals competing for global influence, Japan’s soft power will be of utmost importance in the coming years. Improvements in the education sector and official public diplomacy can help preserve Japan’s soft power and cement its position as a regional and global power.

Digital

20

Culture

15

Enterprise

2

Education

14

Government

2

Polling

3

Despite being one of few developed nations with a conscripted army, whose troops keep their arms at home, Switzerland has steadfastly maintained its neutrality. This multicultural nation has been actively involved in peace building efforts globally, having founded the International Committee of the Red Cross, one of the world’s biggest humanitarian organisations and three-time winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Switzerland is also home to some of the world’s most important organisations and institutions, including many UN offices, the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organisation and hosts both the European (UEFA) and international (FIFA) governing bodies of football. While the country may not be seen as the most exciting nation, it has a strong history of democratic rule and a robust economy. The proof is solidly in the pudding, as Switzerland ranks third in the international human development index and performs well in measures of gender equality, global competitiveness, and innovation.

Country Analysis

Strengths
If a transparent and effective government, widespread prosperity, and high levels of development aren’t enough, Switzerland boasts unbeatable mountains for winter sports, and is also responsible for giving the world fondue, raclette, Toblerone and Bircher muesli.
Weaknesses
Having such picturesque views and a harmonious, multicultural population must come at some price – and that price is high. Zurich and Geneva rank in the top five most expensive cities in the world and despite a generally high GDP per capita and low unemployment rate, income inequality remains a challenge.
Portland Recommends
Switzerland claims the headquarters of the world’s leading scientific research facility, CERN - the same organisation known for pioneering the introduction of internet technology. Yet Switzerland struggles most with its digital capabilities, and is particularly lacking in digital diplomacy. In an increasingly digital world, Switzerland should take lessons from groups like CERN and utilise its technological resources to start engaging with global public through digital platforms.

Digital

8

Culture

21

Enterprise

8

Education

13

Government

3

Polling

8

With its exceptional governance structure, growing international recognition through television programmes like The Bridge, and unrivalled landscapes, Sweden once again leads its Nordic neighbours in terms of soft power. So much so that it came out on top in the latest edition of the Good Country Index. Well known for its education and welfare systems and achievements in social and gender equality, Sweden is often seen as having only mastered the less exciting aspects of soft power. But it is also making strides in innovation and technology, becoming the world’s second most prolific tech hub on a per capita basis behind Silicon Valley, thanks to the massive success of Spotify and Skype. The fact that Sweden is now seen as a model child for European innovation is testament to its reputation for thinking globally from the outset. However despite its overwhelming strengths, Sweden hasn’t been immune to the impact of Europe’s refugee crisis. Arguably one of the most open countries in the world – ranking fourth in the number of asylum seekers it accepts – Sweden has been overwhelmed by the volume of refugees and migrants arriving into Europe. Sweden’s open approach to welcoming refugees has left the government unsure how to respond to the influx, and these recent challenges indicate that while Sweden remains an economic pillar of strength, cracks are beginning to appear politically.

Country Analysis

Strengths
The Nordic model has proved successful for Sweden and it continues to enjoy a top three ranking in the Government sub-index, outranked only by Norway and Switzerland.
Weaknesses
There are few areas where Sweden underperforms, but no stand-out weaknesses. However, Sweden has fallen back in the Culture sub-index, slipping three places from last year. Despite seeing strong growth in tourist arrivals in 2015, Sweden has a long way to go before attracting the same numbers as other European countries.
Portland Recommends
Sweden is deserving of its Top 10 ranking and has quite rightly been admired around the world for decades. But Sweden shouldn’t rest on its laurels when dealing with new and unexpected challenges. Sweden’s egalitarian approach to refugees is admirable but the crisis has showed that the nation is capable of misjudging the gravity of situations. As global leader in dealing with asylum seekers, the world will be looking to solutions from Sweden. Can they be found?

Digital

10

Culture

12

Enterprise

20

Education

6

Government

4

Polling

16

The Netherlands has good reason to retain its rank in this year’s index. Admired for its welcoming spirit and tolerant society, it’s no wonder that the country holds significant soft power clout. This can be traced back to its strong government institutions, which have consistently upheld their citizen’s beliefs in progressive politics. The introduction of the Amsterdam Nachtburgemeester illustrates the willingness of the government to engage and support entrepreneurs, artists, and local communities for the good of all stakeholders. The result? A vibrant night-time economy and unique cultural identity that allow its capital Amsterdam to compete with cities such as London and New York to attract global talent, tourism, and investment. Home to five international courts, Europol and Eurojust, the country also has the title of legal capital of the world, making it a key destination for the legal and business communities. The Dutch education system is not only one of the cheapest in the western world, but also one of the most highly rated, creating an educated workforce and an irresistible draw for foreign students. Flexibility within the employment market is another key factor, with part-time work much more common than in other countries. Given the relatively small size of the country, the Netherlands has an impressively high score that matches its international outlook.

Country Analysis

Strengths
With a Master’s course setting you back just €1,984 a year, it’s easy to see why the country has no problems attracting Europe’s best and brightest to its universities, who come for the education and stay for the quality of life.
Weaknesses
No glaring weaknesses for the Netherlands, but with threats to the European project growing, there is a clear opportunity for the country to show the world what European values stand for. Moreover, the profile of Geert Wilders and the populism he represents doesn’t do much for Dutch Soft Power.
Portland Recommends
The liberal, tolerant society that the Netherlands has cultivated matches the outlook of the increasingly powerful millennial generation. As they begin to assume positions of responsibility around the world, the Netherlands should look to leverage common positions to help form a broader consensus around progressive beliefs.

Digital

24

Culture

7

Enterprise

26

Education

19

Government

23

Polling

2

Italy has moved up one place from 12th last year. Despite continued economic struggles, issues with government effectiveness, and corruption and a migrant crisis crashing at its borders, the land of Prada, pizza and Pavarotti is still loved by the world, coming second in our polling. People love the delicacies the country has to offer, its sleek cars, and cutting edge clothes. Since becoming Italy’s youngest Prime Minister ever in 2014, Matteo Renzi has been expected to pull his country out of Berlusconi’s bunga bunga bedlam. But while Italy welcomes the third most tourist arrivals in Europe and boasts the third largest economy in the Eurozone, the country is working towards more sustainable public finances and delivering more employment opportunities. What it lacks in pure economic strength though, it more than makes up for in culture. Italy boasts the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, exceptional museums and galleries, and a strong football culture, drawing in 48 million tourists annually.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Without question, Italy is a ‘cultural superpower’ that has set global trends for millennia, from Caesar to Gucci. Visit any major city or tiny paesino and stumble upon beautiful landscapes, impressive churches, and monuments.
Weaknesses
Internal political struggles and the global recession have had an enormous impact on Italy, and the country has struggled to recover. Young people in particular are under-educated and unemployed, the nation is straining to absorb a growing migrant crisis, and the government is lacking the means to address these issues, translating into low scores in the areas of economy and education.
Portland Recommends
Italy’s recent present has struggled to live up to the glory of its rich past. But if the country can take a page out of the book of Prime Minister Renzi – a bold, innovative reformer – and play to its strengths, perhaps Italy can become a stronger, more well-rounded soft power.

Digital

14

Culture

6

Enterprise

25

Education

16

Government

19

Polling

12

Despite some significant domestic challenges – both economic and political – Spain’s soft power is on the rise. The Iberian nation moves two places up to 12th from last year’s placing on the Soft Power 30. From the onset of the global financial crisis, Spain’s economic challenges have been well documented. The knock-on effects of the collapse in house-prices and high youth unemployment has affected the wellbeing of Spanish society. This hasn’t been helped by the more recent political situation, with ongoing deadlock over the formation of a government since the election of December 2015, and a question mark over Catalonia’s future in the Kingdom. But these concerns do not appear to have weighed on the country’s soft power. Millions from around Europe and further afield still enjoy the appeal of Spain’s wonderful culture, cuisine, creativity, and climate. In 2014, Spain welcomed 65 million international visitors and it was second only to the US in total tourism earnings, suggesting when people come to Spain, they stay for a while and spend generously.

Country Analysis

Strengths
It is of little surprise that Spain scores highest for its culture. Just ahead of its Mediterranean rival Italy, Spain comes 6th which accounts for much of its strength when assessing the country’s overall score. What is more surprising is that Spain ranks equally high for its Engagement. This is helped by the country’s diplomatic network and contribution to global development and engagement. Despite its well documented domestic issues, Spain is still a major soft power internationally.
Weaknesses
With the current political deadlock which followed the 2015 election, Spain has slipped two places to 19 based on its Government scoring. This is to be expected and ongoing questions over Catalan independence will not have helped. Spain still lags behind on its enterprise scoring. It has slipped four places on last year’s ranking, suggesting it has more to do to provide a better environment for those who wish to do business in the country.
Portland Recommends
The picture for Spain’s soft power seems clear. Its cultural status is amongst the very best in the world and that would seem solid for the future. What is less certain is the nation’s ability to provide a globally-attractive business environment, which is far from matching its cultural strength. Spain clearly does well in engaging with people across the world, but it needs to provide a clearer path to convert this into economic benefit.

Digital

16

Culture

25

Enterprise

6

Education

7

Government

6

Polling

13

Denmark’s Soft Power ranking and score has taken a slight dip since 2015, but it still came in at a respectable 13th in this year’s index. For a country of only 5.7 million, it certainly punches above its weight in terms of soft power, and holds some of the highest standards of government and education which many other countries would want to emulate. Last year saw a change in Prime Minister with Lars Løkke Rasmussen taking up the reins for a second spell. Whilst it hasn’t thrown up the same level of political complexity as Denmark’s famous series Borgen, he does rely on a coalition to keep his centre-right Venstre party in power. Drops in ranking based on its Digital and Cultural scores have played a prominent role in the slight drop in this year’s index.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Aside from well-regarded design, Denmark’s architecture is also world-class. But it’s not all about the aesthetics. Together with most of its Nordic neighbours, Denmark ranks very highly in the Government category. It’s dropped one place to 6th but still has a score that most other countries would envy. Denmark has also shot up in the Education sub-index to 7th place, a significant improvement on 14th place in 2015. It could be that the country’s excellent system is gaining greater awareness globally.
Weaknesses
Denmark might well have come even higher in the index if they could find a way of improving their rather stubbornly low score on the Culture sub-index. Only five nations in the Soft Power 30 rank lower – and two of those are Nordic (Norway and Finland).
Portland Recommends
Denmark can be proud of having a big profile for a relatively small country. There is little to worry about with its high scores for Education and Government. However, as with other Scandinavian countries, a low cultural score needs to be addressed. Denmark has a rich heritage and a hip, modern city scene, replete with cutting-edge design, but these strengths have not yet shown through in the index. With a bit more emphasis on their existing assets, Denmark stands to improve its marks.

Digital

13

Culture

26

Enterprise

10

Education

8

Government

5

Polling

15

Moving up in this year’s rankings to 13th place, Finland has shown once again that it is more than capable of holding its own against larger, better-known countries when it comes to soft power. But as the least visited of the Nordic countries, Finland still struggles to attract significant numbers in tourists. Nevertheless, a strong government, a tradition of diligence, and an innovative way of thinking help Finland to stand out from the rest. The Finnish government consistently scores highly in Freedom House rankings and is known for its admirably low rates of corruption. Government effectiveness, including strides towards gender equality, has created an environment of both economic dynamism and societal equity.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Finland’s political values and effective government are the foundations upon which the country’s soft power is built. Finns have an impressive ability of combining the practical and aesthetic, as evidenced by the government-sponsored ‘Baby box’. The programme has contributed to Finland having one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world and serves as just one example of how the government translates good design into better government public services.
Weaknesses
A small population means that Finland struggles to export its brand to the world en masse at the same level as its Nordic neighbours. With no major cultural ambassadors (save maybe Moomin!), Finland finds it difficult to generate interest and convince tourists that their country is worth boarding a Finnair jet.
Portland Recommends
The more digital buzz Finland can generate, the better. If the Finnish population, 92% of whom are online, promote the admirable institutions the country has to offer, the entire population stands to benefit. SITRA, the civil-government agency dedicated to creating a greener, more sustainable Finland, is a prime example of the kind of content Finns should be promoting to the world.

Digital

9

Culture

29

Enterprise

12

Education

15

Government

1

Polling

14

Norway’s climb up the rankings this year reflects the strength of its society and government. With the collapse in global oil prices, the country faced a threat to its sovereign wealth fund. However, smart leadership and a prudent approach to investment have cemented Norway’s position as a leader in responsible capitalism. The economic and diplomatic clout that accompanies the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world cannot be underestimated; it owns on average 1.3% of every group listed on any stock market, meaning that the fund has become a powerful foreign policy tool in its own right. This increases both Norway’s hard and soft power status by enabling the country to exert some control over foreign companies, as well as providing an economic incentive for positive diplomatic engagement. Norway responded to the refugee crisis by donating $1.2 billion, which, according to the Oxfam “fair share” measure, meant that the country contributed 385% of its allocated portion of an $8.9 billion funding appeal for Syria made by the United Nations. This further shows how seriously the country takes its international responsibilities. All of this rests on the strong institutions of the Norwegian government. Their long-term approach to fostering an enterprise-friendly society with incredibly high living standards — helped by their oil wealth — means that they can afford to positively project their soft power around the world while remaining an attractive investment, migration, and tourism destination.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Coming in at number one on the UN Human Development Index, Norway’s citizens enjoy the highest living standards in the world. Not a bad attribute to be recognised for.
Weaknesses
Norway’s strength in the hydrocarbon sector could be considered a weakness. With its economy largely dependent on such a precarious industry, diversification must remain top of mind for the government.
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With strong scores across all other categories, Norway can afford to dedicate some resources to either promoting its existing cultural institutions, or more realistically, providing the necessary environment for youth and other sub-cultures to thrive and become cultural assets themselves.

Digital

23

Culture

20

Enterprise

7

Education

11

Government

7

Polling

11

What a year for New Zealand. The highlight was undoubtedly securing another stunning Rugby World Cup victory, made even sweeter by the fact that it was Australia whom the All Blacks triumphed over. New Zealand’s position and size means that it can be overlooked in favour of its big brother, but the Kiwis are often far more politically and socially adventurous. Three years after becoming the first Oceanic country to legalise same-sex marriage, New Zealand has found the ideal balance between exploring new opportunities and remaining steadfastly confident in its history and identity. This attitude shone through during the country’s recent referendum to change the national flag and while change wasn’t implemented, the vote united the nation and proved that its people are willing to push boundaries and challenge conventional thinking. 2015 was also a spectacular year for New Zealand’s tourism industry, with visitor arrivals rising 11 percent and net migration rising 9 percent. Tourism New Zealand’s 100% Pure Campaign has been hugely effective in promoting the diversity in experiences the country has to offer and it’s unlikely that arrival numbers will fall anytime soon.

Country Analysis

Strengths
New Zealanders enjoy a healthy and vibrant democracy so it’s no surprise to see the country perform best in our Governance sub-index. Ranking in the global top five for the World Bank’s Voice and Accountability and Government Effectiveness indices, as well as the Economist Democracy Index, New Zealand may be small but it could teach many world powers a thing or two about good governance.
Weaknesses
The New Zealand government has struggled to engage an international audience on social media. A much stronger digital diplomacy approach, especially for Prime Minister John Key and Foreign Minister Murray McCully, is critical if New Zealand hopes to be recognised as a nation with more to contribute to the world.
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New Zealand’s fall to 29th in the Engagement sub-index, along with a slight dip in its international polling score, indicates that global recognition of New Zealand may be falling. It’s understandable that New Zealanders may be swept away by the beauty and isolation of their own oasis, but it’s important not to drop too far from the international radar. If Helen Clark is elected to replace Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary-General later this year, it will give New Zealand a much bigger voice on the world stage.

Digital

17

Culture

13

Enterprise

13

Education

18

Government

10

Polling

18

2015 proved to be a testing year for Austria. Tensions over the refugee and migration crisis prompted an increasingly tough policy approach that culminated in the adoption of strict laws on asylum and fraught relations with other EU states. Domestically, the country saw the rising prominence of right-wing parties, who look set to profit off increasing social tensions and economic under performance. From an external perspective, these events have landed a blow to Austria’s glowing reputation as a stable, wealthy, and welcoming country. International media coverage over the course of the crisis has been less than favourable, with the U-turn on border controls and asylum caps negatively portrayed, especially when compared to Germany’s decision to welcome over one million migrants. The fact that this media narrative placed Austria on the same side as less liberal states in Eastern Europe has weakened Austria’s carefully honed image of being a good global citizen. Despite this undercurrent of instability, Austria still has much to be proud of: high living standards, robust political institutions, and persisting positive global perceptions of the country all contribute to what is still a strong global image. Its commitment to neutrality has helped it to become a centre for international diplomacy, with international organisations such as Organization for Security and Cooperation Europe, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, International Atomic Energy Agency and Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries basing their headquarters in the country.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Austria scores highly in polling with its high living standards setting it apart, even as compared to the rest of wealthy Northern Europe. And for good reason – Austria’s government structure is well-executed. The country has a small shadow economy as percentage of GDP, only outranked by the US and Switzerland, and high levels of press freedom, demonstrating the successes of the government.
Weaknesses
Austria’s U-turn on refugees is illustrative of shifting attitudes within the country towards external engagement. If this continues, the country’s strong diplomatic network will struggle to convince its peers of Austria’s commitment to being a positive force in the world.
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Austria needs to ensure that its reputation on the global stage doesn’t suffer as a result of the refugee crisis and political backlash. As the site of talks on the Syrian crisis, the Iranian nuclear deal and many others, Austria should look to highlight its positive contributions to global peace and security to counter negative media narratives.

Digital

19

Culture

11

Enterprise

19

Education

10

Government

14

Polling

19

Belgium dropped one place this year to 18th. The bifurcated federal state has long been a centre of European and international activity, playing host to both the European Commission and NATO. Fittingly so, as the country has one foot in Germanic Europe and the other in Latin Europe. In the past year, however, the country has also increasingly become a hub of terrorist activity, with links made between Belgium-based suspects and attacks in Paris in November last year. Brussels, too, was rocked by a devastating act of terrorism in March in the deadliest terror attack in Belgium’s history. In spite of the unfortunate turn of events and subsequently critical press associated with the nation, people continue to think of it positively. Belgium’s polling score has increased since last year, proving that the general public will not be sucked in to media hype but instead cares more about Belgium’s abundant assets including Magritte, Stromae, and moules-frites.

Country Analysis

Strengths
For such a small nation, Belgium packs a cultural punch. Les français, say what you will, but pommes frites are a Belgian delicacy. So too is some of the best beer in the world, waffles, chocolate, and everyone’s favourite cartoon adventurer, Tintin.
Weaknesses
In theory, the Belgian government is a model of power-sharing consociationalism, dividing political and administrative functions between three regions. In practice, though, these divisions have often hindered cohesion and effectiveness, preventing the nation from reaching its full potential as a European leader. Some have pointed to Belgium’s division as a reason for security failures.
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Belgium is known as a country divided, not least for its complicated political system. But if Belgium’s national 'Red Devils' football team, made up of players from every region of the country, can collaborate and cooperate effectively, Belgium can do the same. Last year the team was named number one in FIFA’s world rankings; perhaps if the rest of the country follows suit, it can take the top place in next year’s Soft Power 30.

Digital

6

Culture

24

Enterprise

1

Education

17

Government

22

Polling

21

2015 was a big year for Lion city-state, not least because Singapore jumped from 21st to 19th, breaking into the top 20. It was also the year that Singaporeans marked the 50th anniversary of their independence. But there was a poignant moment too; the way in which the population came together to mourn the death of their founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. Despite Lee’s passing, the government has proven more than capable of carrying on his legacy of remarkable transformation. Patriotic fervour was felt in full effect throughout the “SG50” events, which celebrated all that the “small” country has accomplished in a short period of time. And Singapore has numerous reasons to celebrate – it ranks top of the Enterprise sub-index, a testament to its successful transformation from underpopulated British colony to an independent economic force. With low unemployment, seemingly endless commercial incentives, and widespread economic freedoms, it is no surprise that Singapore has attracted significant international investment over the years. Its strategic location at the Strait of Malacca has further enabled Singapore to become a critical centre for business and global transport hub. The unity of the nation and the publicity it received in its half-century celebrations provide Singapore with a huge opportunity to build on this momentum and become a key player on the international stage – an opportunity that might bring up its soft power rank even higher next year.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Enterprise remains Singapore’s greatest strength. A city-state built on trade, Singapore has proven its sterling economic credentials. The government has made great strides in attracting foreign investment and facilitating business over its 50 year history, positioning the Lion City as a global commerce and finance hub. In fact, the World Bank has consistently rated the island nation the easiest place to do business in the world.
Weaknesses
While Singapore’s business sector is vibrant, it has struggled to translate its economic assets into strengths in other areas. The nation’s small size impedes a truly global diplomatic reach, which is most significantly felt in its poor showing in the Engagement sub-index. Considering its high levels of development, Singapore falls short diplomatically, both in terms of physical presence abroad and participation in international organisations and treaties.
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Singapore’s supremacy in trade and industry is undeniable. If the nation can mobilise the strengths it has developed over its short history and widen their scope, focusing on boosting their cultural and diplomatic influence, it would help to expand Singapore’s soft power. As a vibrant multicultural nation, the country has much to offer, from the hybrid delicacies at hawker centres to world-class tourist attractions, including the biggest rainforest zoo. Singaporeans need to share these delights with the rest of the world, proving once and for all that it is a destination in its own right, not just one of the best airports for an Asian stopover.

Digital

25

Culture

18

Enterprise

17

Education

22

Government

12

Polling

17

The Emerald Isle slipped one place to 20th this year, but it’s not all bad news for Ireland. The Irish charm stretches all four corners of the globe. From St Petersburg to Honolulu, one can find an Irish pub in any major city on the map and feel the same warm hospitality. But rest assured a pint of Guinness is not Ireland’s only soft power asset. Ireland has had a good year in terms of governance, and it’s no surprise that this is where the nation performs strongest. The world stood to attention when Ireland became the first country to legalise gay marriage by referendum, a decision many hailed as a revolution. And it continued to impress with Enda Kenny’s government introducing gender quotas to fill a record 35 seats in the Dáil with women. On the soft side, Ireland ticks all the boxes: a vibrant and welcoming culture, steadfast governance, and stunningly picturesque landscape.

Country Analysis

Strengths
With Dublin acting as European headquarters to some of the world’s biggest digital names – Google, Apple, LinkedIn to name a few – Ireland has carved a niche for itself in the enterprise sector, and continues to nurture a young, dynamic, and technically skilled workforce.
Weaknesses
Despite some positive stories on the domestic front, Ireland struggles with the unique challenge of being ambitious but small. Moreover, it’s still feeling the effects of the merge between its foreign affairs and trade ministries. Its low Engagement score reflects a relatively small diplomatic network.
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Ireland faces an interesting challenge in pursuing a promising tech-based future while holding onto its old-world, Irish charm. The government should be thinking about ways to combine its rich culture with its technological assets so as to not sacrifice one for the other. Doing so will eliminate any doubt that Ireland isn’t forward thinking enough to be Europe’s digital hub.

Digital

29

Culture

22

Enterprise

22

Education

25

Government

28

Polling

20

As the first European power to project itself and its language across the Atlantic, Portugal quickly became one of the world’s first superpowers, colonising countries in Africa, South America, and Asia. Fast-forward 600 years and Portugal continues to battle the effects of the 2008 financial crisis. With the election of Prime Minister Antonio Costa and the government’s backing from far-left parties, it appears that Portugal’s war over austerity economics is back. This issue, and many others, will not receive high-level engagement from government officials on social media, not least because Portugal ranked low on the Digital sub-index. Its head of state and other ministers have little to no presence on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. In fact, the government’s online services are far from being ideal and Portugal is still an exceptionally bureaucratic state. It might surprise you to see Portugal’s presence in the rankings, but the country’s tourism economy is booming. So much so that it gained a position from last year’s edition and the country is now ranked 21st overall. Offering the perfect mix of culture, cuisine and calor, visitors from all over the world journey to Porto, Lisbon, the Algarve, and the rolling plains of Alentejo to listen to fado music, drink Port wine and take in the Lusophone culture.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Portugal is considered one of the most peaceful and socially progressive nations in Europe. In 2001, the country was one of the very first to decriminalise the personal possession of all drugs and treat the problem as a public health issue. In addition, its distance from less stable regions of the world and its 3,000 hours of sunshine per year make tourism its primary soft power asset.
Weaknesses
Portugal's non-tourism based economy, though diversified, could stand to be more dynamic. After the 2011 bailout from the IMF, the country was Europe’s prize pupil when it came to implementing and keeping to austerity targets. It will be interesting to see how the new “anti-austerity coalition” of Antonio Costa plans to lead the country forward.
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Portuguese is the 6th most spoken language in the world. Portugal should therefore use its soft power strengths of language and culture to further develop relations with Brazil and the Lusophone countries of Africa. Lisbon continues to hold real promise as a burgeoning centre of culture, creativity, and entrepreneurialism and the government should look to support and promote this.

Digital

18

Culture

16

Enterprise

3

Education

21

Government

26

Polling

28

The birthplace of tech giant Samsung, South Korea dropped two places this year, coming in at 22nd. The East Asian nation hit its stride in the 1980s, becoming one of a group of East Asian “tigers” that took off following a series of economic – and eventually political – reforms. These changes laid the foundation for its eventual success, as the nation has exported its soft power through the likes of K-pop and a variety of digital innovations. Through its immense outputs, especially in the form of consumer electronics, South Korea performed particularly well in the Enterprise sub-index, coming in 3rd. Despite these strengths, the nation has struggled regionally. Bordering the unstable regime in Pyongyang, South Korea’s security remains a constant source of concern. This has translated in some cases to government weakness, but has also proven to be an opportunity for the nation to work diplomatically with China and the US to resolve crises on the Korean Peninsula. For the last ten years, South Korea has had high-level representation on the international level with Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary General. With his second term coming to an end this year, South Korea will have an opportunity to find new ways to amplify its soft power strengths.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Digital innovations drive the growth of business and cultural outputs in South Korea. Domestically, a large proportion of the population has access to the internet, mobile phones and broadband subscriptions. Despite the country’s relatively small size, global use of Korean products from the likes of LG, Hyundai and Kia is vast. In fact, Korean multinational conglomerate Samsung consistently produces the top-selling mobile phones in the world.
Weaknesses
South Korea saw little improvement in its polling score – standing at 49.95, the country ranks below neighbouring Japan and comes in at 27th overall. With a corruption scandal hitting former Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo last year, public confidence in the government suffered. It is somewhat unsurprising, then, that South Korea also struggled in the Government sub-index.
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When one thinks about South Korea, its combative cousin to the north, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea naturally comes to mind. Yet negotiations regarding the stalemated conflict between the two are often headed by superpowers China and the United States, overshadowing South Korea’s abilities to negotiate on its own behalf. South Korea must rely less heavily on the efforts of others and take a more assertive role in negotiations to prove its soft power strengths in its own right.

Digital

22

Culture

23

Enterprise

24

Education

24

Government

21

Polling

27

Poland climbed one place this year, to 23rd. The Eastern European country underwent a number of changes in the past 12 months, which were reflected in its results. Following a year marked by a growing migrant crisis throughout Europe, Poland elected conservative Andrzej Duda of the Eurosceptic Law and Justice Party last May, beating out the incumbent in the closest presidential race in the country’s history. The new leader has taken an increasingly confrontational stance with its EU partners, rejecting Germany’s proposed quota system for taking in immigrants because of security fears. Poland’s increasingly strained relationship with the rest of Europe was widely reflected in polling, in which the country dropped to 27th. Despite this, Poland has unexpectedly improved across the Engagement and Culture sub-indices. Much of this can be attributed to Poland’s economic liberalisation policies and increasing membership in international organisations, which began in 2004 with its accession to the EU. It could also reflect gains made under the previous government. Nevertheless, Poland is now at risk of a constitutional crisis, slipping toward authoritarian rule.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Since joining the EU, more and more tourists across Europe and the rest of the world are getting a taste of all the cultural assets Poland has on offer. With a rich history, impressive architecture, and a wide range of outdoor activities made possible through the surrounding sea, mountains and forests, Poland welcomed 16 million tourists last year.
Weaknesses
The political change brought about with the 2015 election has had a marked effect on Poland. Whereas the country previously ranked high in government scores, media freedom has decreased in the past year, police surveillance powers have increased, and general security fears have reversed much of the liberalisation that had taken place in the past decade.
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While fears of terrorism are felt across much of the world, Poland’s approach to addressing security concerns seems to have harmed its international reputation. The country has numerous cultural assets, as evidenced by its strong showing in the Culture sub-index. Poland would benefit from better leveraging not just its cultural heritage, but also its contemporary cultural offering.

Digital

21

Culture

19

Enterprise

28

Education

30

Government

28

Polling

23

Having recently suspended its President Dilma Rousseff, who is currently facing an impeachment trial, Brazil has the world’s eyes watching to see if it can deliver a successful Olympic Games. For Brazilians, this may provide an opportunity to forget their worries for two weeks and do what they do best — party. For everyone else, however, the country is perceived as being on the brink of an economic and political disaster. International ratings agency Fitch recently downgraded Brazil’s debt to “junk” status. In addition, the Petrobras scandal has implicated more than one hundred people and become the largest corruption scandal in the history of Brazil. And all this before mentioning the Zika virus pandemic ravaging the country. In last year’s rankings, we said that Brazil would be among the most interesting countries to watch. With so many soft power assets, and a number of opportunities for development, Brazil could have easily climbed higher. But poor showings on the Government sub-index and weak scores for Education overshadowed Brazil’s strength in the Culture sub-index, where it shines with football, samba, and carnival. Brazil has therefore fallen to 24th position. The 5th most populous country in the world still ranks above the other BRICS nations. But one thing is for sure, a weaker Brazil is a key impediment to the agency of the developing countries.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Even though it’s been overshadowed by political and economic instability, you can’t ask for a better platform than hosting the Olympic Games. It certainly did a lot for London and Beijing.
Weaknesses
Unsurprisingly, Brazil scored poorly in the Government sub-index, which analyses trust in government, government effectiveness, and public safety. Additionally, perceptions of corruption and a rise in unemployment from 7 to 10 percent last year did the country no favours for attracting foreign investment.
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The old tag “Brazil is the country of the future... and always will be” epitomises the roller coaster that has been Brazil’s economy over recent years. The exotic country still benefits from a truly global profile and has excellent brand recognition. Nevertheless, Brazil remains a “country to watch” to see if it can triumph in its everlasting battle with corruption.

Digital

30

Culture

28

Enterprise

29

Education

23

Government

25

Polling

22

Greece has held steady on its position at 25th, a feat not insignificant considering the turmoil of the last two years. Following anti-austerity protests, the election of populist left-wing party Syriza, and the threat of Grexit, Greece has been on the front-line of the ongoing migrant crisis. But the nation has remained stoic and shown that even with limited resources, a resourceful country can achieve a lot. Hundreds of Greeks have opened their arms and their doors to refugees, with a volunteer group even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. And despite the recent volatility, Greece holds onto its rich past, which it demonstrates proudly throughout a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, delectable food, and drink, and a vast collection of Greek literature and philosophy read throughout the world. Although Greece continues to struggle economically, the Eurozone has recently agreed to another installment of its bailout loan to help ease its debt. This, combined with other pledges of debt relief, will for the time being allow Greece and the rest of Europe to turn their attention to addressing the plight of refugees on the continent and beyond.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Who doesn’t dream of a summer holiday in the Greek islands? Greece, unsurprisingly, performed well in international polling, and is generally considered an attractive place to visit, with good food, beautiful beaches, impressive landmarks and a generally rich culture. It’s also the birthplace of democracy, philosophy and western civilisation.
Weaknesses
Following a strong showing in the Digital sub-index last year, Greece has struggled to maintain its momentum, with limited government social media presence and fairly low internet saturation. The country also scored poorly in Enterprise. But Greece has had more pressing matters at hand, what with a protracted recession and budget deficit, further compounded by the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.
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The golden age of the ‘cradle of Western civilisation’ has passed, as the world’s first democracy struggles politically and economically. While a Grexit seemed imminent last year and many feared for the stability of Prime Minister Tsipras’ government, the Greeks have proven resilient and the world has taken notice. The country may not immediately be in a position to address its business and digital weaknesses, but as it recovers, Greece would benefit from a renewed effort to strengthen its digital assets and more effectively build its soft power brand online.

Digital

15

Culture

30

Enterprise

23

Education

27

Government

24

Polling

25

Hungary is one of only three new countries in this year’s Soft Power 30, debuting at 26. And it’s not difficult to see why. A nation of more than a thousand natural springs, 13 Nobel laureates, and the birthplace of impressive composers and performers (Franz Liszt, Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly to name a few), Hungary has an enormous amount to offer in terms of soft power. But it’s also been a challenging year for the Hungarians; one that has seen them thrust into the international limelight, and not always for the right reasons. The world waited with baited breath as Prime Minister Viktor Orban responded to Europe’s refugee crisis. His challenging of the EU quota plan and hard-line stance against migration saw his approval ratings skyrocket domestically, but earned the leader few friends internationally. Only time will tell if Orban’s continued defiance and criticism of many western governments will have a lasting effect on Hungary’s soft power standing.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Digital. While Hungary doesn’t perform exceptionally well in terms of digital infrastructure, its government has a solid social media presence. In fact, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is in our top five for most engaged international followers on Facebook.
Weaknesses
Hungary is by no means lacking in culture, with a rich history shining through in its architecture, music, and folk dance. Most impressive is that Hungarians have, per capita, one of the highest tallies of Olympic medals. But the nation scores lower than any other in our Culture sub-index. Hungarian culture deserves greater recognition and the government should be investing more to strengthen and promote these substantial assets.
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With international attention focused almost solely on Hungary’s increasingly strained relationship with European partners right now, it will need to work that little bit harder to be recognised for anything other than political strong-arming. The Foreign Minister and Prime Minister should leverage their success on social media to push Hungary’s cultural assets and draw global attention away from the nation’s less popular attributes.

Digital

11

Culture

14

Enterprise

27

Education

20

Government

30

Polling

30

With its annual military parades and occasional encroachments into European air and naval space, soft power might not spring to mind when thinking about the Russian Federation, a new entry to this year’s rankings. However, since the mid-2000s, an enormous emphasis has been placed on enhancing Russia’s image at home and abroad. Despite setbacks due to the ongoing skirmish surrounding Ukraine and Crimea, Russian state broadcasters manage to reach millions of viewers at home and millions more worldwide. State-owned channel RT now offers services in multiple languages giving it one of the largest audience bases of any global news broadcaster. Moreover, Russia has re-established itself as a diplomatic powerhouse taking a joint lead with the United States in seeking to negotiate a peace deal in Syria. Russia remains an economic force (albeit a currently shrinking one), with migrants from Central Asia and other parts of the former Soviet Union flocking to the country. With the help of these migrants, Russia is changing the face of many of its major cities, taking them from Post-Soviet style accommodation blocks to stylish business centres and new apartment buildings. Russia’s global cultural appeal draws in more than 29 million tourists annually. Whether it’s history, art, or literature, Russian culture is widely appreciated and studied. It is also a key to why so many travel to this culturally rich nation. However, recent changes in domestic policies, specifically the anti-gay legislation introduced in 2013, has had damaging effects on Russia’s reputation in many countries.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Russia’s media engagement is world class. State-owned channel RT broadcasts across the globe in English, Spanish, Arabic, and Hindi to very high ratings, particularly in Europe and South America, and its YouTube channel was the first ever to receive over a billion hits. Russia is also very strong diplomatically and has taken the lead with other top powers in establishing dialogue to tackle issues of global security.
Weaknesses
Russia’s government is persistently hit by corruption scandals, most recently exemplified by the revelation of a state-sanctioned sport doping scandal. This in turn drives down trust in government and scares off potential investors. Discriminatory legislation against sexual and racial minorities is also a step in the wrong direction for Russia’s soft power.
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Russia would do well to remember that much of its current success stems from the outward looking policies of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Russia would benefit from turning away from isolationist policies and building on the dialogues it has established with other nations to re-assert itself as a reliable and open partner to the rest of the world.

Digital

28

Culture

9

Enterprise

16

Education

28

Government

29

Polling

29

China once again makes the Soft Power 30. Despite the recent economic slowdown, the world’s most populous nation continues to flex its economic muscle on the world stage and reshape the international system, and rise up the soft power ranks. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) – the China-led rival to the Asian Development Bank – will hold its inaugural meeting in June, representing a milestone in China’s global engagement, revealing an emerging vision for a Chinese world order. For many countries, particularly in Africa and along the Silk Road Economic Belt, China’s economic and cultural impact is already being felt. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has increased his grip on the levers of power since taking office in 2012, and is regarded as the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. As China marked the 50th Anniversary of the Cultural Revolution this year, this development has caused some consternation amongst China watchers. Interference with Hong Kong’s jealously guarded political freedoms, and continued island building in the South China Sea, have made China’s neighbours in the region nervous. With one of the largest overseas populations, the Chinese diaspora is a source of both international cheerleaders and critics. Nonetheless, the Middle Kingdom is increasingly respected and admired globally (particularly outside of the West), as the ‘Beijing Consensus’ poses an alternative model of economic development for emerging-market countries seeking rapid economic growth. While lack of democracy and free press continue to negatively impact perceptions, there is no question that China will remain a draw for investors and visitors alike, as it assumes the position of a 21st Century super-power.

Country Analysis

Strengths
China’s history, cuisine, and increasingly its language, are important cultural soft power assets. When combined with its improved international engagement, there is a growing understanding of China’s global objectives and interests. These will be important strengths as more people look to China to play a constructive role in world affairs.
Weaknesses
China’s political system remains at odds with its economic strength. While the liberalization of the one-child policy has helped present a softer face to the world, political and press freedoms have moved in the opposite direction in recent years. These restrictions stifle enterprise while preventing the scrutiny the Chinese state so desperately requires. China’s leaders have made overt references to the concept of soft power in recent years, demonstrating its importance to Chinese policy makers. However, soft power cannot come from government alone.
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A more liberal approach to policy, including easing internet censorship, would have a positive knock-on effect on nearly all aspects of China’s soft power. Internationally, China has a way to go to prove it is a responsible world power. A negotiated settlement to the South China Sea dispute would help diffuse tensions with ASEAN member states, while a reduction in cyber-warfare would ease Western concerns about China’s growing international role.

Digital

27

Culture

27

Enterprise

21

Education

26

Government

18

Polling

26

The Czech Republic was quick to get back on its feet after the Velvet Revolution of 1993, and is often heralded as the most stable of the post-Communist European states. Its industrialized economy consistently thwarts unemployment and shows the fastest growth rates in the EU—in late 2015, GDP growth was at 4.4%.But it has been a more tumultuous year for Czech social policies. As with much of Europe, it earned its most significant media coverage for resistance to immigration and pressure from Brussels to share the migration burden by meeting mandatory refugee quotas. In fact, it came under scrutiny from the UN for human rights violations committed through its asylum processing policy. As a small and fairly young nation, the Czech Republic makes a strong showing by placing in the Soft Power 30—but its position has slipped, and the likely lesson is that economic strength alone is not enough to drive global influence.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Economically, it is on the rise, with unemployment continuing to fall and no sign of stopping. The Czech Republic is effectively consolidating its status as a compact economic powerhouse of Mitteleuropa.
Weaknesses
Media coverage of the Czech Republic in the last year has cast the country in something of a negative light. And since Prague makes little attempt to engage with the rest of the world, either digitally or culturally (key government persons go without social media, and when was the last time you ate a koláče?), its polling numbers are likely a direct consequence of the sparsity of positive international coverage.
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The Czech Republic has recently begun the process of rebranding itself as “Czechia”, at the suggestion of PR advisors, but it doesn’t need a rebranding so much as it needs a branding. With its strong economy, central geographical position, and masses of tourists streaming to Prague every weekend, it’s well-positioned to assert itself further on the world stage, and to manifest its culture and politics. Czechia shouldn’t only be seen to speak up about immigration quotas.

Digital

26

Culture

17

Enterprise

30

Education

29

Government

27

Polling

24

Riding the wave of a politically momentous year, Argentina just breaks into the Soft Power 30. The election of right wing Mauricio Macri marked an end to 12 years of Presidents Kirchner, and gave an immediate boost to the perceptions of Argentina, a trend reflected in the nation’s significant improvement in international polling. Promising to implement a compelling reform plan and reinvigorate Argentinian politics, the former Buenos Aires mayor is living up to President Obama’s prediction that “Argentina under Macri is poised to play a more influential role on the global stage”. Argentina has done well to become the only other Latin American country in the index, and with Brazil falling slightly this year, it is quickly becoming one of the region’s soft power exemplars.

Country Analysis

Strengths
President Macri is a politician with broad domestic and global appeal, backed by a well-cultivated social media presence. He was clever in encouraging enthusiastic young voters to spread his campaign messaging online, and has since become one of the most followed and engaged with world leaders on Facebook and Instagram.
Weaknesses
Argentina lags behind when it comes to its business and enterprise acumen, scoring at the bottom end of the WEF Competitiveness Index, Heritage Economic Freedom, and World Bank Ease of Doing Business metrics. The South American nation has a long way to go before competing with global enterprise powerhouses like Singapore or Switzerland. But things are looking up.
Portland Recommends
Argentina under Macri managed to secure one of the most anticipated market comebacks in a decade – a sale of debt worth more than $16 billion – and if his ambitious policies are successful, he will return desperately needed foreign investment to Argentina. Only time will tell if the leader can overcome the many obstacles waiting for him, but Argentina should continue to focus on building investor excitement.

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Downward Mover

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Digital 2016

SCORE

Digital

1

Culture

1

Enterprise

9

Education

1

Government

16

Polling

10

The United States takes the top spot of the 2016 Soft Power 30, beating out last year’s first-place finisher, the United Kingdom. America topping the rankings this year is perhaps a strange juxtaposition to Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, currently threatening to tear up long-held, bi-partisan principles of American foreign policy – like ending the US’s stated commitment to nuclear non-proliferation. On the other hand, President Obama’s final year as Commander-in-Chief has been a busy one for diplomatic initiatives. The President managed to complete his long-sought Iran Nuclear Deal, made progress on negotiating free trade agreements with partners across the Oceans Atlantic and Pacific, and re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba after decades of trying to isolate the Communist Caribbean Island. These major soft power plays have paid dividends for perceptions of the US abroad, as it finished higher in the international polling this year, compared to 2015. Perhaps not dragged down as much by attitudes to its foreign policy, the US’s major pillars of soft power have been free to shine, as measured in our Digital, Education, and Culture sub-indices. The US is home to the biggest digital platforms in the world, including Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, and the US State Department sets the global pace on digital diplomacy. Likewise, the US maintains its top ranking in the Culture and Education sub-indices this year. The US welcomed over 74 million international tourists last year, many of whom are attracted by America’s cultural outputs that are seemingly omnipresent around the globe. In terms of education, the US has more universities in the global top 200 than any other country in the world, which allows it to attract more international students than any other country – by some margin as well.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Home to many of the biggest tech brands in the world, the US is the global leader in digital technology and innovation. The Obama Administration and State Department developed the theory and practice of online-driven campaigning and ‘digital diplomacy’. The way the US has developed and leveraged digital diplomacy, gives the nation a significant soft power boost.
Weaknesses
It’s not just foreign policy that can drag down the image of America. Regular news stories of police brutality, racial tension, gun violence, and a high homicide rate (compared to other developed countries) all remind the world that America has its faults on the home front too. Speaking of which, the forthcoming Presidential election will have leaders in a lot of world capitals nervous at prospect of a Trump presidency.
Portland Recommends
In truth, making any substantive recommendation before the results of November’s Presidential election are known would be an academic exercise. The two possible paths for US foreign policy under a President Clinton or President Trump are so widely divergent that one can only wait to see how the American electorate vote. In the meantime, President Obama’s recent diplomatic successes have been a boon for US soft power. If he can continue to build bridges and foster greater economic and political cooperation across the Atlantic and Pacific, he will leave office having re-established the US as the world’s preeminent Soft Power. This would certainly allow for a future Clinton Administration to hit the ground running on US foreign policy priorities.

Digital

2

Culture

8

Enterprise

11

Education

3

Government

9

Polling

1

We all like Canada – which, for a second year in a row, has maintained its position as the country people feel most favourably towards in the world. Canada’s soft power score reflects that of its people – diverse, polite, and generally impressive. It wouldn’t be possible to analyse Canada this year without mentioning heartthrob Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has won the world over with his politics as much as his looks. He utilised his opportunity at the World Economic Forum to promote feminism, and in line with the trustworthy perceptions of Canada, walked the walk by appointing a perfectly gender-balanced cabinet. But while people think fondly of Canada, their comfortable seat in the above average range might be overly solidified. It can also mean that they are unlikely to ‘wow’. Their predictability can be seen as a welcome anomaly in an otherwise turbulent world, but it can also be seen as overly complacent. Generally, beyond friendliness, they probably won’t blow you away, either with the bad or the good. But this fits honestly into their rhetoric: they’re not always trying to convince you that they’re the world’s greatest – Canadians are satisfied with just being them. A mind-set that is impossible not to admire.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Canada maintains its popular image with carefully calculated domestic and foreign policies, ensuring that even their worst mistakes are globally regarded as “not that bad”. In such an open environment, both with regards to landscape and political discourse, Canada’s strongest asset is its inclusion.
Weaknesses
Global engagement. With a small diplomatic network and few diplomatic cultural missions to speak of, Canadian soft power may be seen, but it’s not very heard.
Portland Recommends
Keeping an eye on Trudeau’s plans for Canada. If he can run the country with as much ease as he can explain Quantum computing, Canada would be in a strong position to start overtaking some of its competitors. The outcome of the US presidential elections in November will also have a profound impact on its friendly northern neighbours and will test whether Canada can stand its independent ground.

Digital

3

Culture

2

Enterprise

14

Education

2

Government

13

Polling

5

Although beaten to the top spot in this year’s index, the UK continues to boast significant advantages in its soft power resources. These include the significant role that continues to be played by both state-backed assets (i.e. BBC World Service, DfID, FCO and British Council) and private assets and global brands (e.g. Burberry and British Airways). Additionally, the British Council, institutions like the British Museum, and the UK’s higher education system are all pillars of British soft power. The UK’s rich civil society and charitable sector further contribute to British soft power. Major global organisations that contribute to development, disaster relief, and human rights reforms like Oxfam, Save the Children, and Amnesty International are key components in the UK’s overall ability to contribute to the global good – whether through the state, private citizens, or a network of diverse actors. The UK’s unique and enviable position at the heart of a number of important global networks and multi-lateral organisations continues to confer a significant soft power advantage. As a member of the G-7, G-20, UN Security Council, European Union, and the Commonwealth, Britain has a seat at virtually every international table of consequence. No other country rivals the UK’s diverse range of memberships in the world’s most influential organisations. In this context, a risk exists that the UK’s considerable soft power clout would be significantly diminished should it vote to leave the European Union.

Country Analysis

Strengths
There is no dearth of soft power strengths in the UK’s assets, strong government, vibrant culture, considerable heritage and history, and strong digital capacity make the UK one of the most admired nations in the world. Over 1700 foreign correspondents are based in the UK, and with a dynamic media market of its own, London is global media capital.
Weaknesses
Brexit, the rise of UKIP, and increasingly incendiary rhetoric on immigration continue to send a message that the rest of the world is not welcome in the British Isles. While the Department for Business Innovation and Skills seeks foreign students in large numbers, the government’s immigration message suggests otherwise – much to the chagrin of British Universities.
Portland Recommends
Britain goes to the polls to vote on its continued membership of the European Union in June, which leaves a huge question mark hanging over the future of British soft power. A move for the exit door would definitely set British global influence back by forfeiting its voice in European affairs. Barack Obama, Christine Lagarde, Kofi Annan, Hillary Clinton, and Justin Trudeau (to name a few), have all raised their concerns about Brexit. Of course, the issue is one for the British electorate to decide, but a post-Brexit Britain would certainly see a decline in its soft power stores.

Digital

4

Culture

4

Enterprise

15

Education

5

Government

8

Polling

7

What a difference a year makes. Last year, Portland concluded that the world would be ‘happy to see more German leadership’. And Germany has certainly taken the lead on one issue – the refugee crisis. A country that has historically been reluctant to take the driver’s seat on foreign policy issues, it seems to have finally put itself out front. But Angela Merkel, who only last year was labelled by the Economist as ‘the indispensable European’ for her bold and principled stance, now looks increasingly isolated as resistance to her ‘Wilkommenskultur’ grows. The rise of right-wing movements in a country that, for historical reasons, has resisted such ideals has not gone unnoticed, attracting a great deal of international attention. Germany’s drop from second to third is therefore not surprising. But it is hardly Germany alone – it joins a number of other European countries who have slipped in this year’s ranking. Germany has maintained strong scores, particularly in Engagement, Culture and Digital. The draws of a strong economy, and the comparatively low cost of living and vibrant culture in cities like Berlin, mean that foreigners are flocking to Germany. German language uptake is also on the rise – in 2015, some 15.5m people studied German, 4% more than five years ago. German ist wieder geil.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Germany hasn’t always been great at exporting its culture. Its European rivals, particularly the UK and France, have been more ambitious and successful at this. But this is changing. Among other things, the vibrant tech, art, and music scenes of cities like Berlin are drawing more and more young people to Germany – often from unexpected places and for much longer than just a weekend city break.
Weaknesses
The realities of dealing with the refugee crisis have necessitated complicated political manoeuvring, not least with Turkey. Likewise, conflicts with Hungary, Austria, and other Eastern European countries have been at times embittered. All in all, it has been a tough year for Germany, both domestically and internationally. Unfortunately no easy solutions appear in the offing.
Portland Recommends
German is hip again – with language uptake on the rise, now is the time for a concerted push to export Germany’s cultural assets – from design, to film, to street style. We’ve had Scandi-cool, now it’s Germany’s time to shine.

Digital

5

Culture

3

Enterprise

18

Education

9

Government

15

Polling

9

With nearly 84 million tourists arriving annually, France maintains the title of the world’s most visited country. Yet while the strength of its cultural assets – the Louvre, its cuisine, the Riviera – have helped it hold onto this title, the country remains vulnerable. In the last year, France made headlines for the horrific terror attacks that shook its capital. Since the beginning of his mandate, President François Hollande has struggled to revitalise the French economy. Unemployment has risen steadily, and businesses are weary of France’s seemingly over-regulated and overprotective market. Its “new-blood” Minister of the Economy, Emmanuel Macron, is labouring to shake things up. His newly announced political movement, En Marche! (Forward) hopes to break party lines and revive the Eurozone’s second largest economy. Only time can tell if the initiative will pay dividends. Until then, France can still count on its unequalled diplomatic prowess to safeguard its position near the top of the Soft Power 30. It remains a global diplomatic force, asserting its presence through one of the most extensive Embassy networks.

Country Analysis

Strengths
France’s soft power strengths lie in a unique blend of culture and diplomacy. It enjoys, for historic reasons, links to territories across the planet, making it the only nation with 12 time zones. Its network of cultural institutions, linguistic union “la Francophonie” and network of embassies allow it to engage like no other. Its top rank in the Engagement sub-index comes as no surprise.
Weaknesses
France continues to struggle as a result of the global financial crisis and President Hollande’s failure to lift the nation’s economic competitiveness has delayed its full recovery. Germany’s economy, in comparison, makes France look in need of reform.
Portland Recommends
The standard Anglo-American remedy of liberalising economic policies sounds cliché, but it would help France on the Enterprise sub-index. A more economically dynamic France could unlock its full potential by leveraging its global footprint to establish itself as an even more attractive global partner.

Digital

6

Culture

24

Enterprise

1

Education

17

Government

22

Polling

21

2015 was a big year for Lion city-state, not least because Singapore jumped from 21st to 19th, breaking into the top 20. It was also the year that Singaporeans marked the 50th anniversary of their independence. But there was a poignant moment too; the way in which the population came together to mourn the death of their founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. Despite Lee’s passing, the government has proven more than capable of carrying on his legacy of remarkable transformation. Patriotic fervour was felt in full effect throughout the “SG50” events, which celebrated all that the “small” country has accomplished in a short period of time. And Singapore has numerous reasons to celebrate – it ranks top of the Enterprise sub-index, a testament to its successful transformation from underpopulated British colony to an independent economic force. With low unemployment, seemingly endless commercial incentives, and widespread economic freedoms, it is no surprise that Singapore has attracted significant international investment over the years. Its strategic location at the Strait of Malacca has further enabled Singapore to become a critical centre for business and global transport hub. The unity of the nation and the publicity it received in its half-century celebrations provide Singapore with a huge opportunity to build on this momentum and become a key player on the international stage – an opportunity that might bring up its soft power rank even higher next year.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Enterprise remains Singapore’s greatest strength. A city-state built on trade, Singapore has proven its sterling economic credentials. The government has made great strides in attracting foreign investment and facilitating business over its 50 year history, positioning the Lion City as a global commerce and finance hub. In fact, the World Bank has consistently rated the island nation the easiest place to do business in the world.
Weaknesses
While Singapore’s business sector is vibrant, it has struggled to translate its economic assets into strengths in other areas. The nation’s small size impedes a truly global diplomatic reach, which is most significantly felt in its poor showing in the Engagement sub-index. Considering its high levels of development, Singapore falls short diplomatically, both in terms of physical presence abroad and participation in international organisations and treaties.
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Singapore’s supremacy in trade and industry is undeniable. If the nation can mobilise the strengths it has developed over its short history and widen their scope, focusing on boosting their cultural and diplomatic influence, it would help to expand Singapore’s soft power. As a vibrant multicultural nation, the country has much to offer, from the hybrid delicacies at hawker centres to world-class tourist attractions, including the biggest rainforest zoo. Singaporeans need to share these delights with the rest of the world, proving once and for all that it is a destination in its own right, not just one of the best airports for an Asian stopover.

Digital

7

Culture

5

Enterprise

5

Education

4

Government

11

Polling

4

Following a relatively unstable political period, which saw five prime ministers take the helm in as many years, it seems Australians have finally found a leader they support in Malcom Turnbull. But Turnbull’s more progressive views on climate change and same sex marriage have not yet managed to resonate on the international stage. Given another four years in power, Turnbull may be more successful in pushing his agenda and making a global name for himself. With Australians heading to the polls in July after Turnbull’s decision to call double dissolution, only time will tell if the leader is given the chance to translate his vision into reality. Stepping away from politics, Australia’s most significant movement this year was a massive jump in the Education sub-index, rising from 11th to 4th. Outperformed only by the US, UK and Canada, Australia’s impressive performance proves that the country remains a highly attractive and desirable destination for international students.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Australia continues to earn its moniker as the ‘Lucky Country’, and an improvement in its international polling score proves that the global community still admires its hospitality, culture, and flat whites and shiraz. Positive global perceptions have once again benefited Australia’s booming tourism sector, with the nation head and shoulders above the rest in terms of average spend per tourist.
Weaknesses
Australia may have come close to securing the Eurovision 2016 title, but the country has once again underperformed in the Engagement sub-index. The land Down Under mustn’t use its geographical isolation as an excuse for failing to compete with the likes of the US, UK, France, or even Canada in terms of diplomatic network and global reach.
Portland Recommends
No Australian political duo has been more prolific and engaging on social media than Malcom Turnbull and Julie Bishop, but Australia has slipped slightly overall in the digital metric this year. While it’s clear that the government is making significant inroads in its digital diplomacy approach, it must continue to push this agenda across all departments to ensure its voice is heard abroad. Making strides in digital diplomacy may go some way in compensating for Australia’s comparatively small diplomatic footprint.

Digital

8

Culture

21

Enterprise

8

Education

13

Government

3

Polling

8

With its exceptional governance structure, growing international recognition through television programmes like The Bridge, and unrivalled landscapes, Sweden once again leads its Nordic neighbours in terms of soft power. So much so that it came out on top in the latest edition of the Good Country Index. Well known for its education and welfare systems and achievements in social and gender equality, Sweden is often seen as having only mastered the less exciting aspects of soft power. But it is also making strides in innovation and technology, becoming the world’s second most prolific tech hub on a per capita basis behind Silicon Valley, thanks to the massive success of Spotify and Skype. The fact that Sweden is now seen as a model child for European innovation is testament to its reputation for thinking globally from the outset. However despite its overwhelming strengths, Sweden hasn’t been immune to the impact of Europe’s refugee crisis. Arguably one of the most open countries in the world – ranking fourth in the number of asylum seekers it accepts – Sweden has been overwhelmed by the volume of refugees and migrants arriving into Europe. Sweden’s open approach to welcoming refugees has left the government unsure how to respond to the influx, and these recent challenges indicate that while Sweden remains an economic pillar of strength, cracks are beginning to appear politically.

Country Analysis

Strengths
The Nordic model has proved successful for Sweden and it continues to enjoy a top three ranking in the Government sub-index, outranked only by Norway and Switzerland.
Weaknesses
There are few areas where Sweden underperforms, but no stand-out weaknesses. However, Sweden has fallen back in the Culture sub-index, slipping three places from last year. Despite seeing strong growth in tourist arrivals in 2015, Sweden has a long way to go before attracting the same numbers as other European countries.
Portland Recommends
Sweden is deserving of its Top 10 ranking and has quite rightly been admired around the world for decades. But Sweden shouldn’t rest on its laurels when dealing with new and unexpected challenges. Sweden’s egalitarian approach to refugees is admirable but the crisis has showed that the nation is capable of misjudging the gravity of situations. As global leader in dealing with asylum seekers, the world will be looking to solutions from Sweden. Can they be found?

Digital

9

Culture

29

Enterprise

12

Education

15

Government

1

Polling

14

Norway’s climb up the rankings this year reflects the strength of its society and government. With the collapse in global oil prices, the country faced a threat to its sovereign wealth fund. However, smart leadership and a prudent approach to investment have cemented Norway’s position as a leader in responsible capitalism. The economic and diplomatic clout that accompanies the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world cannot be underestimated; it owns on average 1.3% of every group listed on any stock market, meaning that the fund has become a powerful foreign policy tool in its own right. This increases both Norway’s hard and soft power status by enabling the country to exert some control over foreign companies, as well as providing an economic incentive for positive diplomatic engagement. Norway responded to the refugee crisis by donating $1.2 billion, which, according to the Oxfam “fair share” measure, meant that the country contributed 385% of its allocated portion of an $8.9 billion funding appeal for Syria made by the United Nations. This further shows how seriously the country takes its international responsibilities. All of this rests on the strong institutions of the Norwegian government. Their long-term approach to fostering an enterprise-friendly society with incredibly high living standards — helped by their oil wealth — means that they can afford to positively project their soft power around the world while remaining an attractive investment, migration, and tourism destination.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Coming in at number one on the UN Human Development Index, Norway’s citizens enjoy the highest living standards in the world. Not a bad attribute to be recognised for.
Weaknesses
Norway’s strength in the hydrocarbon sector could be considered a weakness. With its economy largely dependent on such a precarious industry, diversification must remain top of mind for the government.
Portland Recommends
With strong scores across all other categories, Norway can afford to dedicate some resources to either promoting its existing cultural institutions, or more realistically, providing the necessary environment for youth and other sub-cultures to thrive and become cultural assets themselves.

Digital

10

Culture

12

Enterprise

20

Education

6

Government

4

Polling

16

The Netherlands has good reason to retain its rank in this year’s index. Admired for its welcoming spirit and tolerant society, it’s no wonder that the country holds significant soft power clout. This can be traced back to its strong government institutions, which have consistently upheld their citizen’s beliefs in progressive politics. The introduction of the Amsterdam Nachtburgemeester illustrates the willingness of the government to engage and support entrepreneurs, artists, and local communities for the good of all stakeholders. The result? A vibrant night-time economy and unique cultural identity that allow its capital Amsterdam to compete with cities such as London and New York to attract global talent, tourism, and investment. Home to five international courts, Europol and Eurojust, the country also has the title of legal capital of the world, making it a key destination for the legal and business communities. The Dutch education system is not only one of the cheapest in the western world, but also one of the most highly rated, creating an educated workforce and an irresistible draw for foreign students. Flexibility within the employment market is another key factor, with part-time work much more common than in other countries. Given the relatively small size of the country, the Netherlands has an impressively high score that matches its international outlook.

Country Analysis

Strengths
With a Master’s course setting you back just €1,984 a year, it’s easy to see why the country has no problems attracting Europe’s best and brightest to its universities, who come for the education and stay for the quality of life.
Weaknesses
No glaring weaknesses for the Netherlands, but with threats to the European project growing, there is a clear opportunity for the country to show the world what European values stand for. Moreover, the profile of Geert Wilders and the populism he represents doesn’t do much for Dutch Soft Power.
Portland Recommends
The liberal, tolerant society that the Netherlands has cultivated matches the outlook of the increasingly powerful millennial generation. As they begin to assume positions of responsibility around the world, the Netherlands should look to leverage common positions to help form a broader consensus around progressive beliefs.

Digital

11

Culture

14

Enterprise

27

Education

20

Government

30

Polling

30

With its annual military parades and occasional encroachments into European air and naval space, soft power might not spring to mind when thinking about the Russian Federation, a new entry to this year’s rankings. However, since the mid-2000s, an enormous emphasis has been placed on enhancing Russia’s image at home and abroad. Despite setbacks due to the ongoing skirmish surrounding Ukraine and Crimea, Russian state broadcasters manage to reach millions of viewers at home and millions more worldwide. State-owned channel RT now offers services in multiple languages giving it one of the largest audience bases of any global news broadcaster. Moreover, Russia has re-established itself as a diplomatic powerhouse taking a joint lead with the United States in seeking to negotiate a peace deal in Syria. Russia remains an economic force (albeit a currently shrinking one), with migrants from Central Asia and other parts of the former Soviet Union flocking to the country. With the help of these migrants, Russia is changing the face of many of its major cities, taking them from Post-Soviet style accommodation blocks to stylish business centres and new apartment buildings. Russia’s global cultural appeal draws in more than 29 million tourists annually. Whether it’s history, art, or literature, Russian culture is widely appreciated and studied. It is also a key to why so many travel to this culturally rich nation. However, recent changes in domestic policies, specifically the anti-gay legislation introduced in 2013, has had damaging effects on Russia’s reputation in many countries.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Russia’s media engagement is world class. State-owned channel RT broadcasts across the globe in English, Spanish, Arabic, and Hindi to very high ratings, particularly in Europe and South America, and its YouTube channel was the first ever to receive over a billion hits. Russia is also very strong diplomatically and has taken the lead with other top powers in establishing dialogue to tackle issues of global security.
Weaknesses
Russia’s government is persistently hit by corruption scandals, most recently exemplified by the revelation of a state-sanctioned sport doping scandal. This in turn drives down trust in government and scares off potential investors. Discriminatory legislation against sexual and racial minorities is also a step in the wrong direction for Russia’s soft power.
Portland Recommends
Russia would do well to remember that much of its current success stems from the outward looking policies of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Russia would benefit from turning away from isolationist policies and building on the dialogues it has established with other nations to re-assert itself as a reliable and open partner to the rest of the world.

Digital

12

Culture

10

Enterprise

4

Education

12

Government

17

Polling

6

In this second iteration of the Soft Power 30, Japan improved on its already high standing, rising to 7th. It continues to be known for its efficiency in the private sector as well as in the public: Japan’s competitiveness remains among the highest of the countries surveyed, and its governance has been shown to be effective. Japan has history on its side – it was one of the first countries in the region to integrate into the international system, and was the first Asian economy to experience a massive economic boom. This international notoriety, paired with its reputation for excellence, provides Japan with significant soft power on the global stage. It is one of the most widely represented states diplomatically, with embassies in 144 countries. Interestingly, though known as one of the most high-tech countries in the world, Japan does not count among its strengths digital diplomacy, having low digital engagement by its Premier and Foreign Minister. Indeed, Japan does not seem to focus too heavily on public diplomacy, as it has very few cultural missions abroad. Yet this does not do extensive damage to Japan’s soft power, as it continues to play an integral role in many international organisations and to be viewed favourably by the majority of global public opinion.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Aside from Japan’s well-recognised economic competitiveness, its cultural exports are one of its main strengths. Japan hosted 13 million visitors in last year. Japan also has a hugely popular music industry (J-Pop), which is appreciated throughout Asia. Its culture is so effectively exported globally that the government itself puts little effort into cultural promotion.
Weaknesses
Where Japan’s soft power falls short is in its relations with neighbouring countries China and South Korea, both of which scored Japan very low in our international polling. Japan would do well to take a leaf out of Germany’s book in its approach to strengthening regional relations.
Portland Recommends
Japan has performed well across the board in both iterations of the Soft Power 30, yet it mustn't become complacent in its position. With regional rivals competing for global influence, Japan’s soft power will be of utmost importance in the coming years. Improvements in the education sector and official public diplomacy can help preserve Japan’s soft power and cement its position as a regional and global power.

Digital

13

Culture

26

Enterprise

10

Education

8

Government

5

Polling

15

Moving up in this year’s rankings to 13th place, Finland has shown once again that it is more than capable of holding its own against larger, better-known countries when it comes to soft power. But as the least visited of the Nordic countries, Finland still struggles to attract significant numbers in tourists. Nevertheless, a strong government, a tradition of diligence, and an innovative way of thinking help Finland to stand out from the rest. The Finnish government consistently scores highly in Freedom House rankings and is known for its admirably low rates of corruption. Government effectiveness, including strides towards gender equality, has created an environment of both economic dynamism and societal equity.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Finland’s political values and effective government are the foundations upon which the country’s soft power is built. Finns have an impressive ability of combining the practical and aesthetic, as evidenced by the government-sponsored ‘Baby box’. The programme has contributed to Finland having one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world and serves as just one example of how the government translates good design into better government public services.
Weaknesses
A small population means that Finland struggles to export its brand to the world en masse at the same level as its Nordic neighbours. With no major cultural ambassadors (save maybe Moomin!), Finland finds it difficult to generate interest and convince tourists that their country is worth boarding a Finnair jet.
Portland Recommends
The more digital buzz Finland can generate, the better. If the Finnish population, 92% of whom are online, promote the admirable institutions the country has to offer, the entire population stands to benefit. SITRA, the civil-government agency dedicated to creating a greener, more sustainable Finland, is a prime example of the kind of content Finns should be promoting to the world.

Digital

14

Culture

6

Enterprise

25

Education

16

Government

19

Polling

12

Despite some significant domestic challenges – both economic and political – Spain’s soft power is on the rise. The Iberian nation moves two places up to 12th from last year’s placing on the Soft Power 30. From the onset of the global financial crisis, Spain’s economic challenges have been well documented. The knock-on effects of the collapse in house-prices and high youth unemployment has affected the wellbeing of Spanish society. This hasn’t been helped by the more recent political situation, with ongoing deadlock over the formation of a government since the election of December 2015, and a question mark over Catalonia’s future in the Kingdom. But these concerns do not appear to have weighed on the country’s soft power. Millions from around Europe and further afield still enjoy the appeal of Spain’s wonderful culture, cuisine, creativity, and climate. In 2014, Spain welcomed 65 million international visitors and it was second only to the US in total tourism earnings, suggesting when people come to Spain, they stay for a while and spend generously.

Country Analysis

Strengths
It is of little surprise that Spain scores highest for its culture. Just ahead of its Mediterranean rival Italy, Spain comes 6th which accounts for much of its strength when assessing the country’s overall score. What is more surprising is that Spain ranks equally high for its Engagement. This is helped by the country’s diplomatic network and contribution to global development and engagement. Despite its well documented domestic issues, Spain is still a major soft power internationally.
Weaknesses
With the current political deadlock which followed the 2015 election, Spain has slipped two places to 19 based on its Government scoring. This is to be expected and ongoing questions over Catalan independence will not have helped. Spain still lags behind on its enterprise scoring. It has slipped four places on last year’s ranking, suggesting it has more to do to provide a better environment for those who wish to do business in the country.
Portland Recommends
The picture for Spain’s soft power seems clear. Its cultural status is amongst the very best in the world and that would seem solid for the future. What is less certain is the nation’s ability to provide a globally-attractive business environment, which is far from matching its cultural strength. Spain clearly does well in engaging with people across the world, but it needs to provide a clearer path to convert this into economic benefit.

Digital

15

Culture

30

Enterprise

23

Education

27

Government

24

Polling

25

Hungary is one of only three new countries in this year’s Soft Power 30, debuting at 26. And it’s not difficult to see why. A nation of more than a thousand natural springs, 13 Nobel laureates, and the birthplace of impressive composers and performers (Franz Liszt, Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly to name a few), Hungary has an enormous amount to offer in terms of soft power. But it’s also been a challenging year for the Hungarians; one that has seen them thrust into the international limelight, and not always for the right reasons. The world waited with baited breath as Prime Minister Viktor Orban responded to Europe’s refugee crisis. His challenging of the EU quota plan and hard-line stance against migration saw his approval ratings skyrocket domestically, but earned the leader few friends internationally. Only time will tell if Orban’s continued defiance and criticism of many western governments will have a lasting effect on Hungary’s soft power standing.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Digital. While Hungary doesn’t perform exceptionally well in terms of digital infrastructure, its government has a solid social media presence. In fact, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is in our top five for most engaged international followers on Facebook.
Weaknesses
Hungary is by no means lacking in culture, with a rich history shining through in its architecture, music, and folk dance. Most impressive is that Hungarians have, per capita, one of the highest tallies of Olympic medals. But the nation scores lower than any other in our Culture sub-index. Hungarian culture deserves greater recognition and the government should be investing more to strengthen and promote these substantial assets.
Portland Recommends
With international attention focused almost solely on Hungary’s increasingly strained relationship with European partners right now, it will need to work that little bit harder to be recognised for anything other than political strong-arming. The Foreign Minister and Prime Minister should leverage their success on social media to push Hungary’s cultural assets and draw global attention away from the nation’s less popular attributes.

Digital

16

Culture

25

Enterprise

6

Education

7

Government

6

Polling

13

Denmark’s Soft Power ranking and score has taken a slight dip since 2015, but it still came in at a respectable 13th in this year’s index. For a country of only 5.7 million, it certainly punches above its weight in terms of soft power, and holds some of the highest standards of government and education which many other countries would want to emulate. Last year saw a change in Prime Minister with Lars Løkke Rasmussen taking up the reins for a second spell. Whilst it hasn’t thrown up the same level of political complexity as Denmark’s famous series Borgen, he does rely on a coalition to keep his centre-right Venstre party in power. Drops in ranking based on its Digital and Cultural scores have played a prominent role in the slight drop in this year’s index.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Aside from well-regarded design, Denmark’s architecture is also world-class. But it’s not all about the aesthetics. Together with most of its Nordic neighbours, Denmark ranks very highly in the Government category. It’s dropped one place to 6th but still has a score that most other countries would envy. Denmark has also shot up in the Education sub-index to 7th place, a significant improvement on 14th place in 2015. It could be that the country’s excellent system is gaining greater awareness globally.
Weaknesses
Denmark might well have come even higher in the index if they could find a way of improving their rather stubbornly low score on the Culture sub-index. Only five nations in the Soft Power 30 rank lower – and two of those are Nordic (Norway and Finland).
Portland Recommends
Denmark can be proud of having a big profile for a relatively small country. There is little to worry about with its high scores for Education and Government. However, as with other Scandinavian countries, a low cultural score needs to be addressed. Denmark has a rich heritage and a hip, modern city scene, replete with cutting-edge design, but these strengths have not yet shown through in the index. With a bit more emphasis on their existing assets, Denmark stands to improve its marks.

Digital

17

Culture

13

Enterprise

13

Education

18

Government

10

Polling

18

2015 proved to be a testing year for Austria. Tensions over the refugee and migration crisis prompted an increasingly tough policy approach that culminated in the adoption of strict laws on asylum and fraught relations with other EU states. Domestically, the country saw the rising prominence of right-wing parties, who look set to profit off increasing social tensions and economic under performance. From an external perspective, these events have landed a blow to Austria’s glowing reputation as a stable, wealthy, and welcoming country. International media coverage over the course of the crisis has been less than favourable, with the U-turn on border controls and asylum caps negatively portrayed, especially when compared to Germany’s decision to welcome over one million migrants. The fact that this media narrative placed Austria on the same side as less liberal states in Eastern Europe has weakened Austria’s carefully honed image of being a good global citizen. Despite this undercurrent of instability, Austria still has much to be proud of: high living standards, robust political institutions, and persisting positive global perceptions of the country all contribute to what is still a strong global image. Its commitment to neutrality has helped it to become a centre for international diplomacy, with international organisations such as Organization for Security and Cooperation Europe, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, International Atomic Energy Agency and Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries basing their headquarters in the country.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Austria scores highly in polling with its high living standards setting it apart, even as compared to the rest of wealthy Northern Europe. And for good reason – Austria’s government structure is well-executed. The country has a small shadow economy as percentage of GDP, only outranked by the US and Switzerland, and high levels of press freedom, demonstrating the successes of the government.
Weaknesses
Austria’s U-turn on refugees is illustrative of shifting attitudes within the country towards external engagement. If this continues, the country’s strong diplomatic network will struggle to convince its peers of Austria’s commitment to being a positive force in the world.
Portland Recommends
Austria needs to ensure that its reputation on the global stage doesn’t suffer as a result of the refugee crisis and political backlash. As the site of talks on the Syrian crisis, the Iranian nuclear deal and many others, Austria should look to highlight its positive contributions to global peace and security to counter negative media narratives.

Digital

18

Culture

16

Enterprise

3

Education

21

Government

26

Polling

28

The birthplace of tech giant Samsung, South Korea dropped two places this year, coming in at 22nd. The East Asian nation hit its stride in the 1980s, becoming one of a group of East Asian “tigers” that took off following a series of economic – and eventually political – reforms. These changes laid the foundation for its eventual success, as the nation has exported its soft power through the likes of K-pop and a variety of digital innovations. Through its immense outputs, especially in the form of consumer electronics, South Korea performed particularly well in the Enterprise sub-index, coming in 3rd. Despite these strengths, the nation has struggled regionally. Bordering the unstable regime in Pyongyang, South Korea’s security remains a constant source of concern. This has translated in some cases to government weakness, but has also proven to be an opportunity for the nation to work diplomatically with China and the US to resolve crises on the Korean Peninsula. For the last ten years, South Korea has had high-level representation on the international level with Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary General. With his second term coming to an end this year, South Korea will have an opportunity to find new ways to amplify its soft power strengths.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Digital innovations drive the growth of business and cultural outputs in South Korea. Domestically, a large proportion of the population has access to the internet, mobile phones and broadband subscriptions. Despite the country’s relatively small size, global use of Korean products from the likes of LG, Hyundai and Kia is vast. In fact, Korean multinational conglomerate Samsung consistently produces the top-selling mobile phones in the world.
Weaknesses
South Korea saw little improvement in its polling score – standing at 49.95, the country ranks below neighbouring Japan and comes in at 27th overall. With a corruption scandal hitting former Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo last year, public confidence in the government suffered. It is somewhat unsurprising, then, that South Korea also struggled in the Government sub-index.
Portland Recommends
When one thinks about South Korea, its combative cousin to the north, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea naturally comes to mind. Yet negotiations regarding the stalemated conflict between the two are often headed by superpowers China and the United States, overshadowing South Korea’s abilities to negotiate on its own behalf. South Korea must rely less heavily on the efforts of others and take a more assertive role in negotiations to prove its soft power strengths in its own right.

Digital

19

Culture

11

Enterprise

19

Education

10

Government

14

Polling

19

Belgium dropped one place this year to 18th. The bifurcated federal state has long been a centre of European and international activity, playing host to both the European Commission and NATO. Fittingly so, as the country has one foot in Germanic Europe and the other in Latin Europe. In the past year, however, the country has also increasingly become a hub of terrorist activity, with links made between Belgium-based suspects and attacks in Paris in November last year. Brussels, too, was rocked by a devastating act of terrorism in March in the deadliest terror attack in Belgium’s history. In spite of the unfortunate turn of events and subsequently critical press associated with the nation, people continue to think of it positively. Belgium’s polling score has increased since last year, proving that the general public will not be sucked in to media hype but instead cares more about Belgium’s abundant assets including Magritte, Stromae, and moules-frites.

Country Analysis

Strengths
For such a small nation, Belgium packs a cultural punch. Les français, say what you will, but pommes frites are a Belgian delicacy. So too is some of the best beer in the world, waffles, chocolate, and everyone’s favourite cartoon adventurer, Tintin.
Weaknesses
In theory, the Belgian government is a model of power-sharing consociationalism, dividing political and administrative functions between three regions. In practice, though, these divisions have often hindered cohesion and effectiveness, preventing the nation from reaching its full potential as a European leader. Some have pointed to Belgium’s division as a reason for security failures.
Portland Recommends
Belgium is known as a country divided, not least for its complicated political system. But if Belgium’s national 'Red Devils' football team, made up of players from every region of the country, can collaborate and cooperate effectively, Belgium can do the same. Last year the team was named number one in FIFA’s world rankings; perhaps if the rest of the country follows suit, it can take the top place in next year’s Soft Power 30.

Digital

20

Culture

15

Enterprise

2

Education

14

Government

2

Polling

3

Despite being one of few developed nations with a conscripted army, whose troops keep their arms at home, Switzerland has steadfastly maintained its neutrality. This multicultural nation has been actively involved in peace building efforts globally, having founded the International Committee of the Red Cross, one of the world’s biggest humanitarian organisations and three-time winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Switzerland is also home to some of the world’s most important organisations and institutions, including many UN offices, the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organisation and hosts both the European (UEFA) and international (FIFA) governing bodies of football. While the country may not be seen as the most exciting nation, it has a strong history of democratic rule and a robust economy. The proof is solidly in the pudding, as Switzerland ranks third in the international human development index and performs well in measures of gender equality, global competitiveness, and innovation.

Country Analysis

Strengths
If a transparent and effective government, widespread prosperity, and high levels of development aren’t enough, Switzerland boasts unbeatable mountains for winter sports, and is also responsible for giving the world fondue, raclette, Toblerone and Bircher muesli.
Weaknesses
Having such picturesque views and a harmonious, multicultural population must come at some price – and that price is high. Zurich and Geneva rank in the top five most expensive cities in the world and despite a generally high GDP per capita and low unemployment rate, income inequality remains a challenge.
Portland Recommends
Switzerland claims the headquarters of the world’s leading scientific research facility, CERN - the same organisation known for pioneering the introduction of internet technology. Yet Switzerland struggles most with its digital capabilities, and is particularly lacking in digital diplomacy. In an increasingly digital world, Switzerland should take lessons from groups like CERN and utilise its technological resources to start engaging with global public through digital platforms.

Digital

21

Culture

19

Enterprise

28

Education

30

Government

28

Polling

23

Having recently suspended its President Dilma Rousseff, who is currently facing an impeachment trial, Brazil has the world’s eyes watching to see if it can deliver a successful Olympic Games. For Brazilians, this may provide an opportunity to forget their worries for two weeks and do what they do best — party. For everyone else, however, the country is perceived as being on the brink of an economic and political disaster. International ratings agency Fitch recently downgraded Brazil’s debt to “junk” status. In addition, the Petrobras scandal has implicated more than one hundred people and become the largest corruption scandal in the history of Brazil. And all this before mentioning the Zika virus pandemic ravaging the country. In last year’s rankings, we said that Brazil would be among the most interesting countries to watch. With so many soft power assets, and a number of opportunities for development, Brazil could have easily climbed higher. But poor showings on the Government sub-index and weak scores for Education overshadowed Brazil’s strength in the Culture sub-index, where it shines with football, samba, and carnival. Brazil has therefore fallen to 24th position. The 5th most populous country in the world still ranks above the other BRICS nations. But one thing is for sure, a weaker Brazil is a key impediment to the agency of the developing countries.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Even though it’s been overshadowed by political and economic instability, you can’t ask for a better platform than hosting the Olympic Games. It certainly did a lot for London and Beijing.
Weaknesses
Unsurprisingly, Brazil scored poorly in the Government sub-index, which analyses trust in government, government effectiveness, and public safety. Additionally, perceptions of corruption and a rise in unemployment from 7 to 10 percent last year did the country no favours for attracting foreign investment.
Portland Recommends
The old tag “Brazil is the country of the future... and always will be” epitomises the roller coaster that has been Brazil’s economy over recent years. The exotic country still benefits from a truly global profile and has excellent brand recognition. Nevertheless, Brazil remains a “country to watch” to see if it can triumph in its everlasting battle with corruption.

Digital

22

Culture

23

Enterprise

24

Education

24

Government

21

Polling

27

Poland climbed one place this year, to 23rd. The Eastern European country underwent a number of changes in the past 12 months, which were reflected in its results. Following a year marked by a growing migrant crisis throughout Europe, Poland elected conservative Andrzej Duda of the Eurosceptic Law and Justice Party last May, beating out the incumbent in the closest presidential race in the country’s history. The new leader has taken an increasingly confrontational stance with its EU partners, rejecting Germany’s proposed quota system for taking in immigrants because of security fears. Poland’s increasingly strained relationship with the rest of Europe was widely reflected in polling, in which the country dropped to 27th. Despite this, Poland has unexpectedly improved across the Engagement and Culture sub-indices. Much of this can be attributed to Poland’s economic liberalisation policies and increasing membership in international organisations, which began in 2004 with its accession to the EU. It could also reflect gains made under the previous government. Nevertheless, Poland is now at risk of a constitutional crisis, slipping toward authoritarian rule.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Since joining the EU, more and more tourists across Europe and the rest of the world are getting a taste of all the cultural assets Poland has on offer. With a rich history, impressive architecture, and a wide range of outdoor activities made possible through the surrounding sea, mountains and forests, Poland welcomed 16 million tourists last year.
Weaknesses
The political change brought about with the 2015 election has had a marked effect on Poland. Whereas the country previously ranked high in government scores, media freedom has decreased in the past year, police surveillance powers have increased, and general security fears have reversed much of the liberalisation that had taken place in the past decade.
Portland Recommends
While fears of terrorism are felt across much of the world, Poland’s approach to addressing security concerns seems to have harmed its international reputation. The country has numerous cultural assets, as evidenced by its strong showing in the Culture sub-index. Poland would benefit from better leveraging not just its cultural heritage, but also its contemporary cultural offering.

Digital

23

Culture

20

Enterprise

7

Education

11

Government

7

Polling

11

What a year for New Zealand. The highlight was undoubtedly securing another stunning Rugby World Cup victory, made even sweeter by the fact that it was Australia whom the All Blacks triumphed over. New Zealand’s position and size means that it can be overlooked in favour of its big brother, but the Kiwis are often far more politically and socially adventurous. Three years after becoming the first Oceanic country to legalise same-sex marriage, New Zealand has found the ideal balance between exploring new opportunities and remaining steadfastly confident in its history and identity. This attitude shone through during the country’s recent referendum to change the national flag and while change wasn’t implemented, the vote united the nation and proved that its people are willing to push boundaries and challenge conventional thinking. 2015 was also a spectacular year for New Zealand’s tourism industry, with visitor arrivals rising 11 percent and net migration rising 9 percent. Tourism New Zealand’s 100% Pure Campaign has been hugely effective in promoting the diversity in experiences the country has to offer and it’s unlikely that arrival numbers will fall anytime soon.

Country Analysis

Strengths
New Zealanders enjoy a healthy and vibrant democracy so it’s no surprise to see the country perform best in our Governance sub-index. Ranking in the global top five for the World Bank’s Voice and Accountability and Government Effectiveness indices, as well as the Economist Democracy Index, New Zealand may be small but it could teach many world powers a thing or two about good governance.
Weaknesses
The New Zealand government has struggled to engage an international audience on social media. A much stronger digital diplomacy approach, especially for Prime Minister John Key and Foreign Minister Murray McCully, is critical if New Zealand hopes to be recognised as a nation with more to contribute to the world.
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New Zealand’s fall to 29th in the Engagement sub-index, along with a slight dip in its international polling score, indicates that global recognition of New Zealand may be falling. It’s understandable that New Zealanders may be swept away by the beauty and isolation of their own oasis, but it’s important not to drop too far from the international radar. If Helen Clark is elected to replace Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary-General later this year, it will give New Zealand a much bigger voice on the world stage.

Digital

24

Culture

7

Enterprise

26

Education

19

Government

23

Polling

2

Italy has moved up one place from 12th last year. Despite continued economic struggles, issues with government effectiveness, and corruption and a migrant crisis crashing at its borders, the land of Prada, pizza and Pavarotti is still loved by the world, coming second in our polling. People love the delicacies the country has to offer, its sleek cars, and cutting edge clothes. Since becoming Italy’s youngest Prime Minister ever in 2014, Matteo Renzi has been expected to pull his country out of Berlusconi’s bunga bunga bedlam. But while Italy welcomes the third most tourist arrivals in Europe and boasts the third largest economy in the Eurozone, the country is working towards more sustainable public finances and delivering more employment opportunities. What it lacks in pure economic strength though, it more than makes up for in culture. Italy boasts the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, exceptional museums and galleries, and a strong football culture, drawing in 48 million tourists annually.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Without question, Italy is a ‘cultural superpower’ that has set global trends for millennia, from Caesar to Gucci. Visit any major city or tiny paesino and stumble upon beautiful landscapes, impressive churches, and monuments.
Weaknesses
Internal political struggles and the global recession have had an enormous impact on Italy, and the country has struggled to recover. Young people in particular are under-educated and unemployed, the nation is straining to absorb a growing migrant crisis, and the government is lacking the means to address these issues, translating into low scores in the areas of economy and education.
Portland Recommends
Italy’s recent present has struggled to live up to the glory of its rich past. But if the country can take a page out of the book of Prime Minister Renzi – a bold, innovative reformer – and play to its strengths, perhaps Italy can become a stronger, more well-rounded soft power.

Digital

25

Culture

18

Enterprise

17

Education

22

Government

12

Polling

17

The Emerald Isle slipped one place to 20th this year, but it’s not all bad news for Ireland. The Irish charm stretches all four corners of the globe. From St Petersburg to Honolulu, one can find an Irish pub in any major city on the map and feel the same warm hospitality. But rest assured a pint of Guinness is not Ireland’s only soft power asset. Ireland has had a good year in terms of governance, and it’s no surprise that this is where the nation performs strongest. The world stood to attention when Ireland became the first country to legalise gay marriage by referendum, a decision many hailed as a revolution. And it continued to impress with Enda Kenny’s government introducing gender quotas to fill a record 35 seats in the Dáil with women. On the soft side, Ireland ticks all the boxes: a vibrant and welcoming culture, steadfast governance, and stunningly picturesque landscape.

Country Analysis

Strengths
With Dublin acting as European headquarters to some of the world’s biggest digital names – Google, Apple, LinkedIn to name a few – Ireland has carved a niche for itself in the enterprise sector, and continues to nurture a young, dynamic, and technically skilled workforce.
Weaknesses
Despite some positive stories on the domestic front, Ireland struggles with the unique challenge of being ambitious but small. Moreover, it’s still feeling the effects of the merge between its foreign affairs and trade ministries. Its low Engagement score reflects a relatively small diplomatic network.
Portland Recommends
Ireland faces an interesting challenge in pursuing a promising tech-based future while holding onto its old-world, Irish charm. The government should be thinking about ways to combine its rich culture with its technological assets so as to not sacrifice one for the other. Doing so will eliminate any doubt that Ireland isn’t forward thinking enough to be Europe’s digital hub.

Digital

26

Culture

17

Enterprise

30

Education

29

Government

27

Polling

24

Riding the wave of a politically momentous year, Argentina just breaks into the Soft Power 30. The election of right wing Mauricio Macri marked an end to 12 years of Presidents Kirchner, and gave an immediate boost to the perceptions of Argentina, a trend reflected in the nation’s significant improvement in international polling. Promising to implement a compelling reform plan and reinvigorate Argentinian politics, the former Buenos Aires mayor is living up to President Obama’s prediction that “Argentina under Macri is poised to play a more influential role on the global stage”. Argentina has done well to become the only other Latin American country in the index, and with Brazil falling slightly this year, it is quickly becoming one of the region’s soft power exemplars.

Country Analysis

Strengths
President Macri is a politician with broad domestic and global appeal, backed by a well-cultivated social media presence. He was clever in encouraging enthusiastic young voters to spread his campaign messaging online, and has since become one of the most followed and engaged with world leaders on Facebook and Instagram.
Weaknesses
Argentina lags behind when it comes to its business and enterprise acumen, scoring at the bottom end of the WEF Competitiveness Index, Heritage Economic Freedom, and World Bank Ease of Doing Business metrics. The South American nation has a long way to go before competing with global enterprise powerhouses like Singapore or Switzerland. But things are looking up.
Portland Recommends
Argentina under Macri managed to secure one of the most anticipated market comebacks in a decade – a sale of debt worth more than $16 billion – and if his ambitious policies are successful, he will return desperately needed foreign investment to Argentina. Only time will tell if the leader can overcome the many obstacles waiting for him, but Argentina should continue to focus on building investor excitement.

Digital

27

Culture

27

Enterprise

21

Education

26

Government

18

Polling

26

The Czech Republic was quick to get back on its feet after the Velvet Revolution of 1993, and is often heralded as the most stable of the post-Communist European states. Its industrialized economy consistently thwarts unemployment and shows the fastest growth rates in the EU—in late 2015, GDP growth was at 4.4%.But it has been a more tumultuous year for Czech social policies. As with much of Europe, it earned its most significant media coverage for resistance to immigration and pressure from Brussels to share the migration burden by meeting mandatory refugee quotas. In fact, it came under scrutiny from the UN for human rights violations committed through its asylum processing policy. As a small and fairly young nation, the Czech Republic makes a strong showing by placing in the Soft Power 30—but its position has slipped, and the likely lesson is that economic strength alone is not enough to drive global influence.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Economically, it is on the rise, with unemployment continuing to fall and no sign of stopping. The Czech Republic is effectively consolidating its status as a compact economic powerhouse of Mitteleuropa.
Weaknesses
Media coverage of the Czech Republic in the last year has cast the country in something of a negative light. And since Prague makes little attempt to engage with the rest of the world, either digitally or culturally (key government persons go without social media, and when was the last time you ate a koláče?), its polling numbers are likely a direct consequence of the sparsity of positive international coverage.
Portland Recommends
The Czech Republic has recently begun the process of rebranding itself as “Czechia”, at the suggestion of PR advisors, but it doesn’t need a rebranding so much as it needs a branding. With its strong economy, central geographical position, and masses of tourists streaming to Prague every weekend, it’s well-positioned to assert itself further on the world stage, and to manifest its culture and politics. Czechia shouldn’t only be seen to speak up about immigration quotas.

Digital

28

Culture

9

Enterprise

16

Education

28

Government

29

Polling

29

China once again makes the Soft Power 30. Despite the recent economic slowdown, the world’s most populous nation continues to flex its economic muscle on the world stage and reshape the international system, and rise up the soft power ranks. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) – the China-led rival to the Asian Development Bank – will hold its inaugural meeting in June, representing a milestone in China’s global engagement, revealing an emerging vision for a Chinese world order. For many countries, particularly in Africa and along the Silk Road Economic Belt, China’s economic and cultural impact is already being felt. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has increased his grip on the levers of power since taking office in 2012, and is regarded as the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. As China marked the 50th Anniversary of the Cultural Revolution this year, this development has caused some consternation amongst China watchers. Interference with Hong Kong’s jealously guarded political freedoms, and continued island building in the South China Sea, have made China’s neighbours in the region nervous. With one of the largest overseas populations, the Chinese diaspora is a source of both international cheerleaders and critics. Nonetheless, the Middle Kingdom is increasingly respected and admired globally (particularly outside of the West), as the ‘Beijing Consensus’ poses an alternative model of economic development for emerging-market countries seeking rapid economic growth. While lack of democracy and free press continue to negatively impact perceptions, there is no question that China will remain a draw for investors and visitors alike, as it assumes the position of a 21st Century super-power.

Country Analysis

Strengths
China’s history, cuisine, and increasingly its language, are important cultural soft power assets. When combined with its improved international engagement, there is a growing understanding of China’s global objectives and interests. These will be important strengths as more people look to China to play a constructive role in world affairs.
Weaknesses
China’s political system remains at odds with its economic strength. While the liberalization of the one-child policy has helped present a softer face to the world, political and press freedoms have moved in the opposite direction in recent years. These restrictions stifle enterprise while preventing the scrutiny the Chinese state so desperately requires. China’s leaders have made overt references to the concept of soft power in recent years, demonstrating its importance to Chinese policy makers. However, soft power cannot come from government alone.
Portland Recommends
A more liberal approach to policy, including easing internet censorship, would have a positive knock-on effect on nearly all aspects of China’s soft power. Internationally, China has a way to go to prove it is a responsible world power. A negotiated settlement to the South China Sea dispute would help diffuse tensions with ASEAN member states, while a reduction in cyber-warfare would ease Western concerns about China’s growing international role.

Digital

29

Culture

22

Enterprise

22

Education

25

Government

28

Polling

20

As the first European power to project itself and its language across the Atlantic, Portugal quickly became one of the world’s first superpowers, colonising countries in Africa, South America, and Asia. Fast-forward 600 years and Portugal continues to battle the effects of the 2008 financial crisis. With the election of Prime Minister Antonio Costa and the government’s backing from far-left parties, it appears that Portugal’s war over austerity economics is back. This issue, and many others, will not receive high-level engagement from government officials on social media, not least because Portugal ranked low on the Digital sub-index. Its head of state and other ministers have little to no presence on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. In fact, the government’s online services are far from being ideal and Portugal is still an exceptionally bureaucratic state. It might surprise you to see Portugal’s presence in the rankings, but the country’s tourism economy is booming. So much so that it gained a position from last year’s edition and the country is now ranked 21st overall. Offering the perfect mix of culture, cuisine and calor, visitors from all over the world journey to Porto, Lisbon, the Algarve, and the rolling plains of Alentejo to listen to fado music, drink Port wine and take in the Lusophone culture.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Portugal is considered one of the most peaceful and socially progressive nations in Europe. In 2001, the country was one of the very first to decriminalise the personal possession of all drugs and treat the problem as a public health issue. In addition, its distance from less stable regions of the world and its 3,000 hours of sunshine per year make tourism its primary soft power asset.
Weaknesses
Portugal's non-tourism based economy, though diversified, could stand to be more dynamic. After the 2011 bailout from the IMF, the country was Europe’s prize pupil when it came to implementing and keeping to austerity targets. It will be interesting to see how the new “anti-austerity coalition” of Antonio Costa plans to lead the country forward.
Portland Recommends
Portuguese is the 6th most spoken language in the world. Portugal should therefore use its soft power strengths of language and culture to further develop relations with Brazil and the Lusophone countries of Africa. Lisbon continues to hold real promise as a burgeoning centre of culture, creativity, and entrepreneurialism and the government should look to support and promote this.

Digital

30

Culture

28

Enterprise

29

Education

23

Government

25

Polling

22

Greece has held steady on its position at 25th, a feat not insignificant considering the turmoil of the last two years. Following anti-austerity protests, the election of populist left-wing party Syriza, and the threat of Grexit, Greece has been on the front-line of the ongoing migrant crisis. But the nation has remained stoic and shown that even with limited resources, a resourceful country can achieve a lot. Hundreds of Greeks have opened their arms and their doors to refugees, with a volunteer group even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. And despite the recent volatility, Greece holds onto its rich past, which it demonstrates proudly throughout a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, delectable food, and drink, and a vast collection of Greek literature and philosophy read throughout the world. Although Greece continues to struggle economically, the Eurozone has recently agreed to another installment of its bailout loan to help ease its debt. This, combined with other pledges of debt relief, will for the time being allow Greece and the rest of Europe to turn their attention to addressing the plight of refugees on the continent and beyond.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Who doesn’t dream of a summer holiday in the Greek islands? Greece, unsurprisingly, performed well in international polling, and is generally considered an attractive place to visit, with good food, beautiful beaches, impressive landmarks and a generally rich culture. It’s also the birthplace of democracy, philosophy and western civilisation.
Weaknesses
Following a strong showing in the Digital sub-index last year, Greece has struggled to maintain its momentum, with limited government social media presence and fairly low internet saturation. The country also scored poorly in Enterprise. But Greece has had more pressing matters at hand, what with a protracted recession and budget deficit, further compounded by the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.
Portland Recommends
The golden age of the ‘cradle of Western civilisation’ has passed, as the world’s first democracy struggles politically and economically. While a Grexit seemed imminent last year and many feared for the stability of Prime Minister Tsipras’ government, the Greeks have proven resilient and the world has taken notice. The country may not immediately be in a position to address its business and digital weaknesses, but as it recovers, Greece would benefit from a renewed effort to strengthen its digital assets and more effectively build its soft power brand online.

Upward Mover

Downward Mover

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New Entry

Culture 2016

SCORE

Digital

1

Culture

1

Enterprise

9

Education

1

Government

16

Polling

10

The United States takes the top spot of the 2016 Soft Power 30, beating out last year’s first-place finisher, the United Kingdom. America topping the rankings this year is perhaps a strange juxtaposition to Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, currently threatening to tear up long-held, bi-partisan principles of American foreign policy – like ending the US’s stated commitment to nuclear non-proliferation. On the other hand, President Obama’s final year as Commander-in-Chief has been a busy one for diplomatic initiatives. The President managed to complete his long-sought Iran Nuclear Deal, made progress on negotiating free trade agreements with partners across the Oceans Atlantic and Pacific, and re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba after decades of trying to isolate the Communist Caribbean Island. These major soft power plays have paid dividends for perceptions of the US abroad, as it finished higher in the international polling this year, compared to 2015. Perhaps not dragged down as much by attitudes to its foreign policy, the US’s major pillars of soft power have been free to shine, as measured in our Digital, Education, and Culture sub-indices. The US is home to the biggest digital platforms in the world, including Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, and the US State Department sets the global pace on digital diplomacy. Likewise, the US maintains its top ranking in the Culture and Education sub-indices this year. The US welcomed over 74 million international tourists last year, many of whom are attracted by America’s cultural outputs that are seemingly omnipresent around the globe. In terms of education, the US has more universities in the global top 200 than any other country in the world, which allows it to attract more international students than any other country – by some margin as well.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Home to many of the biggest tech brands in the world, the US is the global leader in digital technology and innovation. The Obama Administration and State Department developed the theory and practice of online-driven campaigning and ‘digital diplomacy’. The way the US has developed and leveraged digital diplomacy, gives the nation a significant soft power boost.
Weaknesses
It’s not just foreign policy that can drag down the image of America. Regular news stories of police brutality, racial tension, gun violence, and a high homicide rate (compared to other developed countries) all remind the world that America has its faults on the home front too. Speaking of which, the forthcoming Presidential election will have leaders in a lot of world capitals nervous at prospect of a Trump presidency.
Portland Recommends
In truth, making any substantive recommendation before the results of November’s Presidential election are known would be an academic exercise. The two possible paths for US foreign policy under a President Clinton or President Trump are so widely divergent that one can only wait to see how the American electorate vote. In the meantime, President Obama’s recent diplomatic successes have been a boon for US soft power. If he can continue to build bridges and foster greater economic and political cooperation across the Atlantic and Pacific, he will leave office having re-established the US as the world’s preeminent Soft Power. This would certainly allow for a future Clinton Administration to hit the ground running on US foreign policy priorities.

Digital

3

Culture

2

Enterprise

14

Education

2

Government

13

Polling

5

Although beaten to the top spot in this year’s index, the UK continues to boast significant advantages in its soft power resources. These include the significant role that continues to be played by both state-backed assets (i.e. BBC World Service, DfID, FCO and British Council) and private assets and global brands (e.g. Burberry and British Airways). Additionally, the British Council, institutions like the British Museum, and the UK’s higher education system are all pillars of British soft power. The UK’s rich civil society and charitable sector further contribute to British soft power. Major global organisations that contribute to development, disaster relief, and human rights reforms like Oxfam, Save the Children, and Amnesty International are key components in the UK’s overall ability to contribute to the global good – whether through the state, private citizens, or a network of diverse actors. The UK’s unique and enviable position at the heart of a number of important global networks and multi-lateral organisations continues to confer a significant soft power advantage. As a member of the G-7, G-20, UN Security Council, European Union, and the Commonwealth, Britain has a seat at virtually every international table of consequence. No other country rivals the UK’s diverse range of memberships in the world’s most influential organisations. In this context, a risk exists that the UK’s considerable soft power clout would be significantly diminished should it vote to leave the European Union.

Country Analysis

Strengths
There is no dearth of soft power strengths in the UK’s assets, strong government, vibrant culture, considerable heritage and history, and strong digital capacity make the UK one of the most admired nations in the world. Over 1700 foreign correspondents are based in the UK, and with a dynamic media market of its own, London is global media capital.
Weaknesses
Brexit, the rise of UKIP, and increasingly incendiary rhetoric on immigration continue to send a message that the rest of the world is not welcome in the British Isles. While the Department for Business Innovation and Skills seeks foreign students in large numbers, the government’s immigration message suggests otherwise – much to the chagrin of British Universities.
Portland Recommends
Britain goes to the polls to vote on its continued membership of the European Union in June, which leaves a huge question mark hanging over the future of British soft power. A move for the exit door would definitely set British global influence back by forfeiting its voice in European affairs. Barack Obama, Christine Lagarde, Kofi Annan, Hillary Clinton, and Justin Trudeau (to name a few), have all raised their concerns about Brexit. Of course, the issue is one for the British electorate to decide, but a post-Brexit Britain would certainly see a decline in its soft power stores.

Digital

5

Culture

3

Enterprise

18

Education

9

Government

15

Polling

9

With nearly 84 million tourists arriving annually, France maintains the title of the world’s most visited country. Yet while the strength of its cultural assets – the Louvre, its cuisine, the Riviera – have helped it hold onto this title, the country remains vulnerable. In the last year, France made headlines for the horrific terror attacks that shook its capital. Since the beginning of his mandate, President François Hollande has struggled to revitalise the French economy. Unemployment has risen steadily, and businesses are weary of France’s seemingly over-regulated and overprotective market. Its “new-blood” Minister of the Economy, Emmanuel Macron, is labouring to shake things up. His newly announced political movement, En Marche! (Forward) hopes to break party lines and revive the Eurozone’s second largest economy. Only time can tell if the initiative will pay dividends. Until then, France can still count on its unequalled diplomatic prowess to safeguard its position near the top of the Soft Power 30. It remains a global diplomatic force, asserting its presence through one of the most extensive Embassy networks.

Country Analysis

Strengths
France’s soft power strengths lie in a unique blend of culture and diplomacy. It enjoys, for historic reasons, links to territories across the planet, making it the only nation with 12 time zones. Its network of cultural institutions, linguistic union “la Francophonie” and network of embassies allow it to engage like no other. Its top rank in the Engagement sub-index comes as no surprise.
Weaknesses
France continues to struggle as a result of the global financial crisis and President Hollande’s failure to lift the nation’s economic competitiveness has delayed its full recovery. Germany’s economy, in comparison, makes France look in need of reform.
Portland Recommends
The standard Anglo-American remedy of liberalising economic policies sounds cliché, but it would help France on the Enterprise sub-index. A more economically dynamic France could unlock its full potential by leveraging its global footprint to establish itself as an even more attractive global partner.

Digital

4

Culture

4

Enterprise

15

Education

5

Government

8

Polling

7

What a difference a year makes. Last year, Portland concluded that the world would be ‘happy to see more German leadership’. And Germany has certainly taken the lead on one issue – the refugee crisis. A country that has historically been reluctant to take the driver’s seat on foreign policy issues, it seems to have finally put itself out front. But Angela Merkel, who only last year was labelled by the Economist as ‘the indispensable European’ for her bold and principled stance, now looks increasingly isolated as resistance to her ‘Wilkommenskultur’ grows. The rise of right-wing movements in a country that, for historical reasons, has resisted such ideals has not gone unnoticed, attracting a great deal of international attention. Germany’s drop from second to third is therefore not surprising. But it is hardly Germany alone – it joins a number of other European countries who have slipped in this year’s ranking. Germany has maintained strong scores, particularly in Engagement, Culture and Digital. The draws of a strong economy, and the comparatively low cost of living and vibrant culture in cities like Berlin, mean that foreigners are flocking to Germany. German language uptake is also on the rise – in 2015, some 15.5m people studied German, 4% more than five years ago. German ist wieder geil.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Germany hasn’t always been great at exporting its culture. Its European rivals, particularly the UK and France, have been more ambitious and successful at this. But this is changing. Among other things, the vibrant tech, art, and music scenes of cities like Berlin are drawing more and more young people to Germany – often from unexpected places and for much longer than just a weekend city break.
Weaknesses
The realities of dealing with the refugee crisis have necessitated complicated political manoeuvring, not least with Turkey. Likewise, conflicts with Hungary, Austria, and other Eastern European countries have been at times embittered. All in all, it has been a tough year for Germany, both domestically and internationally. Unfortunately no easy solutions appear in the offing.
Portland Recommends
German is hip again – with language uptake on the rise, now is the time for a concerted push to export Germany’s cultural assets – from design, to film, to street style. We’ve had Scandi-cool, now it’s Germany’s time to shine.

Digital

7

Culture

5

Enterprise

5

Education

4

Government

11

Polling

4

Following a relatively unstable political period, which saw five prime ministers take the helm in as many years, it seems Australians have finally found a leader they support in Malcom Turnbull. But Turnbull’s more progressive views on climate change and same sex marriage have not yet managed to resonate on the international stage. Given another four years in power, Turnbull may be more successful in pushing his agenda and making a global name for himself. With Australians heading to the polls in July after Turnbull’s decision to call double dissolution, only time will tell if the leader is given the chance to translate his vision into reality. Stepping away from politics, Australia’s most significant movement this year was a massive jump in the Education sub-index, rising from 11th to 4th. Outperformed only by the US, UK and Canada, Australia’s impressive performance proves that the country remains a highly attractive and desirable destination for international students.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Australia continues to earn its moniker as the ‘Lucky Country’, and an improvement in its international polling score proves that the global community still admires its hospitality, culture, and flat whites and shiraz. Positive global perceptions have once again benefited Australia’s booming tourism sector, with the nation head and shoulders above the rest in terms of average spend per tourist.
Weaknesses
Australia may have come close to securing the Eurovision 2016 title, but the country has once again underperformed in the Engagement sub-index. The land Down Under mustn’t use its geographical isolation as an excuse for failing to compete with the likes of the US, UK, France, or even Canada in terms of diplomatic network and global reach.
Portland Recommends
No Australian political duo has been more prolific and engaging on social media than Malcom Turnbull and Julie Bishop, but Australia has slipped slightly overall in the digital metric this year. While it’s clear that the government is making significant inroads in its digital diplomacy approach, it must continue to push this agenda across all departments to ensure its voice is heard abroad. Making strides in digital diplomacy may go some way in compensating for Australia’s comparatively small diplomatic footprint.

Digital

14

Culture

6

Enterprise

25

Education

16

Government

19

Polling

12

Despite some significant domestic challenges – both economic and political – Spain’s soft power is on the rise. The Iberian nation moves two places up to 12th from last year’s placing on the Soft Power 30. From the onset of the global financial crisis, Spain’s economic challenges have been well documented. The knock-on effects of the collapse in house-prices and high youth unemployment has affected the wellbeing of Spanish society. This hasn’t been helped by the more recent political situation, with ongoing deadlock over the formation of a government since the election of December 2015, and a question mark over Catalonia’s future in the Kingdom. But these concerns do not appear to have weighed on the country’s soft power. Millions from around Europe and further afield still enjoy the appeal of Spain’s wonderful culture, cuisine, creativity, and climate. In 2014, Spain welcomed 65 million international visitors and it was second only to the US in total tourism earnings, suggesting when people come to Spain, they stay for a while and spend generously.

Country Analysis

Strengths
It is of little surprise that Spain scores highest for its culture. Just ahead of its Mediterranean rival Italy, Spain comes 6th which accounts for much of its strength when assessing the country’s overall score. What is more surprising is that Spain ranks equally high for its Engagement. This is helped by the country’s diplomatic network and contribution to global development and engagement. Despite its well documented domestic issues, Spain is still a major soft power internationally.
Weaknesses
With the current political deadlock which followed the 2015 election, Spain has slipped two places to 19 based on its Government scoring. This is to be expected and ongoing questions over Catalan independence will not have helped. Spain still lags behind on its enterprise scoring. It has slipped four places on last year’s ranking, suggesting it has more to do to provide a better environment for those who wish to do business in the country.
Portland Recommends
The picture for Spain’s soft power seems clear. Its cultural status is amongst the very best in the world and that would seem solid for the future. What is less certain is the nation’s ability to provide a globally-attractive business environment, which is far from matching its cultural strength. Spain clearly does well in engaging with people across the world, but it needs to provide a clearer path to convert this into economic benefit.

Digital

24

Culture

7

Enterprise

26

Education

19

Government

23

Polling

2

Italy has moved up one place from 12th last year. Despite continued economic struggles, issues with government effectiveness, and corruption and a migrant crisis crashing at its borders, the land of Prada, pizza and Pavarotti is still loved by the world, coming second in our polling. People love the delicacies the country has to offer, its sleek cars, and cutting edge clothes. Since becoming Italy’s youngest Prime Minister ever in 2014, Matteo Renzi has been expected to pull his country out of Berlusconi’s bunga bunga bedlam. But while Italy welcomes the third most tourist arrivals in Europe and boasts the third largest economy in the Eurozone, the country is working towards more sustainable public finances and delivering more employment opportunities. What it lacks in pure economic strength though, it more than makes up for in culture. Italy boasts the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, exceptional museums and galleries, and a strong football culture, drawing in 48 million tourists annually.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Without question, Italy is a ‘cultural superpower’ that has set global trends for millennia, from Caesar to Gucci. Visit any major city or tiny paesino and stumble upon beautiful landscapes, impressive churches, and monuments.
Weaknesses
Internal political struggles and the global recession have had an enormous impact on Italy, and the country has struggled to recover. Young people in particular are under-educated and unemployed, the nation is straining to absorb a growing migrant crisis, and the government is lacking the means to address these issues, translating into low scores in the areas of economy and education.
Portland Recommends
Italy’s recent present has struggled to live up to the glory of its rich past. But if the country can take a page out of the book of Prime Minister Renzi – a bold, innovative reformer – and play to its strengths, perhaps Italy can become a stronger, more well-rounded soft power.

Digital

2

Culture

8

Enterprise

11

Education

3

Government

9

Polling

1

We all like Canada – which, for a second year in a row, has maintained its position as the country people feel most favourably towards in the world. Canada’s soft power score reflects that of its people – diverse, polite, and generally impressive. It wouldn’t be possible to analyse Canada this year without mentioning heartthrob Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has won the world over with his politics as much as his looks. He utilised his opportunity at the World Economic Forum to promote feminism, and in line with the trustworthy perceptions of Canada, walked the walk by appointing a perfectly gender-balanced cabinet. But while people think fondly of Canada, their comfortable seat in the above average range might be overly solidified. It can also mean that they are unlikely to ‘wow’. Their predictability can be seen as a welcome anomaly in an otherwise turbulent world, but it can also be seen as overly complacent. Generally, beyond friendliness, they probably won’t blow you away, either with the bad or the good. But this fits honestly into their rhetoric: they’re not always trying to convince you that they’re the world’s greatest – Canadians are satisfied with just being them. A mind-set that is impossible not to admire.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Canada maintains its popular image with carefully calculated domestic and foreign policies, ensuring that even their worst mistakes are globally regarded as “not that bad”. In such an open environment, both with regards to landscape and political discourse, Canada’s strongest asset is its inclusion.
Weaknesses
Global engagement. With a small diplomatic network and few diplomatic cultural missions to speak of, Canadian soft power may be seen, but it’s not very heard.
Portland Recommends
Keeping an eye on Trudeau’s plans for Canada. If he can run the country with as much ease as he can explain Quantum computing, Canada would be in a strong position to start overtaking some of its competitors. The outcome of the US presidential elections in November will also have a profound impact on its friendly northern neighbours and will test whether Canada can stand its independent ground.

Digital

28

Culture

9

Enterprise

16

Education

28

Government

29

Polling

29

China once again makes the Soft Power 30. Despite the recent economic slowdown, the world’s most populous nation continues to flex its economic muscle on the world stage and reshape the international system, and rise up the soft power ranks. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) – the China-led rival to the Asian Development Bank – will hold its inaugural meeting in June, representing a milestone in China’s global engagement, revealing an emerging vision for a Chinese world order. For many countries, particularly in Africa and along the Silk Road Economic Belt, China’s economic and cultural impact is already being felt. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has increased his grip on the levers of power since taking office in 2012, and is regarded as the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. As China marked the 50th Anniversary of the Cultural Revolution this year, this development has caused some consternation amongst China watchers. Interference with Hong Kong’s jealously guarded political freedoms, and continued island building in the South China Sea, have made China’s neighbours in the region nervous. With one of the largest overseas populations, the Chinese diaspora is a source of both international cheerleaders and critics. Nonetheless, the Middle Kingdom is increasingly respected and admired globally (particularly outside of the West), as the ‘Beijing Consensus’ poses an alternative model of economic development for emerging-market countries seeking rapid economic growth. While lack of democracy and free press continue to negatively impact perceptions, there is no question that China will remain a draw for investors and visitors alike, as it assumes the position of a 21st Century super-power.

Country Analysis

Strengths
China’s history, cuisine, and increasingly its language, are important cultural soft power assets. When combined with its improved international engagement, there is a growing understanding of China’s global objectives and interests. These will be important strengths as more people look to China to play a constructive role in world affairs.
Weaknesses
China’s political system remains at odds with its economic strength. While the liberalization of the one-child policy has helped present a softer face to the world, political and press freedoms have moved in the opposite direction in recent years. These restrictions stifle enterprise while preventing the scrutiny the Chinese state so desperately requires. China’s leaders have made overt references to the concept of soft power in recent years, demonstrating its importance to Chinese policy makers. However, soft power cannot come from government alone.
Portland Recommends
A more liberal approach to policy, including easing internet censorship, would have a positive knock-on effect on nearly all aspects of China’s soft power. Internationally, China has a way to go to prove it is a responsible world power. A negotiated settlement to the South China Sea dispute would help diffuse tensions with ASEAN member states, while a reduction in cyber-warfare would ease Western concerns about China’s growing international role.

Digital

12

Culture

10

Enterprise

4

Education

12

Government

17

Polling

6

In this second iteration of the Soft Power 30, Japan improved on its already high standing, rising to 7th. It continues to be known for its efficiency in the private sector as well as in the public: Japan’s competitiveness remains among the highest of the countries surveyed, and its governance has been shown to be effective. Japan has history on its side – it was one of the first countries in the region to integrate into the international system, and was the first Asian economy to experience a massive economic boom. This international notoriety, paired with its reputation for excellence, provides Japan with significant soft power on the global stage. It is one of the most widely represented states diplomatically, with embassies in 144 countries. Interestingly, though known as one of the most high-tech countries in the world, Japan does not count among its strengths digital diplomacy, having low digital engagement by its Premier and Foreign Minister. Indeed, Japan does not seem to focus too heavily on public diplomacy, as it has very few cultural missions abroad. Yet this does not do extensive damage to Japan’s soft power, as it continues to play an integral role in many international organisations and to be viewed favourably by the majority of global public opinion.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Aside from Japan’s well-recognised economic competitiveness, its cultural exports are one of its main strengths. Japan hosted 13 million visitors in last year. Japan also has a hugely popular music industry (J-Pop), which is appreciated throughout Asia. Its culture is so effectively exported globally that the government itself puts little effort into cultural promotion.
Weaknesses
Where Japan’s soft power falls short is in its relations with neighbouring countries China and South Korea, both of which scored Japan very low in our international polling. Japan would do well to take a leaf out of Germany’s book in its approach to strengthening regional relations.
Portland Recommends
Japan has performed well across the board in both iterations of the Soft Power 30, yet it mustn't become complacent in its position. With regional rivals competing for global influence, Japan’s soft power will be of utmost importance in the coming years. Improvements in the education sector and official public diplomacy can help preserve Japan’s soft power and cement its position as a regional and global power.

Digital

19

Culture

11

Enterprise

19

Education

10

Government

14

Polling

19

Belgium dropped one place this year to 18th. The bifurcated federal state has long been a centre of European and international activity, playing host to both the European Commission and NATO. Fittingly so, as the country has one foot in Germanic Europe and the other in Latin Europe. In the past year, however, the country has also increasingly become a hub of terrorist activity, with links made between Belgium-based suspects and attacks in Paris in November last year. Brussels, too, was rocked by a devastating act of terrorism in March in the deadliest terror attack in Belgium’s history. In spite of the unfortunate turn of events and subsequently critical press associated with the nation, people continue to think of it positively. Belgium’s polling score has increased since last year, proving that the general public will not be sucked in to media hype but instead cares more about Belgium’s abundant assets including Magritte, Stromae, and moules-frites.

Country Analysis

Strengths
For such a small nation, Belgium packs a cultural punch. Les français, say what you will, but pommes frites are a Belgian delicacy. So too is some of the best beer in the world, waffles, chocolate, and everyone’s favourite cartoon adventurer, Tintin.
Weaknesses
In theory, the Belgian government is a model of power-sharing consociationalism, dividing political and administrative functions between three regions. In practice, though, these divisions have often hindered cohesion and effectiveness, preventing the nation from reaching its full potential as a European leader. Some have pointed to Belgium’s division as a reason for security failures.
Portland Recommends
Belgium is known as a country divided, not least for its complicated political system. But if Belgium’s national 'Red Devils' football team, made up of players from every region of the country, can collaborate and cooperate effectively, Belgium can do the same. Last year the team was named number one in FIFA’s world rankings; perhaps if the rest of the country follows suit, it can take the top place in next year’s Soft Power 30.

Digital

10

Culture

12

Enterprise

20

Education

6

Government

4

Polling

16

The Netherlands has good reason to retain its rank in this year’s index. Admired for its welcoming spirit and tolerant society, it’s no wonder that the country holds significant soft power clout. This can be traced back to its strong government institutions, which have consistently upheld their citizen’s beliefs in progressive politics. The introduction of the Amsterdam Nachtburgemeester illustrates the willingness of the government to engage and support entrepreneurs, artists, and local communities for the good of all stakeholders. The result? A vibrant night-time economy and unique cultural identity that allow its capital Amsterdam to compete with cities such as London and New York to attract global talent, tourism, and investment. Home to five international courts, Europol and Eurojust, the country also has the title of legal capital of the world, making it a key destination for the legal and business communities. The Dutch education system is not only one of the cheapest in the western world, but also one of the most highly rated, creating an educated workforce and an irresistible draw for foreign students. Flexibility within the employment market is another key factor, with part-time work much more common than in other countries. Given the relatively small size of the country, the Netherlands has an impressively high score that matches its international outlook.

Country Analysis

Strengths
With a Master’s course setting you back just €1,984 a year, it’s easy to see why the country has no problems attracting Europe’s best and brightest to its universities, who come for the education and stay for the quality of life.
Weaknesses
No glaring weaknesses for the Netherlands, but with threats to the European project growing, there is a clear opportunity for the country to show the world what European values stand for. Moreover, the profile of Geert Wilders and the populism he represents doesn’t do much for Dutch Soft Power.
Portland Recommends
The liberal, tolerant society that the Netherlands has cultivated matches the outlook of the increasingly powerful millennial generation. As they begin to assume positions of responsibility around the world, the Netherlands should look to leverage common positions to help form a broader consensus around progressive beliefs.

Digital

17

Culture

13

Enterprise

13

Education

18

Government

10

Polling

18

2015 proved to be a testing year for Austria. Tensions over the refugee and migration crisis prompted an increasingly tough policy approach that culminated in the adoption of strict laws on asylum and fraught relations with other EU states. Domestically, the country saw the rising prominence of right-wing parties, who look set to profit off increasing social tensions and economic under performance. From an external perspective, these events have landed a blow to Austria’s glowing reputation as a stable, wealthy, and welcoming country. International media coverage over the course of the crisis has been less than favourable, with the U-turn on border controls and asylum caps negatively portrayed, especially when compared to Germany’s decision to welcome over one million migrants. The fact that this media narrative placed Austria on the same side as less liberal states in Eastern Europe has weakened Austria’s carefully honed image of being a good global citizen. Despite this undercurrent of instability, Austria still has much to be proud of: high living standards, robust political institutions, and persisting positive global perceptions of the country all contribute to what is still a strong global image. Its commitment to neutrality has helped it to become a centre for international diplomacy, with international organisations such as Organization for Security and Cooperation Europe, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, International Atomic Energy Agency and Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries basing their headquarters in the country.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Austria scores highly in polling with its high living standards setting it apart, even as compared to the rest of wealthy Northern Europe. And for good reason – Austria’s government structure is well-executed. The country has a small shadow economy as percentage of GDP, only outranked by the US and Switzerland, and high levels of press freedom, demonstrating the successes of the government.
Weaknesses
Austria’s U-turn on refugees is illustrative of shifting attitudes within the country towards external engagement. If this continues, the country’s strong diplomatic network will struggle to convince its peers of Austria’s commitment to being a positive force in the world.
Portland Recommends
Austria needs to ensure that its reputation on the global stage doesn’t suffer as a result of the refugee crisis and political backlash. As the site of talks on the Syrian crisis, the Iranian nuclear deal and many others, Austria should look to highlight its positive contributions to global peace and security to counter negative media narratives.

Digital

11

Culture

14

Enterprise

27

Education

20

Government

30

Polling

30

With its annual military parades and occasional encroachments into European air and naval space, soft power might not spring to mind when thinking about the Russian Federation, a new entry to this year’s rankings. However, since the mid-2000s, an enormous emphasis has been placed on enhancing Russia’s image at home and abroad. Despite setbacks due to the ongoing skirmish surrounding Ukraine and Crimea, Russian state broadcasters manage to reach millions of viewers at home and millions more worldwide. State-owned channel RT now offers services in multiple languages giving it one of the largest audience bases of any global news broadcaster. Moreover, Russia has re-established itself as a diplomatic powerhouse taking a joint lead with the United States in seeking to negotiate a peace deal in Syria. Russia remains an economic force (albeit a currently shrinking one), with migrants from Central Asia and other parts of the former Soviet Union flocking to the country. With the help of these migrants, Russia is changing the face of many of its major cities, taking them from Post-Soviet style accommodation blocks to stylish business centres and new apartment buildings. Russia’s global cultural appeal draws in more than 29 million tourists annually. Whether it’s history, art, or literature, Russian culture is widely appreciated and studied. It is also a key to why so many travel to this culturally rich nation. However, recent changes in domestic policies, specifically the anti-gay legislation introduced in 2013, has had damaging effects on Russia’s reputation in many countries.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Russia’s media engagement is world class. State-owned channel RT broadcasts across the globe in English, Spanish, Arabic, and Hindi to very high ratings, particularly in Europe and South America, and its YouTube channel was the first ever to receive over a billion hits. Russia is also very strong diplomatically and has taken the lead with other top powers in establishing dialogue to tackle issues of global security.
Weaknesses
Russia’s government is persistently hit by corruption scandals, most recently exemplified by the revelation of a state-sanctioned sport doping scandal. This in turn drives down trust in government and scares off potential investors. Discriminatory legislation against sexual and racial minorities is also a step in the wrong direction for Russia’s soft power.
Portland Recommends
Russia would do well to remember that much of its current success stems from the outward looking policies of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Russia would benefit from turning away from isolationist policies and building on the dialogues it has established with other nations to re-assert itself as a reliable and open partner to the rest of the world.

Digital

20

Culture

15

Enterprise

2

Education

14

Government

2

Polling

3

Despite being one of few developed nations with a conscripted army, whose troops keep their arms at home, Switzerland has steadfastly maintained its neutrality. This multicultural nation has been actively involved in peace building efforts globally, having founded the International Committee of the Red Cross, one of the world’s biggest humanitarian organisations and three-time winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Switzerland is also home to some of the world’s most important organisations and institutions, including many UN offices, the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organisation and hosts both the European (UEFA) and international (FIFA) governing bodies of football. While the country may not be seen as the most exciting nation, it has a strong history of democratic rule and a robust economy. The proof is solidly in the pudding, as Switzerland ranks third in the international human development index and performs well in measures of gender equality, global competitiveness, and innovation.

Country Analysis

Strengths
If a transparent and effective government, widespread prosperity, and high levels of development aren’t enough, Switzerland boasts unbeatable mountains for winter sports, and is also responsible for giving the world fondue, raclette, Toblerone and Bircher muesli.
Weaknesses
Having such picturesque views and a harmonious, multicultural population must come at some price – and that price is high. Zurich and Geneva rank in the top five most expensive cities in the world and despite a generally high GDP per capita and low unemployment rate, income inequality remains a challenge.
Portland Recommends
Switzerland claims the headquarters of the world’s leading scientific research facility, CERN - the same organisation known for pioneering the introduction of internet technology. Yet Switzerland struggles most with its digital capabilities, and is particularly lacking in digital diplomacy. In an increasingly digital world, Switzerland should take lessons from groups like CERN and utilise its technological resources to start engaging with global public through digital platforms.

Digital

18

Culture

16

Enterprise

3

Education

21

Government

26

Polling

28

The birthplace of tech giant Samsung, South Korea dropped two places this year, coming in at 22nd. The East Asian nation hit its stride in the 1980s, becoming one of a group of East Asian “tigers” that took off following a series of economic – and eventually political – reforms. These changes laid the foundation for its eventual success, as the nation has exported its soft power through the likes of K-pop and a variety of digital innovations. Through its immense outputs, especially in the form of consumer electronics, South Korea performed particularly well in the Enterprise sub-index, coming in 3rd. Despite these strengths, the nation has struggled regionally. Bordering the unstable regime in Pyongyang, South Korea’s security remains a constant source of concern. This has translated in some cases to government weakness, but has also proven to be an opportunity for the nation to work diplomatically with China and the US to resolve crises on the Korean Peninsula. For the last ten years, South Korea has had high-level representation on the international level with Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary General. With his second term coming to an end this year, South Korea will have an opportunity to find new ways to amplify its soft power strengths.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Digital innovations drive the growth of business and cultural outputs in South Korea. Domestically, a large proportion of the population has access to the internet, mobile phones and broadband subscriptions. Despite the country’s relatively small size, global use of Korean products from the likes of LG, Hyundai and Kia is vast. In fact, Korean multinational conglomerate Samsung consistently produces the top-selling mobile phones in the world.
Weaknesses
South Korea saw little improvement in its polling score – standing at 49.95, the country ranks below neighbouring Japan and comes in at 27th overall. With a corruption scandal hitting former Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo last year, public confidence in the government suffered. It is somewhat unsurprising, then, that South Korea also struggled in the Government sub-index.
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When one thinks about South Korea, its combative cousin to the north, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea naturally comes to mind. Yet negotiations regarding the stalemated conflict between the two are often headed by superpowers China and the United States, overshadowing South Korea’s abilities to negotiate on its own behalf. South Korea must rely less heavily on the efforts of others and take a more assertive role in negotiations to prove its soft power strengths in its own right.

Digital

26

Culture

17

Enterprise

30

Education

29

Government

27

Polling

24

Riding the wave of a politically momentous year, Argentina just breaks into the Soft Power 30. The election of right wing Mauricio Macri marked an end to 12 years of Presidents Kirchner, and gave an immediate boost to the perceptions of Argentina, a trend reflected in the nation’s significant improvement in international polling. Promising to implement a compelling reform plan and reinvigorate Argentinian politics, the former Buenos Aires mayor is living up to President Obama’s prediction that “Argentina under Macri is poised to play a more influential role on the global stage”. Argentina has done well to become the only other Latin American country in the index, and with Brazil falling slightly this year, it is quickly becoming one of the region’s soft power exemplars.

Country Analysis

Strengths
President Macri is a politician with broad domestic and global appeal, backed by a well-cultivated social media presence. He was clever in encouraging enthusiastic young voters to spread his campaign messaging online, and has since become one of the most followed and engaged with world leaders on Facebook and Instagram.
Weaknesses
Argentina lags behind when it comes to its business and enterprise acumen, scoring at the bottom end of the WEF Competitiveness Index, Heritage Economic Freedom, and World Bank Ease of Doing Business metrics. The South American nation has a long way to go before competing with global enterprise powerhouses like Singapore or Switzerland. But things are looking up.
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Argentina under Macri managed to secure one of the most anticipated market comebacks in a decade – a sale of debt worth more than $16 billion – and if his ambitious policies are successful, he will return desperately needed foreign investment to Argentina. Only time will tell if the leader can overcome the many obstacles waiting for him, but Argentina should continue to focus on building investor excitement.

Digital

25

Culture

18

Enterprise

17

Education

22

Government

12

Polling

17

The Emerald Isle slipped one place to 20th this year, but it’s not all bad news for Ireland. The Irish charm stretches all four corners of the globe. From St Petersburg to Honolulu, one can find an Irish pub in any major city on the map and feel the same warm hospitality. But rest assured a pint of Guinness is not Ireland’s only soft power asset. Ireland has had a good year in terms of governance, and it’s no surprise that this is where the nation performs strongest. The world stood to attention when Ireland became the first country to legalise gay marriage by referendum, a decision many hailed as a revolution. And it continued to impress with Enda Kenny’s government introducing gender quotas to fill a record 35 seats in the Dáil with women. On the soft side, Ireland ticks all the boxes: a vibrant and welcoming culture, steadfast governance, and stunningly picturesque landscape.

Country Analysis

Strengths
With Dublin acting as European headquarters to some of the world’s biggest digital names – Google, Apple, LinkedIn to name a few – Ireland has carved a niche for itself in the enterprise sector, and continues to nurture a young, dynamic, and technically skilled workforce.
Weaknesses
Despite some positive stories on the domestic front, Ireland struggles with the unique challenge of being ambitious but small. Moreover, it’s still feeling the effects of the merge between its foreign affairs and trade ministries. Its low Engagement score reflects a relatively small diplomatic network.
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Ireland faces an interesting challenge in pursuing a promising tech-based future while holding onto its old-world, Irish charm. The government should be thinking about ways to combine its rich culture with its technological assets so as to not sacrifice one for the other. Doing so will eliminate any doubt that Ireland isn’t forward thinking enough to be Europe’s digital hub.

Digital

21

Culture

19

Enterprise

28

Education

30

Government

28

Polling

23

Having recently suspended its President Dilma Rousseff, who is currently facing an impeachment trial, Brazil has the world’s eyes watching to see if it can deliver a successful Olympic Games. For Brazilians, this may provide an opportunity to forget their worries for two weeks and do what they do best — party. For everyone else, however, the country is perceived as being on the brink of an economic and political disaster. International ratings agency Fitch recently downgraded Brazil’s debt to “junk” status. In addition, the Petrobras scandal has implicated more than one hundred people and become the largest corruption scandal in the history of Brazil. And all this before mentioning the Zika virus pandemic ravaging the country. In last year’s rankings, we said that Brazil would be among the most interesting countries to watch. With so many soft power assets, and a number of opportunities for development, Brazil could have easily climbed higher. But poor showings on the Government sub-index and weak scores for Education overshadowed Brazil’s strength in the Culture sub-index, where it shines with football, samba, and carnival. Brazil has therefore fallen to 24th position. The 5th most populous country in the world still ranks above the other BRICS nations. But one thing is for sure, a weaker Brazil is a key impediment to the agency of the developing countries.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Even though it’s been overshadowed by political and economic instability, you can’t ask for a better platform than hosting the Olympic Games. It certainly did a lot for London and Beijing.
Weaknesses
Unsurprisingly, Brazil scored poorly in the Government sub-index, which analyses trust in government, government effectiveness, and public safety. Additionally, perceptions of corruption and a rise in unemployment from 7 to 10 percent last year did the country no favours for attracting foreign investment.
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The old tag “Brazil is the country of the future... and always will be” epitomises the roller coaster that has been Brazil’s economy over recent years. The exotic country still benefits from a truly global profile and has excellent brand recognition. Nevertheless, Brazil remains a “country to watch” to see if it can triumph in its everlasting battle with corruption.

Digital

23

Culture

20

Enterprise

7

Education

11

Government

7

Polling

11

What a year for New Zealand. The highlight was undoubtedly securing another stunning Rugby World Cup victory, made even sweeter by the fact that it was Australia whom the All Blacks triumphed over. New Zealand’s position and size means that it can be overlooked in favour of its big brother, but the Kiwis are often far more politically and socially adventurous. Three years after becoming the first Oceanic country to legalise same-sex marriage, New Zealand has found the ideal balance between exploring new opportunities and remaining steadfastly confident in its history and identity. This attitude shone through during the country’s recent referendum to change the national flag and while change wasn’t implemented, the vote united the nation and proved that its people are willing to push boundaries and challenge conventional thinking. 2015 was also a spectacular year for New Zealand’s tourism industry, with visitor arrivals rising 11 percent and net migration rising 9 percent. Tourism New Zealand’s 100% Pure Campaign has been hugely effective in promoting the diversity in experiences the country has to offer and it’s unlikely that arrival numbers will fall anytime soon.

Country Analysis

Strengths
New Zealanders enjoy a healthy and vibrant democracy so it’s no surprise to see the country perform best in our Governance sub-index. Ranking in the global top five for the World Bank’s Voice and Accountability and Government Effectiveness indices, as well as the Economist Democracy Index, New Zealand may be small but it could teach many world powers a thing or two about good governance.
Weaknesses
The New Zealand government has struggled to engage an international audience on social media. A much stronger digital diplomacy approach, especially for Prime Minister John Key and Foreign Minister Murray McCully, is critical if New Zealand hopes to be recognised as a nation with more to contribute to the world.
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New Zealand’s fall to 29th in the Engagement sub-index, along with a slight dip in its international polling score, indicates that global recognition of New Zealand may be falling. It’s understandable that New Zealanders may be swept away by the beauty and isolation of their own oasis, but it’s important not to drop too far from the international radar. If Helen Clark is elected to replace Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary-General later this year, it will give New Zealand a much bigger voice on the world stage.

Digital

8

Culture

21

Enterprise

8

Education

13

Government

3

Polling

8

With its exceptional governance structure, growing international recognition through television programmes like The Bridge, and unrivalled landscapes, Sweden once again leads its Nordic neighbours in terms of soft power. So much so that it came out on top in the latest edition of the Good Country Index. Well known for its education and welfare systems and achievements in social and gender equality, Sweden is often seen as having only mastered the less exciting aspects of soft power. But it is also making strides in innovation and technology, becoming the world’s second most prolific tech hub on a per capita basis behind Silicon Valley, thanks to the massive success of Spotify and Skype. The fact that Sweden is now seen as a model child for European innovation is testament to its reputation for thinking globally from the outset. However despite its overwhelming strengths, Sweden hasn’t been immune to the impact of Europe’s refugee crisis. Arguably one of the most open countries in the world – ranking fourth in the number of asylum seekers it accepts – Sweden has been overwhelmed by the volume of refugees and migrants arriving into Europe. Sweden’s open approach to welcoming refugees has left the government unsure how to respond to the influx, and these recent challenges indicate that while Sweden remains an economic pillar of strength, cracks are beginning to appear politically.

Country Analysis

Strengths
The Nordic model has proved successful for Sweden and it continues to enjoy a top three ranking in the Government sub-index, outranked only by Norway and Switzerland.
Weaknesses
There are few areas where Sweden underperforms, but no stand-out weaknesses. However, Sweden has fallen back in the Culture sub-index, slipping three places from last year. Despite seeing strong growth in tourist arrivals in 2015, Sweden has a long way to go before attracting the same numbers as other European countries.
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Sweden is deserving of its Top 10 ranking and has quite rightly been admired around the world for decades. But Sweden shouldn’t rest on its laurels when dealing with new and unexpected challenges. Sweden’s egalitarian approach to refugees is admirable but the crisis has showed that the nation is capable of misjudging the gravity of situations. As global leader in dealing with asylum seekers, the world will be looking to solutions from Sweden. Can they be found?

Digital

29

Culture

22

Enterprise

22

Education

25

Government

28

Polling

20

As the first European power to project itself and its language across the Atlantic, Portugal quickly became one of the world’s first superpowers, colonising countries in Africa, South America, and Asia. Fast-forward 600 years and Portugal continues to battle the effects of the 2008 financial crisis. With the election of Prime Minister Antonio Costa and the government’s backing from far-left parties, it appears that Portugal’s war over austerity economics is back. This issue, and many others, will not receive high-level engagement from government officials on social media, not least because Portugal ranked low on the Digital sub-index. Its head of state and other ministers have little to no presence on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. In fact, the government’s online services are far from being ideal and Portugal is still an exceptionally bureaucratic state. It might surprise you to see Portugal’s presence in the rankings, but the country’s tourism economy is booming. So much so that it gained a position from last year’s edition and the country is now ranked 21st overall. Offering the perfect mix of culture, cuisine and calor, visitors from all over the world journey to Porto, Lisbon, the Algarve, and the rolling plains of Alentejo to listen to fado music, drink Port wine and take in the Lusophone culture.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Portugal is considered one of the most peaceful and socially progressive nations in Europe. In 2001, the country was one of the very first to decriminalise the personal possession of all drugs and treat the problem as a public health issue. In addition, its distance from less stable regions of the world and its 3,000 hours of sunshine per year make tourism its primary soft power asset.
Weaknesses
Portugal's non-tourism based economy, though diversified, could stand to be more dynamic. After the 2011 bailout from the IMF, the country was Europe’s prize pupil when it came to implementing and keeping to austerity targets. It will be interesting to see how the new “anti-austerity coalition” of Antonio Costa plans to lead the country forward.
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Portuguese is the 6th most spoken language in the world. Portugal should therefore use its soft power strengths of language and culture to further develop relations with Brazil and the Lusophone countries of Africa. Lisbon continues to hold real promise as a burgeoning centre of culture, creativity, and entrepreneurialism and the government should look to support and promote this.

Digital

22

Culture

23

Enterprise

24

Education

24

Government

21

Polling

27

Poland climbed one place this year, to 23rd. The Eastern European country underwent a number of changes in the past 12 months, which were reflected in its results. Following a year marked by a growing migrant crisis throughout Europe, Poland elected conservative Andrzej Duda of the Eurosceptic Law and Justice Party last May, beating out the incumbent in the closest presidential race in the country’s history. The new leader has taken an increasingly confrontational stance with its EU partners, rejecting Germany’s proposed quota system for taking in immigrants because of security fears. Poland’s increasingly strained relationship with the rest of Europe was widely reflected in polling, in which the country dropped to 27th. Despite this, Poland has unexpectedly improved across the Engagement and Culture sub-indices. Much of this can be attributed to Poland’s economic liberalisation policies and increasing membership in international organisations, which began in 2004 with its accession to the EU. It could also reflect gains made under the previous government. Nevertheless, Poland is now at risk of a constitutional crisis, slipping toward authoritarian rule.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Since joining the EU, more and more tourists across Europe and the rest of the world are getting a taste of all the cultural assets Poland has on offer. With a rich history, impressive architecture, and a wide range of outdoor activities made possible through the surrounding sea, mountains and forests, Poland welcomed 16 million tourists last year.
Weaknesses
The political change brought about with the 2015 election has had a marked effect on Poland. Whereas the country previously ranked high in government scores, media freedom has decreased in the past year, police surveillance powers have increased, and general security fears have reversed much of the liberalisation that had taken place in the past decade.
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While fears of terrorism are felt across much of the world, Poland’s approach to addressing security concerns seems to have harmed its international reputation. The country has numerous cultural assets, as evidenced by its strong showing in the Culture sub-index. Poland would benefit from better leveraging not just its cultural heritage, but also its contemporary cultural offering.

Digital

6

Culture

24

Enterprise

1

Education

17

Government

22

Polling

21

2015 was a big year for Lion city-state, not least because Singapore jumped from 21st to 19th, breaking into the top 20. It was also the year that Singaporeans marked the 50th anniversary of their independence. But there was a poignant moment too; the way in which the population came together to mourn the death of their founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. Despite Lee’s passing, the government has proven more than capable of carrying on his legacy of remarkable transformation. Patriotic fervour was felt in full effect throughout the “SG50” events, which celebrated all that the “small” country has accomplished in a short period of time. And Singapore has numerous reasons to celebrate – it ranks top of the Enterprise sub-index, a testament to its successful transformation from underpopulated British colony to an independent economic force. With low unemployment, seemingly endless commercial incentives, and widespread economic freedoms, it is no surprise that Singapore has attracted significant international investment over the years. Its strategic location at the Strait of Malacca has further enabled Singapore to become a critical centre for business and global transport hub. The unity of the nation and the publicity it received in its half-century celebrations provide Singapore with a huge opportunity to build on this momentum and become a key player on the international stage – an opportunity that might bring up its soft power rank even higher next year.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Enterprise remains Singapore’s greatest strength. A city-state built on trade, Singapore has proven its sterling economic credentials. The government has made great strides in attracting foreign investment and facilitating business over its 50 year history, positioning the Lion City as a global commerce and finance hub. In fact, the World Bank has consistently rated the island nation the easiest place to do business in the world.
Weaknesses
While Singapore’s business sector is vibrant, it has struggled to translate its economic assets into strengths in other areas. The nation’s small size impedes a truly global diplomatic reach, which is most significantly felt in its poor showing in the Engagement sub-index. Considering its high levels of development, Singapore falls short diplomatically, both in terms of physical presence abroad and participation in international organisations and treaties.
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Singapore’s supremacy in trade and industry is undeniable. If the nation can mobilise the strengths it has developed over its short history and widen their scope, focusing on boosting their cultural and diplomatic influence, it would help to expand Singapore’s soft power. As a vibrant multicultural nation, the country has much to offer, from the hybrid delicacies at hawker centres to world-class tourist attractions, including the biggest rainforest zoo. Singaporeans need to share these delights with the rest of the world, proving once and for all that it is a destination in its own right, not just one of the best airports for an Asian stopover.

Digital

16

Culture

25

Enterprise

6

Education

7

Government

6

Polling

13

Denmark’s Soft Power ranking and score has taken a slight dip since 2015, but it still came in at a respectable 13th in this year’s index. For a country of only 5.7 million, it certainly punches above its weight in terms of soft power, and holds some of the highest standards of government and education which many other countries would want to emulate. Last year saw a change in Prime Minister with Lars Løkke Rasmussen taking up the reins for a second spell. Whilst it hasn’t thrown up the same level of political complexity as Denmark’s famous series Borgen, he does rely on a coalition to keep his centre-right Venstre party in power. Drops in ranking based on its Digital and Cultural scores have played a prominent role in the slight drop in this year’s index.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Aside from well-regarded design, Denmark’s architecture is also world-class. But it’s not all about the aesthetics. Together with most of its Nordic neighbours, Denmark ranks very highly in the Government category. It’s dropped one place to 6th but still has a score that most other countries would envy. Denmark has also shot up in the Education sub-index to 7th place, a significant improvement on 14th place in 2015. It could be that the country’s excellent system is gaining greater awareness globally.
Weaknesses
Denmark might well have come even higher in the index if they could find a way of improving their rather stubbornly low score on the Culture sub-index. Only five nations in the Soft Power 30 rank lower – and two of those are Nordic (Norway and Finland).
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Denmark can be proud of having a big profile for a relatively small country. There is little to worry about with its high scores for Education and Government. However, as with other Scandinavian countries, a low cultural score needs to be addressed. Denmark has a rich heritage and a hip, modern city scene, replete with cutting-edge design, but these strengths have not yet shown through in the index. With a bit more emphasis on their existing assets, Denmark stands to improve its marks.

Digital

13

Culture

26

Enterprise

10

Education

8

Government

5

Polling

15

Moving up in this year’s rankings to 13th place, Finland has shown once again that it is more than capable of holding its own against larger, better-known countries when it comes to soft power. But as the least visited of the Nordic countries, Finland still struggles to attract significant numbers in tourists. Nevertheless, a strong government, a tradition of diligence, and an innovative way of thinking help Finland to stand out from the rest. The Finnish government consistently scores highly in Freedom House rankings and is known for its admirably low rates of corruption. Government effectiveness, including strides towards gender equality, has created an environment of both economic dynamism and societal equity.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Finland’s political values and effective government are the foundations upon which the country’s soft power is built. Finns have an impressive ability of combining the practical and aesthetic, as evidenced by the government-sponsored ‘Baby box’. The programme has contributed to Finland having one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world and serves as just one example of how the government translates good design into better government public services.
Weaknesses
A small population means that Finland struggles to export its brand to the world en masse at the same level as its Nordic neighbours. With no major cultural ambassadors (save maybe Moomin!), Finland finds it difficult to generate interest and convince tourists that their country is worth boarding a Finnair jet.
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The more digital buzz Finland can generate, the better. If the Finnish population, 92% of whom are online, promote the admirable institutions the country has to offer, the entire population stands to benefit. SITRA, the civil-government agency dedicated to creating a greener, more sustainable Finland, is a prime example of the kind of content Finns should be promoting to the world.

Digital

27

Culture

27

Enterprise

21

Education

26

Government

18

Polling

26

The Czech Republic was quick to get back on its feet after the Velvet Revolution of 1993, and is often heralded as the most stable of the post-Communist European states. Its industrialized economy consistently thwarts unemployment and shows the fastest growth rates in the EU—in late 2015, GDP growth was at 4.4%.But it has been a more tumultuous year for Czech social policies. As with much of Europe, it earned its most significant media coverage for resistance to immigration and pressure from Brussels to share the migration burden by meeting mandatory refugee quotas. In fact, it came under scrutiny from the UN for human rights violations committed through its asylum processing policy. As a small and fairly young nation, the Czech Republic makes a strong showing by placing in the Soft Power 30—but its position has slipped, and the likely lesson is that economic strength alone is not enough to drive global influence.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Economically, it is on the rise, with unemployment continuing to fall and no sign of stopping. The Czech Republic is effectively consolidating its status as a compact economic powerhouse of Mitteleuropa.
Weaknesses
Media coverage of the Czech Republic in the last year has cast the country in something of a negative light. And since Prague makes little attempt to engage with the rest of the world, either digitally or culturally (key government persons go without social media, and when was the last time you ate a koláče?), its polling numbers are likely a direct consequence of the sparsity of positive international coverage.
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The Czech Republic has recently begun the process of rebranding itself as “Czechia”, at the suggestion of PR advisors, but it doesn’t need a rebranding so much as it needs a branding. With its strong economy, central geographical position, and masses of tourists streaming to Prague every weekend, it’s well-positioned to assert itself further on the world stage, and to manifest its culture and politics. Czechia shouldn’t only be seen to speak up about immigration quotas.

Digital

30

Culture

28

Enterprise

29

Education

23

Government

25

Polling

22

Greece has held steady on its position at 25th, a feat not insignificant considering the turmoil of the last two years. Following anti-austerity protests, the election of populist left-wing party Syriza, and the threat of Grexit, Greece has been on the front-line of the ongoing migrant crisis. But the nation has remained stoic and shown that even with limited resources, a resourceful country can achieve a lot. Hundreds of Greeks have opened their arms and their doors to refugees, with a volunteer group even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. And despite the recent volatility, Greece holds onto its rich past, which it demonstrates proudly throughout a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, delectable food, and drink, and a vast collection of Greek literature and philosophy read throughout the world. Although Greece continues to struggle economically, the Eurozone has recently agreed to another installment of its bailout loan to help ease its debt. This, combined with other pledges of debt relief, will for the time being allow Greece and the rest of Europe to turn their attention to addressing the plight of refugees on the continent and beyond.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Who doesn’t dream of a summer holiday in the Greek islands? Greece, unsurprisingly, performed well in international polling, and is generally considered an attractive place to visit, with good food, beautiful beaches, impressive landmarks and a generally rich culture. It’s also the birthplace of democracy, philosophy and western civilisation.
Weaknesses
Following a strong showing in the Digital sub-index last year, Greece has struggled to maintain its momentum, with limited government social media presence and fairly low internet saturation. The country also scored poorly in Enterprise. But Greece has had more pressing matters at hand, what with a protracted recession and budget deficit, further compounded by the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.
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The golden age of the ‘cradle of Western civilisation’ has passed, as the world’s first democracy struggles politically and economically. While a Grexit seemed imminent last year and many feared for the stability of Prime Minister Tsipras’ government, the Greeks have proven resilient and the world has taken notice. The country may not immediately be in a position to address its business and digital weaknesses, but as it recovers, Greece would benefit from a renewed effort to strengthen its digital assets and more effectively build its soft power brand online.

Digital

9

Culture

29

Enterprise

12

Education

15

Government

1

Polling

14

Norway’s climb up the rankings this year reflects the strength of its society and government. With the collapse in global oil prices, the country faced a threat to its sovereign wealth fund. However, smart leadership and a prudent approach to investment have cemented Norway’s position as a leader in responsible capitalism. The economic and diplomatic clout that accompanies the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world cannot be underestimated; it owns on average 1.3% of every group listed on any stock market, meaning that the fund has become a powerful foreign policy tool in its own right. This increases both Norway’s hard and soft power status by enabling the country to exert some control over foreign companies, as well as providing an economic incentive for positive diplomatic engagement. Norway responded to the refugee crisis by donating $1.2 billion, which, according to the Oxfam “fair share” measure, meant that the country contributed 385% of its allocated portion of an $8.9 billion funding appeal for Syria made by the United Nations. This further shows how seriously the country takes its international responsibilities. All of this rests on the strong institutions of the Norwegian government. Their long-term approach to fostering an enterprise-friendly society with incredibly high living standards — helped by their oil wealth — means that they can afford to positively project their soft power around the world while remaining an attractive investment, migration, and tourism destination.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Coming in at number one on the UN Human Development Index, Norway’s citizens enjoy the highest living standards in the world. Not a bad attribute to be recognised for.
Weaknesses
Norway’s strength in the hydrocarbon sector could be considered a weakness. With its economy largely dependent on such a precarious industry, diversification must remain top of mind for the government.
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With strong scores across all other categories, Norway can afford to dedicate some resources to either promoting its existing cultural institutions, or more realistically, providing the necessary environment for youth and other sub-cultures to thrive and become cultural assets themselves.

Digital

15

Culture

30

Enterprise

23

Education

27

Government

24

Polling

25

Hungary is one of only three new countries in this year’s Soft Power 30, debuting at 26. And it’s not difficult to see why. A nation of more than a thousand natural springs, 13 Nobel laureates, and the birthplace of impressive composers and performers (Franz Liszt, Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly to name a few), Hungary has an enormous amount to offer in terms of soft power. But it’s also been a challenging year for the Hungarians; one that has seen them thrust into the international limelight, and not always for the right reasons. The world waited with baited breath as Prime Minister Viktor Orban responded to Europe’s refugee crisis. His challenging of the EU quota plan and hard-line stance against migration saw his approval ratings skyrocket domestically, but earned the leader few friends internationally. Only time will tell if Orban’s continued defiance and criticism of many western governments will have a lasting effect on Hungary’s soft power standing.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Digital. While Hungary doesn’t perform exceptionally well in terms of digital infrastructure, its government has a solid social media presence. In fact, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is in our top five for most engaged international followers on Facebook.
Weaknesses
Hungary is by no means lacking in culture, with a rich history shining through in its architecture, music, and folk dance. Most impressive is that Hungarians have, per capita, one of the highest tallies of Olympic medals. But the nation scores lower than any other in our Culture sub-index. Hungarian culture deserves greater recognition and the government should be investing more to strengthen and promote these substantial assets.
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With international attention focused almost solely on Hungary’s increasingly strained relationship with European partners right now, it will need to work that little bit harder to be recognised for anything other than political strong-arming. The Foreign Minister and Prime Minister should leverage their success on social media to push Hungary’s cultural assets and draw global attention away from the nation’s less popular attributes.

Upward Mover

Downward Mover

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New Entry

Enterprise 2016

SCORE

Digital

6

Culture

24

Enterprise

1

Education

17

Government

22

Polling

21

2015 was a big year for Lion city-state, not least because Singapore jumped from 21st to 19th, breaking into the top 20. It was also the year that Singaporeans marked the 50th anniversary of their independence. But there was a poignant moment too; the way in which the population came together to mourn the death of their founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. Despite Lee’s passing, the government has proven more than capable of carrying on his legacy of remarkable transformation. Patriotic fervour was felt in full effect throughout the “SG50” events, which celebrated all that the “small” country has accomplished in a short period of time. And Singapore has numerous reasons to celebrate – it ranks top of the Enterprise sub-index, a testament to its successful transformation from underpopulated British colony to an independent economic force. With low unemployment, seemingly endless commercial incentives, and widespread economic freedoms, it is no surprise that Singapore has attracted significant international investment over the years. Its strategic location at the Strait of Malacca has further enabled Singapore to become a critical centre for business and global transport hub. The unity of the nation and the publicity it received in its half-century celebrations provide Singapore with a huge opportunity to build on this momentum and become a key player on the international stage – an opportunity that might bring up its soft power rank even higher next year.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Enterprise remains Singapore’s greatest strength. A city-state built on trade, Singapore has proven its sterling economic credentials. The government has made great strides in attracting foreign investment and facilitating business over its 50 year history, positioning the Lion City as a global commerce and finance hub. In fact, the World Bank has consistently rated the island nation the easiest place to do business in the world.
Weaknesses
While Singapore’s business sector is vibrant, it has struggled to translate its economic assets into strengths in other areas. The nation’s small size impedes a truly global diplomatic reach, which is most significantly felt in its poor showing in the Engagement sub-index. Considering its high levels of development, Singapore falls short diplomatically, both in terms of physical presence abroad and participation in international organisations and treaties.
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Singapore’s supremacy in trade and industry is undeniable. If the nation can mobilise the strengths it has developed over its short history and widen their scope, focusing on boosting their cultural and diplomatic influence, it would help to expand Singapore’s soft power. As a vibrant multicultural nation, the country has much to offer, from the hybrid delicacies at hawker centres to world-class tourist attractions, including the biggest rainforest zoo. Singaporeans need to share these delights with the rest of the world, proving once and for all that it is a destination in its own right, not just one of the best airports for an Asian stopover.

Digital

20

Culture

15

Enterprise

2

Education

14

Government

2

Polling

3

Despite being one of few developed nations with a conscripted army, whose troops keep their arms at home, Switzerland has steadfastly maintained its neutrality. This multicultural nation has been actively involved in peace building efforts globally, having founded the International Committee of the Red Cross, one of the world’s biggest humanitarian organisations and three-time winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Switzerland is also home to some of the world’s most important organisations and institutions, including many UN offices, the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organisation and hosts both the European (UEFA) and international (FIFA) governing bodies of football. While the country may not be seen as the most exciting nation, it has a strong history of democratic rule and a robust economy. The proof is solidly in the pudding, as Switzerland ranks third in the international human development index and performs well in measures of gender equality, global competitiveness, and innovation.

Country Analysis

Strengths
If a transparent and effective government, widespread prosperity, and high levels of development aren’t enough, Switzerland boasts unbeatable mountains for winter sports, and is also responsible for giving the world fondue, raclette, Toblerone and Bircher muesli.
Weaknesses
Having such picturesque views and a harmonious, multicultural population must come at some price – and that price is high. Zurich and Geneva rank in the top five most expensive cities in the world and despite a generally high GDP per capita and low unemployment rate, income inequality remains a challenge.
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Switzerland claims the headquarters of the world’s leading scientific research facility, CERN - the same organisation known for pioneering the introduction of internet technology. Yet Switzerland struggles most with its digital capabilities, and is particularly lacking in digital diplomacy. In an increasingly digital world, Switzerland should take lessons from groups like CERN and utilise its technological resources to start engaging with global public through digital platforms.

Digital

18

Culture

16

Enterprise

3

Education

21

Government

26

Polling

28

The birthplace of tech giant Samsung, South Korea dropped two places this year, coming in at 22nd. The East Asian nation hit its stride in the 1980s, becoming one of a group of East Asian “tigers” that took off following a series of economic – and eventually political – reforms. These changes laid the foundation for its eventual success, as the nation has exported its soft power through the likes of K-pop and a variety of digital innovations. Through its immense outputs, especially in the form of consumer electronics, South Korea performed particularly well in the Enterprise sub-index, coming in 3rd. Despite these strengths, the nation has struggled regionally. Bordering the unstable regime in Pyongyang, South Korea’s security remains a constant source of concern. This has translated in some cases to government weakness, but has also proven to be an opportunity for the nation to work diplomatically with China and the US to resolve crises on the Korean Peninsula. For the last ten years, South Korea has had high-level representation on the international level with Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary General. With his second term coming to an end this year, South Korea will have an opportunity to find new ways to amplify its soft power strengths.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Digital innovations drive the growth of business and cultural outputs in South Korea. Domestically, a large proportion of the population has access to the internet, mobile phones and broadband subscriptions. Despite the country’s relatively small size, global use of Korean products from the likes of LG, Hyundai and Kia is vast. In fact, Korean multinational conglomerate Samsung consistently produces the top-selling mobile phones in the world.
Weaknesses
South Korea saw little improvement in its polling score – standing at 49.95, the country ranks below neighbouring Japan and comes in at 27th overall. With a corruption scandal hitting former Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo last year, public confidence in the government suffered. It is somewhat unsurprising, then, that South Korea also struggled in the Government sub-index.
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When one thinks about South Korea, its combative cousin to the north, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea naturally comes to mind. Yet negotiations regarding the stalemated conflict between the two are often headed by superpowers China and the United States, overshadowing South Korea’s abilities to negotiate on its own behalf. South Korea must rely less heavily on the efforts of others and take a more assertive role in negotiations to prove its soft power strengths in its own right.

Digital

12

Culture

10

Enterprise

4

Education

12

Government

17

Polling

6

In this second iteration of the Soft Power 30, Japan improved on its already high standing, rising to 7th. It continues to be known for its efficiency in the private sector as well as in the public: Japan’s competitiveness remains among the highest of the countries surveyed, and its governance has been shown to be effective. Japan has history on its side – it was one of the first countries in the region to integrate into the international system, and was the first Asian economy to experience a massive economic boom. This international notoriety, paired with its reputation for excellence, provides Japan with significant soft power on the global stage. It is one of the most widely represented states diplomatically, with embassies in 144 countries. Interestingly, though known as one of the most high-tech countries in the world, Japan does not count among its strengths digital diplomacy, having low digital engagement by its Premier and Foreign Minister. Indeed, Japan does not seem to focus too heavily on public diplomacy, as it has very few cultural missions abroad. Yet this does not do extensive damage to Japan’s soft power, as it continues to play an integral role in many international organisations and to be viewed favourably by the majority of global public opinion.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Aside from Japan’s well-recognised economic competitiveness, its cultural exports are one of its main strengths. Japan hosted 13 million visitors in last year. Japan also has a hugely popular music industry (J-Pop), which is appreciated throughout Asia. Its culture is so effectively exported globally that the government itself puts little effort into cultural promotion.
Weaknesses
Where Japan’s soft power falls short is in its relations with neighbouring countries China and South Korea, both of which scored Japan very low in our international polling. Japan would do well to take a leaf out of Germany’s book in its approach to strengthening regional relations.
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Japan has performed well across the board in both iterations of the Soft Power 30, yet it mustn't become complacent in its position. With regional rivals competing for global influence, Japan’s soft power will be of utmost importance in the coming years. Improvements in the education sector and official public diplomacy can help preserve Japan’s soft power and cement its position as a regional and global power.

Digital

7

Culture

5

Enterprise

5

Education

4

Government

11

Polling

4

Following a relatively unstable political period, which saw five prime ministers take the helm in as many years, it seems Australians have finally found a leader they support in Malcom Turnbull. But Turnbull’s more progressive views on climate change and same sex marriage have not yet managed to resonate on the international stage. Given another four years in power, Turnbull may be more successful in pushing his agenda and making a global name for himself. With Australians heading to the polls in July after Turnbull’s decision to call double dissolution, only time will tell if the leader is given the chance to translate his vision into reality. Stepping away from politics, Australia’s most significant movement this year was a massive jump in the Education sub-index, rising from 11th to 4th. Outperformed only by the US, UK and Canada, Australia’s impressive performance proves that the country remains a highly attractive and desirable destination for international students.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Australia continues to earn its moniker as the ‘Lucky Country’, and an improvement in its international polling score proves that the global community still admires its hospitality, culture, and flat whites and shiraz. Positive global perceptions have once again benefited Australia’s booming tourism sector, with the nation head and shoulders above the rest in terms of average spend per tourist.
Weaknesses
Australia may have come close to securing the Eurovision 2016 title, but the country has once again underperformed in the Engagement sub-index. The land Down Under mustn’t use its geographical isolation as an excuse for failing to compete with the likes of the US, UK, France, or even Canada in terms of diplomatic network and global reach.
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No Australian political duo has been more prolific and engaging on social media than Malcom Turnbull and Julie Bishop, but Australia has slipped slightly overall in the digital metric this year. While it’s clear that the government is making significant inroads in its digital diplomacy approach, it must continue to push this agenda across all departments to ensure its voice is heard abroad. Making strides in digital diplomacy may go some way in compensating for Australia’s comparatively small diplomatic footprint.

Digital

16

Culture

25

Enterprise

6

Education

7

Government

6

Polling

13

Denmark’s Soft Power ranking and score has taken a slight dip since 2015, but it still came in at a respectable 13th in this year’s index. For a country of only 5.7 million, it certainly punches above its weight in terms of soft power, and holds some of the highest standards of government and education which many other countries would want to emulate. Last year saw a change in Prime Minister with Lars Løkke Rasmussen taking up the reins for a second spell. Whilst it hasn’t thrown up the same level of political complexity as Denmark’s famous series Borgen, he does rely on a coalition to keep his centre-right Venstre party in power. Drops in ranking based on its Digital and Cultural scores have played a prominent role in the slight drop in this year’s index.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Aside from well-regarded design, Denmark’s architecture is also world-class. But it’s not all about the aesthetics. Together with most of its Nordic neighbours, Denmark ranks very highly in the Government category. It’s dropped one place to 6th but still has a score that most other countries would envy. Denmark has also shot up in the Education sub-index to 7th place, a significant improvement on 14th place in 2015. It could be that the country’s excellent system is gaining greater awareness globally.
Weaknesses
Denmark might well have come even higher in the index if they could find a way of improving their rather stubbornly low score on the Culture sub-index. Only five nations in the Soft Power 30 rank lower – and two of those are Nordic (Norway and Finland).
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Denmark can be proud of having a big profile for a relatively small country. There is little to worry about with its high scores for Education and Government. However, as with other Scandinavian countries, a low cultural score needs to be addressed. Denmark has a rich heritage and a hip, modern city scene, replete with cutting-edge design, but these strengths have not yet shown through in the index. With a bit more emphasis on their existing assets, Denmark stands to improve its marks.

Digital

23

Culture

20

Enterprise

7

Education

11

Government

7

Polling

11

What a year for New Zealand. The highlight was undoubtedly securing another stunning Rugby World Cup victory, made even sweeter by the fact that it was Australia whom the All Blacks triumphed over. New Zealand’s position and size means that it can be overlooked in favour of its big brother, but the Kiwis are often far more politically and socially adventurous. Three years after becoming the first Oceanic country to legalise same-sex marriage, New Zealand has found the ideal balance between exploring new opportunities and remaining steadfastly confident in its history and identity. This attitude shone through during the country’s recent referendum to change the national flag and while change wasn’t implemented, the vote united the nation and proved that its people are willing to push boundaries and challenge conventional thinking. 2015 was also a spectacular year for New Zealand’s tourism industry, with visitor arrivals rising 11 percent and net migration rising 9 percent. Tourism New Zealand’s 100% Pure Campaign has been hugely effective in promoting the diversity in experiences the country has to offer and it’s unlikely that arrival numbers will fall anytime soon.

Country Analysis

Strengths
New Zealanders enjoy a healthy and vibrant democracy so it’s no surprise to see the country perform best in our Governance sub-index. Ranking in the global top five for the World Bank’s Voice and Accountability and Government Effectiveness indices, as well as the Economist Democracy Index, New Zealand may be small but it could teach many world powers a thing or two about good governance.
Weaknesses
The New Zealand government has struggled to engage an international audience on social media. A much stronger digital diplomacy approach, especially for Prime Minister John Key and Foreign Minister Murray McCully, is critical if New Zealand hopes to be recognised as a nation with more to contribute to the world.
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New Zealand’s fall to 29th in the Engagement sub-index, along with a slight dip in its international polling score, indicates that global recognition of New Zealand may be falling. It’s understandable that New Zealanders may be swept away by the beauty and isolation of their own oasis, but it’s important not to drop too far from the international radar. If Helen Clark is elected to replace Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary-General later this year, it will give New Zealand a much bigger voice on the world stage.

Digital

8

Culture

21

Enterprise

8

Education

13

Government

3

Polling

8

With its exceptional governance structure, growing international recognition through television programmes like The Bridge, and unrivalled landscapes, Sweden once again leads its Nordic neighbours in terms of soft power. So much so that it came out on top in the latest edition of the Good Country Index. Well known for its education and welfare systems and achievements in social and gender equality, Sweden is often seen as having only mastered the less exciting aspects of soft power. But it is also making strides in innovation and technology, becoming the world’s second most prolific tech hub on a per capita basis behind Silicon Valley, thanks to the massive success of Spotify and Skype. The fact that Sweden is now seen as a model child for European innovation is testament to its reputation for thinking globally from the outset. However despite its overwhelming strengths, Sweden hasn’t been immune to the impact of Europe’s refugee crisis. Arguably one of the most open countries in the world – ranking fourth in the number of asylum seekers it accepts – Sweden has been overwhelmed by the volume of refugees and migrants arriving into Europe. Sweden’s open approach to welcoming refugees has left the government unsure how to respond to the influx, and these recent challenges indicate that while Sweden remains an economic pillar of strength, cracks are beginning to appear politically.

Country Analysis

Strengths
The Nordic model has proved successful for Sweden and it continues to enjoy a top three ranking in the Government sub-index, outranked only by Norway and Switzerland.
Weaknesses
There are few areas where Sweden underperforms, but no stand-out weaknesses. However, Sweden has fallen back in the Culture sub-index, slipping three places from last year. Despite seeing strong growth in tourist arrivals in 2015, Sweden has a long way to go before attracting the same numbers as other European countries.
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Sweden is deserving of its Top 10 ranking and has quite rightly been admired around the world for decades. But Sweden shouldn’t rest on its laurels when dealing with new and unexpected challenges. Sweden’s egalitarian approach to refugees is admirable but the crisis has showed that the nation is capable of misjudging the gravity of situations. As global leader in dealing with asylum seekers, the world will be looking to solutions from Sweden. Can they be found?

Digital

1

Culture

1

Enterprise

9

Education

1

Government

16

Polling

10

The United States takes the top spot of the 2016 Soft Power 30, beating out last year’s first-place finisher, the United Kingdom. America topping the rankings this year is perhaps a strange juxtaposition to Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, currently threatening to tear up long-held, bi-partisan principles of American foreign policy – like ending the US’s stated commitment to nuclear non-proliferation. On the other hand, President Obama’s final year as Commander-in-Chief has been a busy one for diplomatic initiatives. The President managed to complete his long-sought Iran Nuclear Deal, made progress on negotiating free trade agreements with partners across the Oceans Atlantic and Pacific, and re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba after decades of trying to isolate the Communist Caribbean Island. These major soft power plays have paid dividends for perceptions of the US abroad, as it finished higher in the international polling this year, compared to 2015. Perhaps not dragged down as much by attitudes to its foreign policy, the US’s major pillars of soft power have been free to shine, as measured in our Digital, Education, and Culture sub-indices. The US is home to the biggest digital platforms in the world, including Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, and the US State Department sets the global pace on digital diplomacy. Likewise, the US maintains its top ranking in the Culture and Education sub-indices this year. The US welcomed over 74 million international tourists last year, many of whom are attracted by America’s cultural outputs that are seemingly omnipresent around the globe. In terms of education, the US has more universities in the global top 200 than any other country in the world, which allows it to attract more international students than any other country – by some margin as well.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Home to many of the biggest tech brands in the world, the US is the global leader in digital technology and innovation. The Obama Administration and State Department developed the theory and practice of online-driven campaigning and ‘digital diplomacy’. The way the US has developed and leveraged digital diplomacy, gives the nation a significant soft power boost.
Weaknesses
It’s not just foreign policy that can drag down the image of America. Regular news stories of police brutality, racial tension, gun violence, and a high homicide rate (compared to other developed countries) all remind the world that America has its faults on the home front too. Speaking of which, the forthcoming Presidential election will have leaders in a lot of world capitals nervous at prospect of a Trump presidency.
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In truth, making any substantive recommendation before the results of November’s Presidential election are known would be an academic exercise. The two possible paths for US foreign policy under a President Clinton or President Trump are so widely divergent that one can only wait to see how the American electorate vote. In the meantime, President Obama’s recent diplomatic successes have been a boon for US soft power. If he can continue to build bridges and foster greater economic and political cooperation across the Atlantic and Pacific, he will leave office having re-established the US as the world’s preeminent Soft Power. This would certainly allow for a future Clinton Administration to hit the ground running on US foreign policy priorities.

Digital

13

Culture

26

Enterprise

10

Education

8

Government

5

Polling

15

Moving up in this year’s rankings to 13th place, Finland has shown once again that it is more than capable of holding its own against larger, better-known countries when it comes to soft power. But as the least visited of the Nordic countries, Finland still struggles to attract significant numbers in tourists. Nevertheless, a strong government, a tradition of diligence, and an innovative way of thinking help Finland to stand out from the rest. The Finnish government consistently scores highly in Freedom House rankings and is known for its admirably low rates of corruption. Government effectiveness, including strides towards gender equality, has created an environment of both economic dynamism and societal equity.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Finland’s political values and effective government are the foundations upon which the country’s soft power is built. Finns have an impressive ability of combining the practical and aesthetic, as evidenced by the government-sponsored ‘Baby box’. The programme has contributed to Finland having one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world and serves as just one example of how the government translates good design into better government public services.
Weaknesses
A small population means that Finland struggles to export its brand to the world en masse at the same level as its Nordic neighbours. With no major cultural ambassadors (save maybe Moomin!), Finland finds it difficult to generate interest and convince tourists that their country is worth boarding a Finnair jet.
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The more digital buzz Finland can generate, the better. If the Finnish population, 92% of whom are online, promote the admirable institutions the country has to offer, the entire population stands to benefit. SITRA, the civil-government agency dedicated to creating a greener, more sustainable Finland, is a prime example of the kind of content Finns should be promoting to the world.

Digital

2

Culture

8

Enterprise

11

Education

3

Government

9

Polling

1

We all like Canada – which, for a second year in a row, has maintained its position as the country people feel most favourably towards in the world. Canada’s soft power score reflects that of its people – diverse, polite, and generally impressive. It wouldn’t be possible to analyse Canada this year without mentioning heartthrob Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has won the world over with his politics as much as his looks. He utilised his opportunity at the World Economic Forum to promote feminism, and in line with the trustworthy perceptions of Canada, walked the walk by appointing a perfectly gender-balanced cabinet. But while people think fondly of Canada, their comfortable seat in the above average range might be overly solidified. It can also mean that they are unlikely to ‘wow’. Their predictability can be seen as a welcome anomaly in an otherwise turbulent world, but it can also be seen as overly complacent. Generally, beyond friendliness, they probably won’t blow you away, either with the bad or the good. But this fits honestly into their rhetoric: they’re not always trying to convince you that they’re the world’s greatest – Canadians are satisfied with just being them. A mind-set that is impossible not to admire.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Canada maintains its popular image with carefully calculated domestic and foreign policies, ensuring that even their worst mistakes are globally regarded as “not that bad”. In such an open environment, both with regards to landscape and political discourse, Canada’s strongest asset is its inclusion.
Weaknesses
Global engagement. With a small diplomatic network and few diplomatic cultural missions to speak of, Canadian soft power may be seen, but it’s not very heard.
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Keeping an eye on Trudeau’s plans for Canada. If he can run the country with as much ease as he can explain Quantum computing, Canada would be in a strong position to start overtaking some of its competitors. The outcome of the US presidential elections in November will also have a profound impact on its friendly northern neighbours and will test whether Canada can stand its independent ground.

Digital

9

Culture

29

Enterprise

12

Education

15

Government

1

Polling

14

Norway’s climb up the rankings this year reflects the strength of its society and government. With the collapse in global oil prices, the country faced a threat to its sovereign wealth fund. However, smart leadership and a prudent approach to investment have cemented Norway’s position as a leader in responsible capitalism. The economic and diplomatic clout that accompanies the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world cannot be underestimated; it owns on average 1.3% of every group listed on any stock market, meaning that the fund has become a powerful foreign policy tool in its own right. This increases both Norway’s hard and soft power status by enabling the country to exert some control over foreign companies, as well as providing an economic incentive for positive diplomatic engagement. Norway responded to the refugee crisis by donating $1.2 billion, which, according to the Oxfam “fair share” measure, meant that the country contributed 385% of its allocated portion of an $8.9 billion funding appeal for Syria made by the United Nations. This further shows how seriously the country takes its international responsibilities. All of this rests on the strong institutions of the Norwegian government. Their long-term approach to fostering an enterprise-friendly society with incredibly high living standards — helped by their oil wealth — means that they can afford to positively project their soft power around the world while remaining an attractive investment, migration, and tourism destination.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Coming in at number one on the UN Human Development Index, Norway’s citizens enjoy the highest living standards in the world. Not a bad attribute to be recognised for.
Weaknesses
Norway’s strength in the hydrocarbon sector could be considered a weakness. With its economy largely dependent on such a precarious industry, diversification must remain top of mind for the government.
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With strong scores across all other categories, Norway can afford to dedicate some resources to either promoting its existing cultural institutions, or more realistically, providing the necessary environment for youth and other sub-cultures to thrive and become cultural assets themselves.

Digital

17

Culture

13

Enterprise

13

Education

18

Government

10

Polling

18

2015 proved to be a testing year for Austria. Tensions over the refugee and migration crisis prompted an increasingly tough policy approach that culminated in the adoption of strict laws on asylum and fraught relations with other EU states. Domestically, the country saw the rising prominence of right-wing parties, who look set to profit off increasing social tensions and economic under performance. From an external perspective, these events have landed a blow to Austria’s glowing reputation as a stable, wealthy, and welcoming country. International media coverage over the course of the crisis has been less than favourable, with the U-turn on border controls and asylum caps negatively portrayed, especially when compared to Germany’s decision to welcome over one million migrants. The fact that this media narrative placed Austria on the same side as less liberal states in Eastern Europe has weakened Austria’s carefully honed image of being a good global citizen. Despite this undercurrent of instability, Austria still has much to be proud of: high living standards, robust political institutions, and persisting positive global perceptions of the country all contribute to what is still a strong global image. Its commitment to neutrality has helped it to become a centre for international diplomacy, with international organisations such as Organization for Security and Cooperation Europe, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, International Atomic Energy Agency and Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries basing their headquarters in the country.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Austria scores highly in polling with its high living standards setting it apart, even as compared to the rest of wealthy Northern Europe. And for good reason – Austria’s government structure is well-executed. The country has a small shadow economy as percentage of GDP, only outranked by the US and Switzerland, and high levels of press freedom, demonstrating the successes of the government.
Weaknesses
Austria’s U-turn on refugees is illustrative of shifting attitudes within the country towards external engagement. If this continues, the country’s strong diplomatic network will struggle to convince its peers of Austria’s commitment to being a positive force in the world.
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Austria needs to ensure that its reputation on the global stage doesn’t suffer as a result of the refugee crisis and political backlash. As the site of talks on the Syrian crisis, the Iranian nuclear deal and many others, Austria should look to highlight its positive contributions to global peace and security to counter negative media narratives.

Digital

3

Culture

2

Enterprise

14

Education

2

Government

13

Polling

5

Although beaten to the top spot in this year’s index, the UK continues to boast significant advantages in its soft power resources. These include the significant role that continues to be played by both state-backed assets (i.e. BBC World Service, DfID, FCO and British Council) and private assets and global brands (e.g. Burberry and British Airways). Additionally, the British Council, institutions like the British Museum, and the UK’s higher education system are all pillars of British soft power. The UK’s rich civil society and charitable sector further contribute to British soft power. Major global organisations that contribute to development, disaster relief, and human rights reforms like Oxfam, Save the Children, and Amnesty International are key components in the UK’s overall ability to contribute to the global good – whether through the state, private citizens, or a network of diverse actors. The UK’s unique and enviable position at the heart of a number of important global networks and multi-lateral organisations continues to confer a significant soft power advantage. As a member of the G-7, G-20, UN Security Council, European Union, and the Commonwealth, Britain has a seat at virtually every international table of consequence. No other country rivals the UK’s diverse range of memberships in the world’s most influential organisations. In this context, a risk exists that the UK’s considerable soft power clout would be significantly diminished should it vote to leave the European Union.

Country Analysis

Strengths
There is no dearth of soft power strengths in the UK’s assets, strong government, vibrant culture, considerable heritage and history, and strong digital capacity make the UK one of the most admired nations in the world. Over 1700 foreign correspondents are based in the UK, and with a dynamic media market of its own, London is global media capital.
Weaknesses
Brexit, the rise of UKIP, and increasingly incendiary rhetoric on immigration continue to send a message that the rest of the world is not welcome in the British Isles. While the Department for Business Innovation and Skills seeks foreign students in large numbers, the government’s immigration message suggests otherwise – much to the chagrin of British Universities.
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Britain goes to the polls to vote on its continued membership of the European Union in June, which leaves a huge question mark hanging over the future of British soft power. A move for the exit door would definitely set British global influence back by forfeiting its voice in European affairs. Barack Obama, Christine Lagarde, Kofi Annan, Hillary Clinton, and Justin Trudeau (to name a few), have all raised their concerns about Brexit. Of course, the issue is one for the British electorate to decide, but a post-Brexit Britain would certainly see a decline in its soft power stores.

Digital

4

Culture

4

Enterprise

15

Education

5

Government

8

Polling

7

What a difference a year makes. Last year, Portland concluded that the world would be ‘happy to see more German leadership’. And Germany has certainly taken the lead on one issue – the refugee crisis. A country that has historically been reluctant to take the driver’s seat on foreign policy issues, it seems to have finally put itself out front. But Angela Merkel, who only last year was labelled by the Economist as ‘the indispensable European’ for her bold and principled stance, now looks increasingly isolated as resistance to her ‘Wilkommenskultur’ grows. The rise of right-wing movements in a country that, for historical reasons, has resisted such ideals has not gone unnoticed, attracting a great deal of international attention. Germany’s drop from second to third is therefore not surprising. But it is hardly Germany alone – it joins a number of other European countries who have slipped in this year’s ranking. Germany has maintained strong scores, particularly in Engagement, Culture and Digital. The draws of a strong economy, and the comparatively low cost of living and vibrant culture in cities like Berlin, mean that foreigners are flocking to Germany. German language uptake is also on the rise – in 2015, some 15.5m people studied German, 4% more than five years ago. German ist wieder geil.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Germany hasn’t always been great at exporting its culture. Its European rivals, particularly the UK and France, have been more ambitious and successful at this. But this is changing. Among other things, the vibrant tech, art, and music scenes of cities like Berlin are drawing more and more young people to Germany – often from unexpected places and for much longer than just a weekend city break.
Weaknesses
The realities of dealing with the refugee crisis have necessitated complicated political manoeuvring, not least with Turkey. Likewise, conflicts with Hungary, Austria, and other Eastern European countries have been at times embittered. All in all, it has been a tough year for Germany, both domestically and internationally. Unfortunately no easy solutions appear in the offing.
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German is hip again – with language uptake on the rise, now is the time for a concerted push to export Germany’s cultural assets – from design, to film, to street style. We’ve had Scandi-cool, now it’s Germany’s time to shine.

Digital

28

Culture

9

Enterprise

16

Education

28

Government

29

Polling

29

China once again makes the Soft Power 30. Despite the recent economic slowdown, the world’s most populous nation continues to flex its economic muscle on the world stage and reshape the international system, and rise up the soft power ranks. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) – the China-led rival to the Asian Development Bank – will hold its inaugural meeting in June, representing a milestone in China’s global engagement, revealing an emerging vision for a Chinese world order. For many countries, particularly in Africa and along the Silk Road Economic Belt, China’s economic and cultural impact is already being felt. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has increased his grip on the levers of power since taking office in 2012, and is regarded as the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. As China marked the 50th Anniversary of the Cultural Revolution this year, this development has caused some consternation amongst China watchers. Interference with Hong Kong’s jealously guarded political freedoms, and continued island building in the South China Sea, have made China’s neighbours in the region nervous. With one of the largest overseas populations, the Chinese diaspora is a source of both international cheerleaders and critics. Nonetheless, the Middle Kingdom is increasingly respected and admired globally (particularly outside of the West), as the ‘Beijing Consensus’ poses an alternative model of economic development for emerging-market countries seeking rapid economic growth. While lack of democracy and free press continue to negatively impact perceptions, there is no question that China will remain a draw for investors and visitors alike, as it assumes the position of a 21st Century super-power.

Country Analysis

Strengths
China’s history, cuisine, and increasingly its language, are important cultural soft power assets. When combined with its improved international engagement, there is a growing understanding of China’s global objectives and interests. These will be important strengths as more people look to China to play a constructive role in world affairs.
Weaknesses
China’s political system remains at odds with its economic strength. While the liberalization of the one-child policy has helped present a softer face to the world, political and press freedoms have moved in the opposite direction in recent years. These restrictions stifle enterprise while preventing the scrutiny the Chinese state so desperately requires. China’s leaders have made overt references to the concept of soft power in recent years, demonstrating its importance to Chinese policy makers. However, soft power cannot come from government alone.
Portland Recommends
A more liberal approach to policy, including easing internet censorship, would have a positive knock-on effect on nearly all aspects of China’s soft power. Internationally, China has a way to go to prove it is a responsible world power. A negotiated settlement to the South China Sea dispute would help diffuse tensions with ASEAN member states, while a reduction in cyber-warfare would ease Western concerns about China’s growing international role.

Digital

25

Culture

18

Enterprise

17

Education

22

Government

12

Polling

17

The Emerald Isle slipped one place to 20th this year, but it’s not all bad news for Ireland. The Irish charm stretches all four corners of the globe. From St Petersburg to Honolulu, one can find an Irish pub in any major city on the map and feel the same warm hospitality. But rest assured a pint of Guinness is not Ireland’s only soft power asset. Ireland has had a good year in terms of governance, and it’s no surprise that this is where the nation performs strongest. The world stood to attention when Ireland became the first country to legalise gay marriage by referendum, a decision many hailed as a revolution. And it continued to impress with Enda Kenny’s government introducing gender quotas to fill a record 35 seats in the Dáil with women. On the soft side, Ireland ticks all the boxes: a vibrant and welcoming culture, steadfast governance, and stunningly picturesque landscape.

Country Analysis

Strengths
With Dublin acting as European headquarters to some of the world’s biggest digital names – Google, Apple, LinkedIn to name a few – Ireland has carved a niche for itself in the enterprise sector, and continues to nurture a young, dynamic, and technically skilled workforce.
Weaknesses
Despite some positive stories on the domestic front, Ireland struggles with the unique challenge of being ambitious but small. Moreover, it’s still feeling the effects of the merge between its foreign affairs and trade ministries. Its low Engagement score reflects a relatively small diplomatic network.
Portland Recommends
Ireland faces an interesting challenge in pursuing a promising tech-based future while holding onto its old-world, Irish charm. The government should be thinking about ways to combine its rich culture with its technological assets so as to not sacrifice one for the other. Doing so will eliminate any doubt that Ireland isn’t forward thinking enough to be Europe’s digital hub.

Digital

5

Culture

3

Enterprise

18

Education

9

Government

15

Polling

9

With nearly 84 million tourists arriving annually, France maintains the title of the world’s most visited country. Yet while the strength of its cultural assets – the Louvre, its cuisine, the Riviera – have helped it hold onto this title, the country remains vulnerable. In the last year, France made headlines for the horrific terror attacks that shook its capital. Since the beginning of his mandate, President François Hollande has struggled to revitalise the French economy. Unemployment has risen steadily, and businesses are weary of France’s seemingly over-regulated and overprotective market. Its “new-blood” Minister of the Economy, Emmanuel Macron, is labouring to shake things up. His newly announced political movement, En Marche! (Forward) hopes to break party lines and revive the Eurozone’s second largest economy. Only time can tell if the initiative will pay dividends. Until then, France can still count on its unequalled diplomatic prowess to safeguard its position near the top of the Soft Power 30. It remains a global diplomatic force, asserting its presence through one of the most extensive Embassy networks.

Country Analysis

Strengths
France’s soft power strengths lie in a unique blend of culture and diplomacy. It enjoys, for historic reasons, links to territories across the planet, making it the only nation with 12 time zones. Its network of cultural institutions, linguistic union “la Francophonie” and network of embassies allow it to engage like no other. Its top rank in the Engagement sub-index comes as no surprise.
Weaknesses
France continues to struggle as a result of the global financial crisis and President Hollande’s failure to lift the nation’s economic competitiveness has delayed its full recovery. Germany’s economy, in comparison, makes France look in need of reform.
Portland Recommends
The standard Anglo-American remedy of liberalising economic policies sounds cliché, but it would help France on the Enterprise sub-index. A more economically dynamic France could unlock its full potential by leveraging its global footprint to establish itself as an even more attractive global partner.

Digital

19

Culture

11

Enterprise

19

Education

10

Government

14

Polling

19

Belgium dropped one place this year to 18th. The bifurcated federal state has long been a centre of European and international activity, playing host to both the European Commission and NATO. Fittingly so, as the country has one foot in Germanic Europe and the other in Latin Europe. In the past year, however, the country has also increasingly become a hub of terrorist activity, with links made between Belgium-based suspects and attacks in Paris in November last year. Brussels, too, was rocked by a devastating act of terrorism in March in the deadliest terror attack in Belgium’s history. In spite of the unfortunate turn of events and subsequently critical press associated with the nation, people continue to think of it positively. Belgium’s polling score has increased since last year, proving that the general public will not be sucked in to media hype but instead cares more about Belgium’s abundant assets including Magritte, Stromae, and moules-frites.

Country Analysis

Strengths
For such a small nation, Belgium packs a cultural punch. Les français, say what you will, but pommes frites are a Belgian delicacy. So too is some of the best beer in the world, waffles, chocolate, and everyone’s favourite cartoon adventurer, Tintin.
Weaknesses
In theory, the Belgian government is a model of power-sharing consociationalism, dividing political and administrative functions between three regions. In practice, though, these divisions have often hindered cohesion and effectiveness, preventing the nation from reaching its full potential as a European leader. Some have pointed to Belgium’s division as a reason for security failures.
Portland Recommends
Belgium is known as a country divided, not least for its complicated political system. But if Belgium’s national 'Red Devils' football team, made up of players from every region of the country, can collaborate and cooperate effectively, Belgium can do the same. Last year the team was named number one in FIFA’s world rankings; perhaps if the rest of the country follows suit, it can take the top place in next year’s Soft Power 30.

Digital

10

Culture

12

Enterprise

20

Education

6

Government

4

Polling

16

The Netherlands has good reason to retain its rank in this year’s index. Admired for its welcoming spirit and tolerant society, it’s no wonder that the country holds significant soft power clout. This can be traced back to its strong government institutions, which have consistently upheld their citizen’s beliefs in progressive politics. The introduction of the Amsterdam Nachtburgemeester illustrates the willingness of the government to engage and support entrepreneurs, artists, and local communities for the good of all stakeholders. The result? A vibrant night-time economy and unique cultural identity that allow its capital Amsterdam to compete with cities such as London and New York to attract global talent, tourism, and investment. Home to five international courts, Europol and Eurojust, the country also has the title of legal capital of the world, making it a key destination for the legal and business communities. The Dutch education system is not only one of the cheapest in the western world, but also one of the most highly rated, creating an educated workforce and an irresistible draw for foreign students. Flexibility within the employment market is another key factor, with part-time work much more common than in other countries. Given the relatively small size of the country, the Netherlands has an impressively high score that matches its international outlook.

Country Analysis

Strengths
With a Master’s course setting you back just €1,984 a year, it’s easy to see why the country has no problems attracting Europe’s best and brightest to its universities, who come for the education and stay for the quality of life.
Weaknesses
No glaring weaknesses for the Netherlands, but with threats to the European project growing, there is a clear opportunity for the country to show the world what European values stand for. Moreover, the profile of Geert Wilders and the populism he represents doesn’t do much for Dutch Soft Power.
Portland Recommends
The liberal, tolerant society that the Netherlands has cultivated matches the outlook of the increasingly powerful millennial generation. As they begin to assume positions of responsibility around the world, the Netherlands should look to leverage common positions to help form a broader consensus around progressive beliefs.

Digital

27

Culture

27

Enterprise

21

Education

26

Government

18

Polling

26

The Czech Republic was quick to get back on its feet after the Velvet Revolution of 1993, and is often heralded as the most stable of the post-Communist European states. Its industrialized economy consistently thwarts unemployment and shows the fastest growth rates in the EU—in late 2015, GDP growth was at 4.4%.But it has been a more tumultuous year for Czech social policies. As with much of Europe, it earned its most significant media coverage for resistance to immigration and pressure from Brussels to share the migration burden by meeting mandatory refugee quotas. In fact, it came under scrutiny from the UN for human rights violations committed through its asylum processing policy. As a small and fairly young nation, the Czech Republic makes a strong showing by placing in the Soft Power 30—but its position has slipped, and the likely lesson is that economic strength alone is not enough to drive global influence.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Economically, it is on the rise, with unemployment continuing to fall and no sign of stopping. The Czech Republic is effectively consolidating its status as a compact economic powerhouse of Mitteleuropa.
Weaknesses
Media coverage of the Czech Republic in the last year has cast the country in something of a negative light. And since Prague makes little attempt to engage with the rest of the world, either digitally or culturally (key government persons go without social media, and when was the last time you ate a koláče?), its polling numbers are likely a direct consequence of the sparsity of positive international coverage.
Portland Recommends
The Czech Republic has recently begun the process of rebranding itself as “Czechia”, at the suggestion of PR advisors, but it doesn’t need a rebranding so much as it needs a branding. With its strong economy, central geographical position, and masses of tourists streaming to Prague every weekend, it’s well-positioned to assert itself further on the world stage, and to manifest its culture and politics. Czechia shouldn’t only be seen to speak up about immigration quotas.

Digital

29

Culture

22

Enterprise

22

Education

25

Government

28

Polling

20

As the first European power to project itself and its language across the Atlantic, Portugal quickly became one of the world’s first superpowers, colonising countries in Africa, South America, and Asia. Fast-forward 600 years and Portugal continues to battle the effects of the 2008 financial crisis. With the election of Prime Minister Antonio Costa and the government’s backing from far-left parties, it appears that Portugal’s war over austerity economics is back. This issue, and many others, will not receive high-level engagement from government officials on social media, not least because Portugal ranked low on the Digital sub-index. Its head of state and other ministers have little to no presence on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. In fact, the government’s online services are far from being ideal and Portugal is still an exceptionally bureaucratic state. It might surprise you to see Portugal’s presence in the rankings, but the country’s tourism economy is booming. So much so that it gained a position from last year’s edition and the country is now ranked 21st overall. Offering the perfect mix of culture, cuisine and calor, visitors from all over the world journey to Porto, Lisbon, the Algarve, and the rolling plains of Alentejo to listen to fado music, drink Port wine and take in the Lusophone culture.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Portugal is considered one of the most peaceful and socially progressive nations in Europe. In 2001, the country was one of the very first to decriminalise the personal possession of all drugs and treat the problem as a public health issue. In addition, its distance from less stable regions of the world and its 3,000 hours of sunshine per year make tourism its primary soft power asset.
Weaknesses
Portugal's non-tourism based economy, though diversified, could stand to be more dynamic. After the 2011 bailout from the IMF, the country was Europe’s prize pupil when it came to implementing and keeping to austerity targets. It will be interesting to see how the new “anti-austerity coalition” of Antonio Costa plans to lead the country forward.
Portland Recommends
Portuguese is the 6th most spoken language in the world. Portugal should therefore use its soft power strengths of language and culture to further develop relations with Brazil and the Lusophone countries of Africa. Lisbon continues to hold real promise as a burgeoning centre of culture, creativity, and entrepreneurialism and the government should look to support and promote this.

Digital

15

Culture

30

Enterprise

23

Education

27

Government

24

Polling

25

Hungary is one of only three new countries in this year’s Soft Power 30, debuting at 26. And it’s not difficult to see why. A nation of more than a thousand natural springs, 13 Nobel laureates, and the birthplace of impressive composers and performers (Franz Liszt, Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly to name a few), Hungary has an enormous amount to offer in terms of soft power. But it’s also been a challenging year for the Hungarians; one that has seen them thrust into the international limelight, and not always for the right reasons. The world waited with baited breath as Prime Minister Viktor Orban responded to Europe’s refugee crisis. His challenging of the EU quota plan and hard-line stance against migration saw his approval ratings skyrocket domestically, but earned the leader few friends internationally. Only time will tell if Orban’s continued defiance and criticism of many western governments will have a lasting effect on Hungary’s soft power standing.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Digital. While Hungary doesn’t perform exceptionally well in terms of digital infrastructure, its government has a solid social media presence. In fact, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is in our top five for most engaged international followers on Facebook.
Weaknesses
Hungary is by no means lacking in culture, with a rich history shining through in its architecture, music, and folk dance. Most impressive is that Hungarians have, per capita, one of the highest tallies of Olympic medals. But the nation scores lower than any other in our Culture sub-index. Hungarian culture deserves greater recognition and the government should be investing more to strengthen and promote these substantial assets.
Portland Recommends
With international attention focused almost solely on Hungary’s increasingly strained relationship with European partners right now, it will need to work that little bit harder to be recognised for anything other than political strong-arming. The Foreign Minister and Prime Minister should leverage their success on social media to push Hungary’s cultural assets and draw global attention away from the nation’s less popular attributes.

Digital

22

Culture

23

Enterprise

24

Education

24

Government

21

Polling

27

Poland climbed one place this year, to 23rd. The Eastern European country underwent a number of changes in the past 12 months, which were reflected in its results. Following a year marked by a growing migrant crisis throughout Europe, Poland elected conservative Andrzej Duda of the Eurosceptic Law and Justice Party last May, beating out the incumbent in the closest presidential race in the country’s history. The new leader has taken an increasingly confrontational stance with its EU partners, rejecting Germany’s proposed quota system for taking in immigrants because of security fears. Poland’s increasingly strained relationship with the rest of Europe was widely reflected in polling, in which the country dropped to 27th. Despite this, Poland has unexpectedly improved across the Engagement and Culture sub-indices. Much of this can be attributed to Poland’s economic liberalisation policies and increasing membership in international organisations, which began in 2004 with its accession to the EU. It could also reflect gains made under the previous government. Nevertheless, Poland is now at risk of a constitutional crisis, slipping toward authoritarian rule.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Since joining the EU, more and more tourists across Europe and the rest of the world are getting a taste of all the cultural assets Poland has on offer. With a rich history, impressive architecture, and a wide range of outdoor activities made possible through the surrounding sea, mountains and forests, Poland welcomed 16 million tourists last year.
Weaknesses
The political change brought about with the 2015 election has had a marked effect on Poland. Whereas the country previously ranked high in government scores, media freedom has decreased in the past year, police surveillance powers have increased, and general security fears have reversed much of the liberalisation that had taken place in the past decade.
Portland Recommends
While fears of terrorism are felt across much of the world, Poland’s approach to addressing security concerns seems to have harmed its international reputation. The country has numerous cultural assets, as evidenced by its strong showing in the Culture sub-index. Poland would benefit from better leveraging not just its cultural heritage, but also its contemporary cultural offering.

Digital

14

Culture

6

Enterprise

25

Education

16

Government

19

Polling

12

Despite some significant domestic challenges – both economic and political – Spain’s soft power is on the rise. The Iberian nation moves two places up to 12th from last year’s placing on the Soft Power 30. From the onset of the global financial crisis, Spain’s economic challenges have been well documented. The knock-on effects of the collapse in house-prices and high youth unemployment has affected the wellbeing of Spanish society. This hasn’t been helped by the more recent political situation, with ongoing deadlock over the formation of a government since the election of December 2015, and a question mark over Catalonia’s future in the Kingdom. But these concerns do not appear to have weighed on the country’s soft power. Millions from around Europe and further afield still enjoy the appeal of Spain’s wonderful culture, cuisine, creativity, and climate. In 2014, Spain welcomed 65 million international visitors and it was second only to the US in total tourism earnings, suggesting when people come to Spain, they stay for a while and spend generously.

Country Analysis

Strengths
It is of little surprise that Spain scores highest for its culture. Just ahead of its Mediterranean rival Italy, Spain comes 6th which accounts for much of its strength when assessing the country’s overall score. What is more surprising is that Spain ranks equally high for its Engagement. This is helped by the country’s diplomatic network and contribution to global development and engagement. Despite its well documented domestic issues, Spain is still a major soft power internationally.
Weaknesses
With the current political deadlock which followed the 2015 election, Spain has slipped two places to 19 based on its Government scoring. This is to be expected and ongoing questions over Catalan independence will not have helped. Spain still lags behind on its enterprise scoring. It has slipped four places on last year’s ranking, suggesting it has more to do to provide a better environment for those who wish to do business in the country.
Portland Recommends
The picture for Spain’s soft power seems clear. Its cultural status is amongst the very best in the world and that would seem solid for the future. What is less certain is the nation’s ability to provide a globally-attractive business environment, which is far from matching its cultural strength. Spain clearly does well in engaging with people across the world, but it needs to provide a clearer path to convert this into economic benefit.

Digital

24

Culture

7

Enterprise

26

Education

19

Government

23

Polling

2

Italy has moved up one place from 12th last year. Despite continued economic struggles, issues with government effectiveness, and corruption and a migrant crisis crashing at its borders, the land of Prada, pizza and Pavarotti is still loved by the world, coming second in our polling. People love the delicacies the country has to offer, its sleek cars, and cutting edge clothes. Since becoming Italy’s youngest Prime Minister ever in 2014, Matteo Renzi has been expected to pull his country out of Berlusconi’s bunga bunga bedlam. But while Italy welcomes the third most tourist arrivals in Europe and boasts the third largest economy in the Eurozone, the country is working towards more sustainable public finances and delivering more employment opportunities. What it lacks in pure economic strength though, it more than makes up for in culture. Italy boasts the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, exceptional museums and galleries, and a strong football culture, drawing in 48 million tourists annually.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Without question, Italy is a ‘cultural superpower’ that has set global trends for millennia, from Caesar to Gucci. Visit any major city or tiny paesino and stumble upon beautiful landscapes, impressive churches, and monuments.
Weaknesses
Internal political struggles and the global recession have had an enormous impact on Italy, and the country has struggled to recover. Young people in particular are under-educated and unemployed, the nation is straining to absorb a growing migrant crisis, and the government is lacking the means to address these issues, translating into low scores in the areas of economy and education.
Portland Recommends
Italy’s recent present has struggled to live up to the glory of its rich past. But if the country can take a page out of the book of Prime Minister Renzi – a bold, innovative reformer – and play to its strengths, perhaps Italy can become a stronger, more well-rounded soft power.

Digital

11

Culture

14

Enterprise

27

Education

20

Government

30

Polling

30

With its annual military parades and occasional encroachments into European air and naval space, soft power might not spring to mind when thinking about the Russian Federation, a new entry to this year’s rankings. However, since the mid-2000s, an enormous emphasis has been placed on enhancing Russia’s image at home and abroad. Despite setbacks due to the ongoing skirmish surrounding Ukraine and Crimea, Russian state broadcasters manage to reach millions of viewers at home and millions more worldwide. State-owned channel RT now offers services in multiple languages giving it one of the largest audience bases of any global news broadcaster. Moreover, Russia has re-established itself as a diplomatic powerhouse taking a joint lead with the United States in seeking to negotiate a peace deal in Syria. Russia remains an economic force (albeit a currently shrinking one), with migrants from Central Asia and other parts of the former Soviet Union flocking to the country. With the help of these migrants, Russia is changing the face of many of its major cities, taking them from Post-Soviet style accommodation blocks to stylish business centres and new apartment buildings. Russia’s global cultural appeal draws in more than 29 million tourists annually. Whether it’s history, art, or literature, Russian culture is widely appreciated and studied. It is also a key to why so many travel to this culturally rich nation. However, recent changes in domestic policies, specifically the anti-gay legislation introduced in 2013, has had damaging effects on Russia’s reputation in many countries.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Russia’s media engagement is world class. State-owned channel RT broadcasts across the globe in English, Spanish, Arabic, and Hindi to very high ratings, particularly in Europe and South America, and its YouTube channel was the first ever to receive over a billion hits. Russia is also very strong diplomatically and has taken the lead with other top powers in establishing dialogue to tackle issues of global security.
Weaknesses
Russia’s government is persistently hit by corruption scandals, most recently exemplified by the revelation of a state-sanctioned sport doping scandal. This in turn drives down trust in government and scares off potential investors. Discriminatory legislation against sexual and racial minorities is also a step in the wrong direction for Russia’s soft power.
Portland Recommends
Russia would do well to remember that much of its current success stems from the outward looking policies of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Russia would benefit from turning away from isolationist policies and building on the dialogues it has established with other nations to re-assert itself as a reliable and open partner to the rest of the world.

Digital

21

Culture

19

Enterprise

28

Education

30

Government

28

Polling

23

Having recently suspended its President Dilma Rousseff, who is currently facing an impeachment trial, Brazil has the world’s eyes watching to see if it can deliver a successful Olympic Games. For Brazilians, this may provide an opportunity to forget their worries for two weeks and do what they do best — party. For everyone else, however, the country is perceived as being on the brink of an economic and political disaster. International ratings agency Fitch recently downgraded Brazil’s debt to “junk” status. In addition, the Petrobras scandal has implicated more than one hundred people and become the largest corruption scandal in the history of Brazil. And all this before mentioning the Zika virus pandemic ravaging the country. In last year’s rankings, we said that Brazil would be among the most interesting countries to watch. With so many soft power assets, and a number of opportunities for development, Brazil could have easily climbed higher. But poor showings on the Government sub-index and weak scores for Education overshadowed Brazil’s strength in the Culture sub-index, where it shines with football, samba, and carnival. Brazil has therefore fallen to 24th position. The 5th most populous country in the world still ranks above the other BRICS nations. But one thing is for sure, a weaker Brazil is a key impediment to the agency of the developing countries.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Even though it’s been overshadowed by political and economic instability, you can’t ask for a better platform than hosting the Olympic Games. It certainly did a lot for London and Beijing.
Weaknesses
Unsurprisingly, Brazil scored poorly in the Government sub-index, which analyses trust in government, government effectiveness, and public safety. Additionally, perceptions of corruption and a rise in unemployment from 7 to 10 percent last year did the country no favours for attracting foreign investment.
Portland Recommends
The old tag “Brazil is the country of the future... and always will be” epitomises the roller coaster that has been Brazil’s economy over recent years. The exotic country still benefits from a truly global profile and has excellent brand recognition. Nevertheless, Brazil remains a “country to watch” to see if it can triumph in its everlasting battle with corruption.

Digital

30

Culture

28

Enterprise

29

Education

23

Government

25

Polling

22

Greece has held steady on its position at 25th, a feat not insignificant considering the turmoil of the last two years. Following anti-austerity protests, the election of populist left-wing party Syriza, and the threat of Grexit, Greece has been on the front-line of the ongoing migrant crisis. But the nation has remained stoic and shown that even with limited resources, a resourceful country can achieve a lot. Hundreds of Greeks have opened their arms and their doors to refugees, with a volunteer group even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. And despite the recent volatility, Greece holds onto its rich past, which it demonstrates proudly throughout a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, delectable food, and drink, and a vast collection of Greek literature and philosophy read throughout the world. Although Greece continues to struggle economically, the Eurozone has recently agreed to another installment of its bailout loan to help ease its debt. This, combined with other pledges of debt relief, will for the time being allow Greece and the rest of Europe to turn their attention to addressing the plight of refugees on the continent and beyond.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Who doesn’t dream of a summer holiday in the Greek islands? Greece, unsurprisingly, performed well in international polling, and is generally considered an attractive place to visit, with good food, beautiful beaches, impressive landmarks and a generally rich culture. It’s also the birthplace of democracy, philosophy and western civilisation.
Weaknesses
Following a strong showing in the Digital sub-index last year, Greece has struggled to maintain its momentum, with limited government social media presence and fairly low internet saturation. The country also scored poorly in Enterprise. But Greece has had more pressing matters at hand, what with a protracted recession and budget deficit, further compounded by the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.
Portland Recommends
The golden age of the ‘cradle of Western civilisation’ has passed, as the world’s first democracy struggles politically and economically. While a Grexit seemed imminent last year and many feared for the stability of Prime Minister Tsipras’ government, the Greeks have proven resilient and the world has taken notice. The country may not immediately be in a position to address its business and digital weaknesses, but as it recovers, Greece would benefit from a renewed effort to strengthen its digital assets and more effectively build its soft power brand online.

Digital

26

Culture

17

Enterprise

30

Education

29

Government

27

Polling

24

Riding the wave of a politically momentous year, Argentina just breaks into the Soft Power 30. The election of right wing Mauricio Macri marked an end to 12 years of Presidents Kirchner, and gave an immediate boost to the perceptions of Argentina, a trend reflected in the nation’s significant improvement in international polling. Promising to implement a compelling reform plan and reinvigorate Argentinian politics, the former Buenos Aires mayor is living up to President Obama’s prediction that “Argentina under Macri is poised to play a more influential role on the global stage”. Argentina has done well to become the only other Latin American country in the index, and with Brazil falling slightly this year, it is quickly becoming one of the region’s soft power exemplars.

Country Analysis

Strengths
President Macri is a politician with broad domestic and global appeal, backed by a well-cultivated social media presence. He was clever in encouraging enthusiastic young voters to spread his campaign messaging online, and has since become one of the most followed and engaged with world leaders on Facebook and Instagram.
Weaknesses
Argentina lags behind when it comes to its business and enterprise acumen, scoring at the bottom end of the WEF Competitiveness Index, Heritage Economic Freedom, and World Bank Ease of Doing Business metrics. The South American nation has a long way to go before competing with global enterprise powerhouses like Singapore or Switzerland. But things are looking up.
Portland Recommends
Argentina under Macri managed to secure one of the most anticipated market comebacks in a decade – a sale of debt worth more than $16 billion – and if his ambitious policies are successful, he will return desperately needed foreign investment to Argentina. Only time will tell if the leader can overcome the many obstacles waiting for him, but Argentina should continue to focus on building investor excitement.

Upward Mover

Downward Mover

No Mover

New Entry

Engagement 2016

SCORE

Digital

5

Culture

3

Enterprise

18

Education

9

Government

15

Polling

9

With nearly 84 million tourists arriving annually, France maintains the title of the world’s most visited country. Yet while the strength of its cultural assets – the Louvre, its cuisine, the Riviera – have helped it hold onto this title, the country remains vulnerable. In the last year, France made headlines for the horrific terror attacks that shook its capital. Since the beginning of his mandate, President François Hollande has struggled to revitalise the French economy. Unemployment has risen steadily, and businesses are weary of France’s seemingly over-regulated and overprotective market. Its “new-blood” Minister of the Economy, Emmanuel Macron, is labouring to shake things up. His newly announced political movement, En Marche! (Forward) hopes to break party lines and revive the Eurozone’s second largest economy. Only time can tell if the initiative will pay dividends. Until then, France can still count on its unequalled diplomatic prowess to safeguard its position near the top of the Soft Power 30. It remains a global diplomatic force, asserting its presence through one of the most extensive Embassy networks.

Country Analysis

Strengths
France’s soft power strengths lie in a unique blend of culture and diplomacy. It enjoys, for historic reasons, links to territories across the planet, making it the only nation with 12 time zones. Its network of cultural institutions, linguistic union “la Francophonie” and network of embassies allow it to engage like no other. Its top rank in the Engagement sub-index comes as no surprise.
Weaknesses
France continues to struggle as a result of the global financial crisis and President Hollande’s failure to lift the nation’s economic competitiveness has delayed its full recovery. Germany’s economy, in comparison, makes France look in need of reform.
Portland Recommends
The standard Anglo-American remedy of liberalising economic policies sounds cliché, but it would help France on the Enterprise sub-index. A more economically dynamic France could unlock its full potential by leveraging its global footprint to establish itself as an even more attractive global partner.

Digital

3

Culture

2

Enterprise

14

Education

2

Government

13

Polling

5

Although beaten to the top spot in this year’s index, the UK continues to boast significant advantages in its soft power resources. These include the significant role that continues to be played by both state-backed assets (i.e. BBC World Service, DfID, FCO and British Council) and private assets and global brands (e.g. Burberry and British Airways). Additionally, the British Council, institutions like the British Museum, and the UK’s higher education system are all pillars of British soft power. The UK’s rich civil society and charitable sector further contribute to British soft power. Major global organisations that contribute to development, disaster relief, and human rights reforms like Oxfam, Save the Children, and Amnesty International are key components in the UK’s overall ability to contribute to the global good – whether through the state, private citizens, or a network of diverse actors. The UK’s unique and enviable position at the heart of a number of important global networks and multi-lateral organisations continues to confer a significant soft power advantage. As a member of the G-7, G-20, UN Security Council, European Union, and the Commonwealth, Britain has a seat at virtually every international table of consequence. No other country rivals the UK’s diverse range of memberships in the world’s most influential organisations. In this context, a risk exists that the UK’s considerable soft power clout would be significantly diminished should it vote to leave the European Union.

Country Analysis

Strengths
There is no dearth of soft power strengths in the UK’s assets, strong government, vibrant culture, considerable heritage and history, and strong digital capacity make the UK one of the most admired nations in the world. Over 1700 foreign correspondents are based in the UK, and with a dynamic media market of its own, London is global media capital.
Weaknesses
Brexit, the rise of UKIP, and increasingly incendiary rhetoric on immigration continue to send a message that the rest of the world is not welcome in the British Isles. While the Department for Business Innovation and Skills seeks foreign students in large numbers, the government’s immigration message suggests otherwise – much to the chagrin of British Universities.
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Britain goes to the polls to vote on its continued membership of the European Union in June, which leaves a huge question mark hanging over the future of British soft power. A move for the exit door would definitely set British global influence back by forfeiting its voice in European affairs. Barack Obama, Christine Lagarde, Kofi Annan, Hillary Clinton, and Justin Trudeau (to name a few), have all raised their concerns about Brexit. Of course, the issue is one for the British electorate to decide, but a post-Brexit Britain would certainly see a decline in its soft power stores.

Digital

4

Culture

4

Enterprise

15

Education

5

Government

8

Polling

7

What a difference a year makes. Last year, Portland concluded that the world would be ‘happy to see more German leadership’. And Germany has certainly taken the lead on one issue – the refugee crisis. A country that has historically been reluctant to take the driver’s seat on foreign policy issues, it seems to have finally put itself out front. But Angela Merkel, who only last year was labelled by the Economist as ‘the indispensable European’ for her bold and principled stance, now looks increasingly isolated as resistance to her ‘Wilkommenskultur’ grows. The rise of right-wing movements in a country that, for historical reasons, has resisted such ideals has not gone unnoticed, attracting a great deal of international attention. Germany’s drop from second to third is therefore not surprising. But it is hardly Germany alone – it joins a number of other European countries who have slipped in this year’s ranking. Germany has maintained strong scores, particularly in Engagement, Culture and Digital. The draws of a strong economy, and the comparatively low cost of living and vibrant culture in cities like Berlin, mean that foreigners are flocking to Germany. German language uptake is also on the rise – in 2015, some 15.5m people studied German, 4% more than five years ago. German ist wieder geil.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Germany hasn’t always been great at exporting its culture. Its European rivals, particularly the UK and France, have been more ambitious and successful at this. But this is changing. Among other things, the vibrant tech, art, and music scenes of cities like Berlin are drawing more and more young people to Germany – often from unexpected places and for much longer than just a weekend city break.
Weaknesses
The realities of dealing with the refugee crisis have necessitated complicated political manoeuvring, not least with Turkey. Likewise, conflicts with Hungary, Austria, and other Eastern European countries have been at times embittered. All in all, it has been a tough year for Germany, both domestically and internationally. Unfortunately no easy solutions appear in the offing.
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German is hip again – with language uptake on the rise, now is the time for a concerted push to export Germany’s cultural assets – from design, to film, to street style. We’ve had Scandi-cool, now it’s Germany’s time to shine.

Digital

1

Culture

1

Enterprise

9

Education

1

Government

16

Polling

10

The United States takes the top spot of the 2016 Soft Power 30, beating out last year’s first-place finisher, the United Kingdom. America topping the rankings this year is perhaps a strange juxtaposition to Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, currently threatening to tear up long-held, bi-partisan principles of American foreign policy – like ending the US’s stated commitment to nuclear non-proliferation. On the other hand, President Obama’s final year as Commander-in-Chief has been a busy one for diplomatic initiatives. The President managed to complete his long-sought Iran Nuclear Deal, made progress on negotiating free trade agreements with partners across the Oceans Atlantic and Pacific, and re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba after decades of trying to isolate the Communist Caribbean Island. These major soft power plays have paid dividends for perceptions of the US abroad, as it finished higher in the international polling this year, compared to 2015. Perhaps not dragged down as much by attitudes to its foreign policy, the US’s major pillars of soft power have been free to shine, as measured in our Digital, Education, and Culture sub-indices. The US is home to the biggest digital platforms in the world, including Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, and the US State Department sets the global pace on digital diplomacy. Likewise, the US maintains its top ranking in the Culture and Education sub-indices this year. The US welcomed over 74 million international tourists last year, many of whom are attracted by America’s cultural outputs that are seemingly omnipresent around the globe. In terms of education, the US has more universities in the global top 200 than any other country in the world, which allows it to attract more international students than any other country – by some margin as well.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Home to many of the biggest tech brands in the world, the US is the global leader in digital technology and innovation. The Obama Administration and State Department developed the theory and practice of online-driven campaigning and ‘digital diplomacy’. The way the US has developed and leveraged digital diplomacy, gives the nation a significant soft power boost.
Weaknesses
It’s not just foreign policy that can drag down the image of America. Regular news stories of police brutality, racial tension, gun violence, and a high homicide rate (compared to other developed countries) all remind the world that America has its faults on the home front too. Speaking of which, the forthcoming Presidential election will have leaders in a lot of world capitals nervous at prospect of a Trump presidency.
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In truth, making any substantive recommendation before the results of November’s Presidential election are known would be an academic exercise. The two possible paths for US foreign policy under a President Clinton or President Trump are so widely divergent that one can only wait to see how the American electorate vote. In the meantime, President Obama’s recent diplomatic successes have been a boon for US soft power. If he can continue to build bridges and foster greater economic and political cooperation across the Atlantic and Pacific, he will leave office having re-established the US as the world’s preeminent Soft Power. This would certainly allow for a future Clinton Administration to hit the ground running on US foreign policy priorities.

Digital

12

Culture

10

Enterprise

4

Education

12

Government

17

Polling

6

In this second iteration of the Soft Power 30, Japan improved on its already high standing, rising to 7th. It continues to be known for its efficiency in the private sector as well as in the public: Japan’s competitiveness remains among the highest of the countries surveyed, and its governance has been shown to be effective. Japan has history on its side – it was one of the first countries in the region to integrate into the international system, and was the first Asian economy to experience a massive economic boom. This international notoriety, paired with its reputation for excellence, provides Japan with significant soft power on the global stage. It is one of the most widely represented states diplomatically, with embassies in 144 countries. Interestingly, though known as one of the most high-tech countries in the world, Japan does not count among its strengths digital diplomacy, having low digital engagement by its Premier and Foreign Minister. Indeed, Japan does not seem to focus too heavily on public diplomacy, as it has very few cultural missions abroad. Yet this does not do extensive damage to Japan’s soft power, as it continues to play an integral role in many international organisations and to be viewed favourably by the majority of global public opinion.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Aside from Japan’s well-recognised economic competitiveness, its cultural exports are one of its main strengths. Japan hosted 13 million visitors in last year. Japan also has a hugely popular music industry (J-Pop), which is appreciated throughout Asia. Its culture is so effectively exported globally that the government itself puts little effort into cultural promotion.
Weaknesses
Where Japan’s soft power falls short is in its relations with neighbouring countries China and South Korea, both of which scored Japan very low in our international polling. Japan would do well to take a leaf out of Germany’s book in its approach to strengthening regional relations.
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Japan has performed well across the board in both iterations of the Soft Power 30, yet it mustn't become complacent in its position. With regional rivals competing for global influence, Japan’s soft power will be of utmost importance in the coming years. Improvements in the education sector and official public diplomacy can help preserve Japan’s soft power and cement its position as a regional and global power.

Digital

14

Culture

6

Enterprise

25

Education

16

Government

19

Polling

12

Despite some significant domestic challenges – both economic and political – Spain’s soft power is on the rise. The Iberian nation moves two places up to 12th from last year’s placing on the Soft Power 30. From the onset of the global financial crisis, Spain’s economic challenges have been well documented. The knock-on effects of the collapse in house-prices and high youth unemployment has affected the wellbeing of Spanish society. This hasn’t been helped by the more recent political situation, with ongoing deadlock over the formation of a government since the election of December 2015, and a question mark over Catalonia’s future in the Kingdom. But these concerns do not appear to have weighed on the country’s soft power. Millions from around Europe and further afield still enjoy the appeal of Spain’s wonderful culture, cuisine, creativity, and climate. In 2014, Spain welcomed 65 million international visitors and it was second only to the US in total tourism earnings, suggesting when people come to Spain, they stay for a while and spend generously.

Country Analysis

Strengths
It is of little surprise that Spain scores highest for its culture. Just ahead of its Mediterranean rival Italy, Spain comes 6th which accounts for much of its strength when assessing the country’s overall score. What is more surprising is that Spain ranks equally high for its Engagement. This is helped by the country’s diplomatic network and contribution to global development and engagement. Despite its well documented domestic issues, Spain is still a major soft power internationally.
Weaknesses
With the current political deadlock which followed the 2015 election, Spain has slipped two places to 19 based on its Government scoring. This is to be expected and ongoing questions over Catalan independence will not have helped. Spain still lags behind on its enterprise scoring. It has slipped four places on last year’s ranking, suggesting it has more to do to provide a better environment for those who wish to do business in the country.
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The picture for Spain’s soft power seems clear. Its cultural status is amongst the very best in the world and that would seem solid for the future. What is less certain is the nation’s ability to provide a globally-attractive business environment, which is far from matching its cultural strength. Spain clearly does well in engaging with people across the world, but it needs to provide a clearer path to convert this into economic benefit.

Digital

8

Culture

21

Enterprise

8

Education

13

Government

3

Polling

8

With its exceptional governance structure, growing international recognition through television programmes like The Bridge, and unrivalled landscapes, Sweden once again leads its Nordic neighbours in terms of soft power. So much so that it came out on top in the latest edition of the Good Country Index. Well known for its education and welfare systems and achievements in social and gender equality, Sweden is often seen as having only mastered the less exciting aspects of soft power. But it is also making strides in innovation and technology, becoming the world’s second most prolific tech hub on a per capita basis behind Silicon Valley, thanks to the massive success of Spotify and Skype. The fact that Sweden is now seen as a model child for European innovation is testament to its reputation for thinking globally from the outset. However despite its overwhelming strengths, Sweden hasn’t been immune to the impact of Europe’s refugee crisis. Arguably one of the most open countries in the world – ranking fourth in the number of asylum seekers it accepts – Sweden has been overwhelmed by the volume of refugees and migrants arriving into Europe. Sweden’s open approach to welcoming refugees has left the government unsure how to respond to the influx, and these recent challenges indicate that while Sweden remains an economic pillar of strength, cracks are beginning to appear politically.

Country Analysis

Strengths
The Nordic model has proved successful for Sweden and it continues to enjoy a top three ranking in the Government sub-index, outranked only by Norway and Switzerland.
Weaknesses
There are few areas where Sweden underperforms, but no stand-out weaknesses. However, Sweden has fallen back in the Culture sub-index, slipping three places from last year. Despite seeing strong growth in tourist arrivals in 2015, Sweden has a long way to go before attracting the same numbers as other European countries.
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Sweden is deserving of its Top 10 ranking and has quite rightly been admired around the world for decades. But Sweden shouldn’t rest on its laurels when dealing with new and unexpected challenges. Sweden’s egalitarian approach to refugees is admirable but the crisis has showed that the nation is capable of misjudging the gravity of situations. As global leader in dealing with asylum seekers, the world will be looking to solutions from Sweden. Can they be found?

Digital

11

Culture

14

Enterprise

27

Education

20

Government

30

Polling

30

With its annual military parades and occasional encroachments into European air and naval space, soft power might not spring to mind when thinking about the Russian Federation, a new entry to this year’s rankings. However, since the mid-2000s, an enormous emphasis has been placed on enhancing Russia’s image at home and abroad. Despite setbacks due to the ongoing skirmish surrounding Ukraine and Crimea, Russian state broadcasters manage to reach millions of viewers at home and millions more worldwide. State-owned channel RT now offers services in multiple languages giving it one of the largest audience bases of any global news broadcaster. Moreover, Russia has re-established itself as a diplomatic powerhouse taking a joint lead with the United States in seeking to negotiate a peace deal in Syria. Russia remains an economic force (albeit a currently shrinking one), with migrants from Central Asia and other parts of the former Soviet Union flocking to the country. With the help of these migrants, Russia is changing the face of many of its major cities, taking them from Post-Soviet style accommodation blocks to stylish business centres and new apartment buildings. Russia’s global cultural appeal draws in more than 29 million tourists annually. Whether it’s history, art, or literature, Russian culture is widely appreciated and studied. It is also a key to why so many travel to this culturally rich nation. However, recent changes in domestic policies, specifically the anti-gay legislation introduced in 2013, has had damaging effects on Russia’s reputation in many countries.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Russia’s media engagement is world class. State-owned channel RT broadcasts across the globe in English, Spanish, Arabic, and Hindi to very high ratings, particularly in Europe and South America, and its YouTube channel was the first ever to receive over a billion hits. Russia is also very strong diplomatically and has taken the lead with other top powers in establishing dialogue to tackle issues of global security.
Weaknesses
Russia’s government is persistently hit by corruption scandals, most recently exemplified by the revelation of a state-sanctioned sport doping scandal. This in turn drives down trust in government and scares off potential investors. Discriminatory legislation against sexual and racial minorities is also a step in the wrong direction for Russia’s soft power.
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Russia would do well to remember that much of its current success stems from the outward looking policies of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Russia would benefit from turning away from isolationist policies and building on the dialogues it has established with other nations to re-assert itself as a reliable and open partner to the rest of the world.

Digital

10

Culture

12

Enterprise

20

Education

6

Government

4

Polling

16

The Netherlands has good reason to retain its rank in this year’s index. Admired for its welcoming spirit and tolerant society, it’s no wonder that the country holds significant soft power clout. This can be traced back to its strong government institutions, which have consistently upheld their citizen’s beliefs in progressive politics. The introduction of the Amsterdam Nachtburgemeester illustrates the willingness of the government to engage and support entrepreneurs, artists, and local communities for the good of all stakeholders. The result? A vibrant night-time economy and unique cultural identity that allow its capital Amsterdam to compete with cities such as London and New York to attract global talent, tourism, and investment. Home to five international courts, Europol and Eurojust, the country also has the title of legal capital of the world, making it a key destination for the legal and business communities. The Dutch education system is not only one of the cheapest in the western world, but also one of the most highly rated, creating an educated workforce and an irresistible draw for foreign students. Flexibility within the employment market is another key factor, with part-time work much more common than in other countries. Given the relatively small size of the country, the Netherlands has an impressively high score that matches its international outlook.

Country Analysis

Strengths
With a Master’s course setting you back just €1,984 a year, it’s easy to see why the country has no problems attracting Europe’s best and brightest to its universities, who come for the education and stay for the quality of life.
Weaknesses
No glaring weaknesses for the Netherlands, but with threats to the European project growing, there is a clear opportunity for the country to show the world what European values stand for. Moreover, the profile of Geert Wilders and the populism he represents doesn’t do much for Dutch Soft Power.
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The liberal, tolerant society that the Netherlands has cultivated matches the outlook of the increasingly powerful millennial generation. As they begin to assume positions of responsibility around the world, the Netherlands should look to leverage common positions to help form a broader consensus around progressive beliefs.

Digital

21

Culture

19

Enterprise

28

Education

30

Government

28

Polling

23

Having recently suspended its President Dilma Rousseff, who is currently facing an impeachment trial, Brazil has the world’s eyes watching to see if it can deliver a successful Olympic Games. For Brazilians, this may provide an opportunity to forget their worries for two weeks and do what they do best — party. For everyone else, however, the country is perceived as being on the brink of an economic and political disaster. International ratings agency Fitch recently downgraded Brazil’s debt to “junk” status. In addition, the Petrobras scandal has implicated more than one hundred people and become the largest corruption scandal in the history of Brazil. And all this before mentioning the Zika virus pandemic ravaging the country. In last year’s rankings, we said that Brazil would be among the most interesting countries to watch. With so many soft power assets, and a number of opportunities for development, Brazil could have easily climbed higher. But poor showings on the Government sub-index and weak scores for Education overshadowed Brazil’s strength in the Culture sub-index, where it shines with football, samba, and carnival. Brazil has therefore fallen to 24th position. The 5th most populous country in the world still ranks above the other BRICS nations. But one thing is for sure, a weaker Brazil is a key impediment to the agency of the developing countries.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Even though it’s been overshadowed by political and economic instability, you can’t ask for a better platform than hosting the Olympic Games. It certainly did a lot for London and Beijing.
Weaknesses
Unsurprisingly, Brazil scored poorly in the Government sub-index, which analyses trust in government, government effectiveness, and public safety. Additionally, perceptions of corruption and a rise in unemployment from 7 to 10 percent last year did the country no favours for attracting foreign investment.
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The old tag “Brazil is the country of the future... and always will be” epitomises the roller coaster that has been Brazil’s economy over recent years. The exotic country still benefits from a truly global profile and has excellent brand recognition. Nevertheless, Brazil remains a “country to watch” to see if it can triumph in its everlasting battle with corruption.

Digital

28

Culture

9

Enterprise

16

Education

28

Government

29

Polling

29

China once again makes the Soft Power 30. Despite the recent economic slowdown, the world’s most populous nation continues to flex its economic muscle on the world stage and reshape the international system, and rise up the soft power ranks. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) – the China-led rival to the Asian Development Bank – will hold its inaugural meeting in June, representing a milestone in China’s global engagement, revealing an emerging vision for a Chinese world order. For many countries, particularly in Africa and along the Silk Road Economic Belt, China’s economic and cultural impact is already being felt. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has increased his grip on the levers of power since taking office in 2012, and is regarded as the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. As China marked the 50th Anniversary of the Cultural Revolution this year, this development has caused some consternation amongst China watchers. Interference with Hong Kong’s jealously guarded political freedoms, and continued island building in the South China Sea, have made China’s neighbours in the region nervous. With one of the largest overseas populations, the Chinese diaspora is a source of both international cheerleaders and critics. Nonetheless, the Middle Kingdom is increasingly respected and admired globally (particularly outside of the West), as the ‘Beijing Consensus’ poses an alternative model of economic development for emerging-market countries seeking rapid economic growth. While lack of democracy and free press continue to negatively impact perceptions, there is no question that China will remain a draw for investors and visitors alike, as it assumes the position of a 21st Century super-power.

Country Analysis

Strengths
China’s history, cuisine, and increasingly its language, are important cultural soft power assets. When combined with its improved international engagement, there is a growing understanding of China’s global objectives and interests. These will be important strengths as more people look to China to play a constructive role in world affairs.
Weaknesses
China’s political system remains at odds with its economic strength. While the liberalization of the one-child policy has helped present a softer face to the world, political and press freedoms have moved in the opposite direction in recent years. These restrictions stifle enterprise while preventing the scrutiny the Chinese state so desperately requires. China’s leaders have made overt references to the concept of soft power in recent years, demonstrating its importance to Chinese policy makers. However, soft power cannot come from government alone.
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A more liberal approach to policy, including easing internet censorship, would have a positive knock-on effect on nearly all aspects of China’s soft power. Internationally, China has a way to go to prove it is a responsible world power. A negotiated settlement to the South China Sea dispute would help diffuse tensions with ASEAN member states, while a reduction in cyber-warfare would ease Western concerns about China’s growing international role.

Digital

24

Culture

7

Enterprise

26

Education

19

Government

23

Polling

2

Italy has moved up one place from 12th last year. Despite continued economic struggles, issues with government effectiveness, and corruption and a migrant crisis crashing at its borders, the land of Prada, pizza and Pavarotti is still loved by the world, coming second in our polling. People love the delicacies the country has to offer, its sleek cars, and cutting edge clothes. Since becoming Italy’s youngest Prime Minister ever in 2014, Matteo Renzi has been expected to pull his country out of Berlusconi’s bunga bunga bedlam. But while Italy welcomes the third most tourist arrivals in Europe and boasts the third largest economy in the Eurozone, the country is working towards more sustainable public finances and delivering more employment opportunities. What it lacks in pure economic strength though, it more than makes up for in culture. Italy boasts the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, exceptional museums and galleries, and a strong football culture, drawing in 48 million tourists annually.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Without question, Italy is a ‘cultural superpower’ that has set global trends for millennia, from Caesar to Gucci. Visit any major city or tiny paesino and stumble upon beautiful landscapes, impressive churches, and monuments.
Weaknesses
Internal political struggles and the global recession have had an enormous impact on Italy, and the country has struggled to recover. Young people in particular are under-educated and unemployed, the nation is straining to absorb a growing migrant crisis, and the government is lacking the means to address these issues, translating into low scores in the areas of economy and education.
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Italy’s recent present has struggled to live up to the glory of its rich past. But if the country can take a page out of the book of Prime Minister Renzi – a bold, innovative reformer – and play to its strengths, perhaps Italy can become a stronger, more well-rounded soft power.

Digital

20

Culture

15

Enterprise

2

Education

14

Government

2

Polling

3

Despite being one of few developed nations with a conscripted army, whose troops keep their arms at home, Switzerland has steadfastly maintained its neutrality. This multicultural nation has been actively involved in peace building efforts globally, having founded the International Committee of the Red Cross, one of the world’s biggest humanitarian organisations and three-time winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Switzerland is also home to some of the world’s most important organisations and institutions, including many UN offices, the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organisation and hosts both the European (UEFA) and international (FIFA) governing bodies of football. While the country may not be seen as the most exciting nation, it has a strong history of democratic rule and a robust economy. The proof is solidly in the pudding, as Switzerland ranks third in the international human development index and performs well in measures of gender equality, global competitiveness, and innovation.

Country Analysis

Strengths
If a transparent and effective government, widespread prosperity, and high levels of development aren’t enough, Switzerland boasts unbeatable mountains for winter sports, and is also responsible for giving the world fondue, raclette, Toblerone and Bircher muesli.
Weaknesses
Having such picturesque views and a harmonious, multicultural population must come at some price – and that price is high. Zurich and Geneva rank in the top five most expensive cities in the world and despite a generally high GDP per capita and low unemployment rate, income inequality remains a challenge.
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Switzerland claims the headquarters of the world’s leading scientific research facility, CERN - the same organisation known for pioneering the introduction of internet technology. Yet Switzerland struggles most with its digital capabilities, and is particularly lacking in digital diplomacy. In an increasingly digital world, Switzerland should take lessons from groups like CERN and utilise its technological resources to start engaging with global public through digital platforms.

Digital

2

Culture

8

Enterprise

11

Education

3

Government

9

Polling

1

We all like Canada – which, for a second year in a row, has maintained its position as the country people feel most favourably towards in the world. Canada’s soft power score reflects that of its people – diverse, polite, and generally impressive. It wouldn’t be possible to analyse Canada this year without mentioning heartthrob Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has won the world over with his politics as much as his looks. He utilised his opportunity at the World Economic Forum to promote feminism, and in line with the trustworthy perceptions of Canada, walked the walk by appointing a perfectly gender-balanced cabinet. But while people think fondly of Canada, their comfortable seat in the above average range might be overly solidified. It can also mean that they are unlikely to ‘wow’. Their predictability can be seen as a welcome anomaly in an otherwise turbulent world, but it can also be seen as overly complacent. Generally, beyond friendliness, they probably won’t blow you away, either with the bad or the good. But this fits honestly into their rhetoric: they’re not always trying to convince you that they’re the world’s greatest – Canadians are satisfied with just being them. A mind-set that is impossible not to admire.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Canada maintains its popular image with carefully calculated domestic and foreign policies, ensuring that even their worst mistakes are globally regarded as “not that bad”. In such an open environment, both with regards to landscape and political discourse, Canada’s strongest asset is its inclusion.
Weaknesses
Global engagement. With a small diplomatic network and few diplomatic cultural missions to speak of, Canadian soft power may be seen, but it’s not very heard.
Portland Recommends
Keeping an eye on Trudeau’s plans for Canada. If he can run the country with as much ease as he can explain Quantum computing, Canada would be in a strong position to start overtaking some of its competitors. The outcome of the US presidential elections in November will also have a profound impact on its friendly northern neighbours and will test whether Canada can stand its independent ground.

Digital

19

Culture

11

Enterprise

19

Education

10

Government

14

Polling

19

Belgium dropped one place this year to 18th. The bifurcated federal state has long been a centre of European and international activity, playing host to both the European Commission and NATO. Fittingly so, as the country has one foot in Germanic Europe and the other in Latin Europe. In the past year, however, the country has also increasingly become a hub of terrorist activity, with links made between Belgium-based suspects and attacks in Paris in November last year. Brussels, too, was rocked by a devastating act of terrorism in March in the deadliest terror attack in Belgium’s history. In spite of the unfortunate turn of events and subsequently critical press associated with the nation, people continue to think of it positively. Belgium’s polling score has increased since last year, proving that the general public will not be sucked in to media hype but instead cares more about Belgium’s abundant assets including Magritte, Stromae, and moules-frites.

Country Analysis

Strengths
For such a small nation, Belgium packs a cultural punch. Les français, say what you will, but pommes frites are a Belgian delicacy. So too is some of the best beer in the world, waffles, chocolate, and everyone’s favourite cartoon adventurer, Tintin.
Weaknesses
In theory, the Belgian government is a model of power-sharing consociationalism, dividing political and administrative functions between three regions. In practice, though, these divisions have often hindered cohesion and effectiveness, preventing the nation from reaching its full potential as a European leader. Some have pointed to Belgium’s division as a reason for security failures.
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Belgium is known as a country divided, not least for its complicated political system. But if Belgium’s national 'Red Devils' football team, made up of players from every region of the country, can collaborate and cooperate effectively, Belgium can do the same. Last year the team was named number one in FIFA’s world rankings; perhaps if the rest of the country follows suit, it can take the top place in next year’s Soft Power 30.

Digital

29

Culture

22

Enterprise

22

Education

25

Government

28

Polling

20

As the first European power to project itself and its language across the Atlantic, Portugal quickly became one of the world’s first superpowers, colonising countries in Africa, South America, and Asia. Fast-forward 600 years and Portugal continues to battle the effects of the 2008 financial crisis. With the election of Prime Minister Antonio Costa and the government’s backing from far-left parties, it appears that Portugal’s war over austerity economics is back. This issue, and many others, will not receive high-level engagement from government officials on social media, not least because Portugal ranked low on the Digital sub-index. Its head of state and other ministers have little to no presence on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. In fact, the government’s online services are far from being ideal and Portugal is still an exceptionally bureaucratic state. It might surprise you to see Portugal’s presence in the rankings, but the country’s tourism economy is booming. So much so that it gained a position from last year’s edition and the country is now ranked 21st overall. Offering the perfect mix of culture, cuisine and calor, visitors from all over the world journey to Porto, Lisbon, the Algarve, and the rolling plains of Alentejo to listen to fado music, drink Port wine and take in the Lusophone culture.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Portugal is considered one of the most peaceful and socially progressive nations in Europe. In 2001, the country was one of the very first to decriminalise the personal possession of all drugs and treat the problem as a public health issue. In addition, its distance from less stable regions of the world and its 3,000 hours of sunshine per year make tourism its primary soft power asset.
Weaknesses
Portugal's non-tourism based economy, though diversified, could stand to be more dynamic. After the 2011 bailout from the IMF, the country was Europe’s prize pupil when it came to implementing and keeping to austerity targets. It will be interesting to see how the new “anti-austerity coalition” of Antonio Costa plans to lead the country forward.
Portland Recommends
Portuguese is the 6th most spoken language in the world. Portugal should therefore use its soft power strengths of language and culture to further develop relations with Brazil and the Lusophone countries of Africa. Lisbon continues to hold real promise as a burgeoning centre of culture, creativity, and entrepreneurialism and the government should look to support and promote this.

Digital

17

Culture

13

Enterprise

13

Education

18

Government

10

Polling

18

2015 proved to be a testing year for Austria. Tensions over the refugee and migration crisis prompted an increasingly tough policy approach that culminated in the adoption of strict laws on asylum and fraught relations with other EU states. Domestically, the country saw the rising prominence of right-wing parties, who look set to profit off increasing social tensions and economic under performance. From an external perspective, these events have landed a blow to Austria’s glowing reputation as a stable, wealthy, and welcoming country. International media coverage over the course of the crisis has been less than favourable, with the U-turn on border controls and asylum caps negatively portrayed, especially when compared to Germany’s decision to welcome over one million migrants. The fact that this media narrative placed Austria on the same side as less liberal states in Eastern Europe has weakened Austria’s carefully honed image of being a good global citizen. Despite this undercurrent of instability, Austria still has much to be proud of: high living standards, robust political institutions, and persisting positive global perceptions of the country all contribute to what is still a strong global image. Its commitment to neutrality has helped it to become a centre for international diplomacy, with international organisations such as Organization for Security and Cooperation Europe, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, International Atomic Energy Agency and Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries basing their headquarters in the country.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Austria scores highly in polling with its high living standards setting it apart, even as compared to the rest of wealthy Northern Europe. And for good reason – Austria’s government structure is well-executed. The country has a small shadow economy as percentage of GDP, only outranked by the US and Switzerland, and high levels of press freedom, demonstrating the successes of the government.
Weaknesses
Austria’s U-turn on refugees is illustrative of shifting attitudes within the country towards external engagement. If this continues, the country’s strong diplomatic network will struggle to convince its peers of Austria’s commitment to being a positive force in the world.
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Austria needs to ensure that its reputation on the global stage doesn’t suffer as a result of the refugee crisis and political backlash. As the site of talks on the Syrian crisis, the Iranian nuclear deal and many others, Austria should look to highlight its positive contributions to global peace and security to counter negative media narratives.

Digital

22

Culture

23

Enterprise

24

Education

24

Government

21

Polling

27

Poland climbed one place this year, to 23rd. The Eastern European country underwent a number of changes in the past 12 months, which were reflected in its results. Following a year marked by a growing migrant crisis throughout Europe, Poland elected conservative Andrzej Duda of the Eurosceptic Law and Justice Party last May, beating out the incumbent in the closest presidential race in the country’s history. The new leader has taken an increasingly confrontational stance with its EU partners, rejecting Germany’s proposed quota system for taking in immigrants because of security fears. Poland’s increasingly strained relationship with the rest of Europe was widely reflected in polling, in which the country dropped to 27th. Despite this, Poland has unexpectedly improved across the Engagement and Culture sub-indices. Much of this can be attributed to Poland’s economic liberalisation policies and increasing membership in international organisations, which began in 2004 with its accession to the EU. It could also reflect gains made under the previous government. Nevertheless, Poland is now at risk of a constitutional crisis, slipping toward authoritarian rule.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Since joining the EU, more and more tourists across Europe and the rest of the world are getting a taste of all the cultural assets Poland has on offer. With a rich history, impressive architecture, and a wide range of outdoor activities made possible through the surrounding sea, mountains and forests, Poland welcomed 16 million tourists last year.
Weaknesses
The political change brought about with the 2015 election has had a marked effect on Poland. Whereas the country previously ranked high in government scores, media freedom has decreased in the past year, police surveillance powers have increased, and general security fears have reversed much of the liberalisation that had taken place in the past decade.
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While fears of terrorism are felt across much of the world, Poland’s approach to addressing security concerns seems to have harmed its international reputation. The country has numerous cultural assets, as evidenced by its strong showing in the Culture sub-index. Poland would benefit from better leveraging not just its cultural heritage, but also its contemporary cultural offering.

Digital

16

Culture

25

Enterprise

6

Education

7

Government

6

Polling

13

Denmark’s Soft Power ranking and score has taken a slight dip since 2015, but it still came in at a respectable 13th in this year’s index. For a country of only 5.7 million, it certainly punches above its weight in terms of soft power, and holds some of the highest standards of government and education which many other countries would want to emulate. Last year saw a change in Prime Minister with Lars Løkke Rasmussen taking up the reins for a second spell. Whilst it hasn’t thrown up the same level of political complexity as Denmark’s famous series Borgen, he does rely on a coalition to keep his centre-right Venstre party in power. Drops in ranking based on its Digital and Cultural scores have played a prominent role in the slight drop in this year’s index.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Aside from well-regarded design, Denmark’s architecture is also world-class. But it’s not all about the aesthetics. Together with most of its Nordic neighbours, Denmark ranks very highly in the Government category. It’s dropped one place to 6th but still has a score that most other countries would envy. Denmark has also shot up in the Education sub-index to 7th place, a significant improvement on 14th place in 2015. It could be that the country’s excellent system is gaining greater awareness globally.
Weaknesses
Denmark might well have come even higher in the index if they could find a way of improving their rather stubbornly low score on the Culture sub-index. Only five nations in the Soft Power 30 rank lower – and two of those are Nordic (Norway and Finland).
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Denmark can be proud of having a big profile for a relatively small country. There is little to worry about with its high scores for Education and Government. However, as with other Scandinavian countries, a low cultural score needs to be addressed. Denmark has a rich heritage and a hip, modern city scene, replete with cutting-edge design, but these strengths have not yet shown through in the index. With a bit more emphasis on their existing assets, Denmark stands to improve its marks.

Digital

9

Culture

29

Enterprise

12

Education

15

Government

1

Polling

14

Norway’s climb up the rankings this year reflects the strength of its society and government. With the collapse in global oil prices, the country faced a threat to its sovereign wealth fund. However, smart leadership and a prudent approach to investment have cemented Norway’s position as a leader in responsible capitalism. The economic and diplomatic clout that accompanies the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world cannot be underestimated; it owns on average 1.3% of every group listed on any stock market, meaning that the fund has become a powerful foreign policy tool in its own right. This increases both Norway’s hard and soft power status by enabling the country to exert some control over foreign companies, as well as providing an economic incentive for positive diplomatic engagement. Norway responded to the refugee crisis by donating $1.2 billion, which, according to the Oxfam “fair share” measure, meant that the country contributed 385% of its allocated portion of an $8.9 billion funding appeal for Syria made by the United Nations. This further shows how seriously the country takes its international responsibilities. All of this rests on the strong institutions of the Norwegian government. Their long-term approach to fostering an enterprise-friendly society with incredibly high living standards — helped by their oil wealth — means that they can afford to positively project their soft power around the world while remaining an attractive investment, migration, and tourism destination.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Coming in at number one on the UN Human Development Index, Norway’s citizens enjoy the highest living standards in the world. Not a bad attribute to be recognised for.
Weaknesses
Norway’s strength in the hydrocarbon sector could be considered a weakness. With its economy largely dependent on such a precarious industry, diversification must remain top of mind for the government.
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With strong scores across all other categories, Norway can afford to dedicate some resources to either promoting its existing cultural institutions, or more realistically, providing the necessary environment for youth and other sub-cultures to thrive and become cultural assets themselves.

Digital

13

Culture

26

Enterprise

10

Education

8

Government

5

Polling

15

Moving up in this year’s rankings to 13th place, Finland has shown once again that it is more than capable of holding its own against larger, better-known countries when it comes to soft power. But as the least visited of the Nordic countries, Finland still struggles to attract significant numbers in tourists. Nevertheless, a strong government, a tradition of diligence, and an innovative way of thinking help Finland to stand out from the rest. The Finnish government consistently scores highly in Freedom House rankings and is known for its admirably low rates of corruption. Government effectiveness, including strides towards gender equality, has created an environment of both economic dynamism and societal equity.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Finland’s political values and effective government are the foundations upon which the country’s soft power is built. Finns have an impressive ability of combining the practical and aesthetic, as evidenced by the government-sponsored ‘Baby box’. The programme has contributed to Finland having one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world and serves as just one example of how the government translates good design into better government public services.
Weaknesses
A small population means that Finland struggles to export its brand to the world en masse at the same level as its Nordic neighbours. With no major cultural ambassadors (save maybe Moomin!), Finland finds it difficult to generate interest and convince tourists that their country is worth boarding a Finnair jet.
Portland Recommends
The more digital buzz Finland can generate, the better. If the Finnish population, 92% of whom are online, promote the admirable institutions the country has to offer, the entire population stands to benefit. SITRA, the civil-government agency dedicated to creating a greener, more sustainable Finland, is a prime example of the kind of content Finns should be promoting to the world.

Digital

30

Culture

28

Enterprise

29

Education

23

Government

25

Polling

22

Greece has held steady on its position at 25th, a feat not insignificant considering the turmoil of the last two years. Following anti-austerity protests, the election of populist left-wing party Syriza, and the threat of Grexit, Greece has been on the front-line of the ongoing migrant crisis. But the nation has remained stoic and shown that even with limited resources, a resourceful country can achieve a lot. Hundreds of Greeks have opened their arms and their doors to refugees, with a volunteer group even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. And despite the recent volatility, Greece holds onto its rich past, which it demonstrates proudly throughout a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, delectable food, and drink, and a vast collection of Greek literature and philosophy read throughout the world. Although Greece continues to struggle economically, the Eurozone has recently agreed to another installment of its bailout loan to help ease its debt. This, combined with other pledges of debt relief, will for the time being allow Greece and the rest of Europe to turn their attention to addressing the plight of refugees on the continent and beyond.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Who doesn’t dream of a summer holiday in the Greek islands? Greece, unsurprisingly, performed well in international polling, and is generally considered an attractive place to visit, with good food, beautiful beaches, impressive landmarks and a generally rich culture. It’s also the birthplace of democracy, philosophy and western civilisation.
Weaknesses
Following a strong showing in the Digital sub-index last year, Greece has struggled to maintain its momentum, with limited government social media presence and fairly low internet saturation. The country also scored poorly in Enterprise. But Greece has had more pressing matters at hand, what with a protracted recession and budget deficit, further compounded by the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.
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The golden age of the ‘cradle of Western civilisation’ has passed, as the world’s first democracy struggles politically and economically. While a Grexit seemed imminent last year and many feared for the stability of Prime Minister Tsipras’ government, the Greeks have proven resilient and the world has taken notice. The country may not immediately be in a position to address its business and digital weaknesses, but as it recovers, Greece would benefit from a renewed effort to strengthen its digital assets and more effectively build its soft power brand online.

Digital

18

Culture

16

Enterprise

3

Education

21

Government

26

Polling

28

The birthplace of tech giant Samsung, South Korea dropped two places this year, coming in at 22nd. The East Asian nation hit its stride in the 1980s, becoming one of a group of East Asian “tigers” that took off following a series of economic – and eventually political – reforms. These changes laid the foundation for its eventual success, as the nation has exported its soft power through the likes of K-pop and a variety of digital innovations. Through its immense outputs, especially in the form of consumer electronics, South Korea performed particularly well in the Enterprise sub-index, coming in 3rd. Despite these strengths, the nation has struggled regionally. Bordering the unstable regime in Pyongyang, South Korea’s security remains a constant source of concern. This has translated in some cases to government weakness, but has also proven to be an opportunity for the nation to work diplomatically with China and the US to resolve crises on the Korean Peninsula. For the last ten years, South Korea has had high-level representation on the international level with Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary General. With his second term coming to an end this year, South Korea will have an opportunity to find new ways to amplify its soft power strengths.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Digital innovations drive the growth of business and cultural outputs in South Korea. Domestically, a large proportion of the population has access to the internet, mobile phones and broadband subscriptions. Despite the country’s relatively small size, global use of Korean products from the likes of LG, Hyundai and Kia is vast. In fact, Korean multinational conglomerate Samsung consistently produces the top-selling mobile phones in the world.
Weaknesses
South Korea saw little improvement in its polling score – standing at 49.95, the country ranks below neighbouring Japan and comes in at 27th overall. With a corruption scandal hitting former Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo last year, public confidence in the government suffered. It is somewhat unsurprising, then, that South Korea also struggled in the Government sub-index.
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When one thinks about South Korea, its combative cousin to the north, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea naturally comes to mind. Yet negotiations regarding the stalemated conflict between the two are often headed by superpowers China and the United States, overshadowing South Korea’s abilities to negotiate on its own behalf. South Korea must rely less heavily on the efforts of others and take a more assertive role in negotiations to prove its soft power strengths in its own right.

Digital

15

Culture

30

Enterprise

23

Education

27

Government

24

Polling

25

Hungary is one of only three new countries in this year’s Soft Power 30, debuting at 26. And it’s not difficult to see why. A nation of more than a thousand natural springs, 13 Nobel laureates, and the birthplace of impressive composers and performers (Franz Liszt, Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly to name a few), Hungary has an enormous amount to offer in terms of soft power. But it’s also been a challenging year for the Hungarians; one that has seen them thrust into the international limelight, and not always for the right reasons. The world waited with baited breath as Prime Minister Viktor Orban responded to Europe’s refugee crisis. His challenging of the EU quota plan and hard-line stance against migration saw his approval ratings skyrocket domestically, but earned the leader few friends internationally. Only time will tell if Orban’s continued defiance and criticism of many western governments will have a lasting effect on Hungary’s soft power standing.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Digital. While Hungary doesn’t perform exceptionally well in terms of digital infrastructure, its government has a solid social media presence. In fact, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is in our top five for most engaged international followers on Facebook.
Weaknesses
Hungary is by no means lacking in culture, with a rich history shining through in its architecture, music, and folk dance. Most impressive is that Hungarians have, per capita, one of the highest tallies of Olympic medals. But the nation scores lower than any other in our Culture sub-index. Hungarian culture deserves greater recognition and the government should be investing more to strengthen and promote these substantial assets.
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With international attention focused almost solely on Hungary’s increasingly strained relationship with European partners right now, it will need to work that little bit harder to be recognised for anything other than political strong-arming. The Foreign Minister and Prime Minister should leverage their success on social media to push Hungary’s cultural assets and draw global attention away from the nation’s less popular attributes.

Digital

7

Culture

5

Enterprise

5

Education

4

Government

11

Polling

4

Following a relatively unstable political period, which saw five prime ministers take the helm in as many years, it seems Australians have finally found a leader they support in Malcom Turnbull. But Turnbull’s more progressive views on climate change and same sex marriage have not yet managed to resonate on the international stage. Given another four years in power, Turnbull may be more successful in pushing his agenda and making a global name for himself. With Australians heading to the polls in July after Turnbull’s decision to call double dissolution, only time will tell if the leader is given the chance to translate his vision into reality. Stepping away from politics, Australia’s most significant movement this year was a massive jump in the Education sub-index, rising from 11th to 4th. Outperformed only by the US, UK and Canada, Australia’s impressive performance proves that the country remains a highly attractive and desirable destination for international students.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Australia continues to earn its moniker as the ‘Lucky Country’, and an improvement in its international polling score proves that the global community still admires its hospitality, culture, and flat whites and shiraz. Positive global perceptions have once again benefited Australia’s booming tourism sector, with the nation head and shoulders above the rest in terms of average spend per tourist.
Weaknesses
Australia may have come close to securing the Eurovision 2016 title, but the country has once again underperformed in the Engagement sub-index. The land Down Under mustn’t use its geographical isolation as an excuse for failing to compete with the likes of the US, UK, France, or even Canada in terms of diplomatic network and global reach.
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No Australian political duo has been more prolific and engaging on social media than Malcom Turnbull and Julie Bishop, but Australia has slipped slightly overall in the digital metric this year. While it’s clear that the government is making significant inroads in its digital diplomacy approach, it must continue to push this agenda across all departments to ensure its voice is heard abroad. Making strides in digital diplomacy may go some way in compensating for Australia’s comparatively small diplomatic footprint.

Digital

26

Culture

17

Enterprise

30

Education

29

Government

27

Polling

24

Riding the wave of a politically momentous year, Argentina just breaks into the Soft Power 30. The election of right wing Mauricio Macri marked an end to 12 years of Presidents Kirchner, and gave an immediate boost to the perceptions of Argentina, a trend reflected in the nation’s significant improvement in international polling. Promising to implement a compelling reform plan and reinvigorate Argentinian politics, the former Buenos Aires mayor is living up to President Obama’s prediction that “Argentina under Macri is poised to play a more influential role on the global stage”. Argentina has done well to become the only other Latin American country in the index, and with Brazil falling slightly this year, it is quickly becoming one of the region’s soft power exemplars.

Country Analysis

Strengths
President Macri is a politician with broad domestic and global appeal, backed by a well-cultivated social media presence. He was clever in encouraging enthusiastic young voters to spread his campaign messaging online, and has since become one of the most followed and engaged with world leaders on Facebook and Instagram.
Weaknesses
Argentina lags behind when it comes to its business and enterprise acumen, scoring at the bottom end of the WEF Competitiveness Index, Heritage Economic Freedom, and World Bank Ease of Doing Business metrics. The South American nation has a long way to go before competing with global enterprise powerhouses like Singapore or Switzerland. But things are looking up.
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Argentina under Macri managed to secure one of the most anticipated market comebacks in a decade – a sale of debt worth more than $16 billion – and if his ambitious policies are successful, he will return desperately needed foreign investment to Argentina. Only time will tell if the leader can overcome the many obstacles waiting for him, but Argentina should continue to focus on building investor excitement.

Digital

25

Culture

18

Enterprise

17

Education

22

Government

12

Polling

17

The Emerald Isle slipped one place to 20th this year, but it’s not all bad news for Ireland. The Irish charm stretches all four corners of the globe. From St Petersburg to Honolulu, one can find an Irish pub in any major city on the map and feel the same warm hospitality. But rest assured a pint of Guinness is not Ireland’s only soft power asset. Ireland has had a good year in terms of governance, and it’s no surprise that this is where the nation performs strongest. The world stood to attention when Ireland became the first country to legalise gay marriage by referendum, a decision many hailed as a revolution. And it continued to impress with Enda Kenny’s government introducing gender quotas to fill a record 35 seats in the Dáil with women. On the soft side, Ireland ticks all the boxes: a vibrant and welcoming culture, steadfast governance, and stunningly picturesque landscape.

Country Analysis

Strengths
With Dublin acting as European headquarters to some of the world’s biggest digital names – Google, Apple, LinkedIn to name a few – Ireland has carved a niche for itself in the enterprise sector, and continues to nurture a young, dynamic, and technically skilled workforce.
Weaknesses
Despite some positive stories on the domestic front, Ireland struggles with the unique challenge of being ambitious but small. Moreover, it’s still feeling the effects of the merge between its foreign affairs and trade ministries. Its low Engagement score reflects a relatively small diplomatic network.
Portland Recommends
Ireland faces an interesting challenge in pursuing a promising tech-based future while holding onto its old-world, Irish charm. The government should be thinking about ways to combine its rich culture with its technological assets so as to not sacrifice one for the other. Doing so will eliminate any doubt that Ireland isn’t forward thinking enough to be Europe’s digital hub.

Digital

6

Culture

24

Enterprise

1

Education

17

Government

22

Polling

21

2015 was a big year for Lion city-state, not least because Singapore jumped from 21st to 19th, breaking into the top 20. It was also the year that Singaporeans marked the 50th anniversary of their independence. But there was a poignant moment too; the way in which the population came together to mourn the death of their founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. Despite Lee’s passing, the government has proven more than capable of carrying on his legacy of remarkable transformation. Patriotic fervour was felt in full effect throughout the “SG50” events, which celebrated all that the “small” country has accomplished in a short period of time. And Singapore has numerous reasons to celebrate – it ranks top of the Enterprise sub-index, a testament to its successful transformation from underpopulated British colony to an independent economic force. With low unemployment, seemingly endless commercial incentives, and widespread economic freedoms, it is no surprise that Singapore has attracted significant international investment over the years. Its strategic location at the Strait of Malacca has further enabled Singapore to become a critical centre for business and global transport hub. The unity of the nation and the publicity it received in its half-century celebrations provide Singapore with a huge opportunity to build on this momentum and become a key player on the international stage – an opportunity that might bring up its soft power rank even higher next year.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Enterprise remains Singapore’s greatest strength. A city-state built on trade, Singapore has proven its sterling economic credentials. The government has made great strides in attracting foreign investment and facilitating business over its 50 year history, positioning the Lion City as a global commerce and finance hub. In fact, the World Bank has consistently rated the island nation the easiest place to do business in the world.
Weaknesses
While Singapore’s business sector is vibrant, it has struggled to translate its economic assets into strengths in other areas. The nation’s small size impedes a truly global diplomatic reach, which is most significantly felt in its poor showing in the Engagement sub-index. Considering its high levels of development, Singapore falls short diplomatically, both in terms of physical presence abroad and participation in international organisations and treaties.
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Singapore’s supremacy in trade and industry is undeniable. If the nation can mobilise the strengths it has developed over its short history and widen their scope, focusing on boosting their cultural and diplomatic influence, it would help to expand Singapore’s soft power. As a vibrant multicultural nation, the country has much to offer, from the hybrid delicacies at hawker centres to world-class tourist attractions, including the biggest rainforest zoo. Singaporeans need to share these delights with the rest of the world, proving once and for all that it is a destination in its own right, not just one of the best airports for an Asian stopover.

Digital

23

Culture

20

Enterprise

7

Education

11

Government

7

Polling

11

What a year for New Zealand. The highlight was undoubtedly securing another stunning Rugby World Cup victory, made even sweeter by the fact that it was Australia whom the All Blacks triumphed over. New Zealand’s position and size means that it can be overlooked in favour of its big brother, but the Kiwis are often far more politically and socially adventurous. Three years after becoming the first Oceanic country to legalise same-sex marriage, New Zealand has found the ideal balance between exploring new opportunities and remaining steadfastly confident in its history and identity. This attitude shone through during the country’s recent referendum to change the national flag and while change wasn’t implemented, the vote united the nation and proved that its people are willing to push boundaries and challenge conventional thinking. 2015 was also a spectacular year for New Zealand’s tourism industry, with visitor arrivals rising 11 percent and net migration rising 9 percent. Tourism New Zealand’s 100% Pure Campaign has been hugely effective in promoting the diversity in experiences the country has to offer and it’s unlikely that arrival numbers will fall anytime soon.

Country Analysis

Strengths
New Zealanders enjoy a healthy and vibrant democracy so it’s no surprise to see the country perform best in our Governance sub-index. Ranking in the global top five for the World Bank’s Voice and Accountability and Government Effectiveness indices, as well as the Economist Democracy Index, New Zealand may be small but it could teach many world powers a thing or two about good governance.
Weaknesses
The New Zealand government has struggled to engage an international audience on social media. A much stronger digital diplomacy approach, especially for Prime Minister John Key and Foreign Minister Murray McCully, is critical if New Zealand hopes to be recognised as a nation with more to contribute to the world.
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New Zealand’s fall to 29th in the Engagement sub-index, along with a slight dip in its international polling score, indicates that global recognition of New Zealand may be falling. It’s understandable that New Zealanders may be swept away by the beauty and isolation of their own oasis, but it’s important not to drop too far from the international radar. If Helen Clark is elected to replace Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary-General later this year, it will give New Zealand a much bigger voice on the world stage.

Digital

27

Culture

27

Enterprise

21

Education

26

Government

18

Polling

26

The Czech Republic was quick to get back on its feet after the Velvet Revolution of 1993, and is often heralded as the most stable of the post-Communist European states. Its industrialized economy consistently thwarts unemployment and shows the fastest growth rates in the EU—in late 2015, GDP growth was at 4.4%.But it has been a more tumultuous year for Czech social policies. As with much of Europe, it earned its most significant media coverage for resistance to immigration and pressure from Brussels to share the migration burden by meeting mandatory refugee quotas. In fact, it came under scrutiny from the UN for human rights violations committed through its asylum processing policy. As a small and fairly young nation, the Czech Republic makes a strong showing by placing in the Soft Power 30—but its position has slipped, and the likely lesson is that economic strength alone is not enough to drive global influence.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Economically, it is on the rise, with unemployment continuing to fall and no sign of stopping. The Czech Republic is effectively consolidating its status as a compact economic powerhouse of Mitteleuropa.
Weaknesses
Media coverage of the Czech Republic in the last year has cast the country in something of a negative light. And since Prague makes little attempt to engage with the rest of the world, either digitally or culturally (key government persons go without social media, and when was the last time you ate a koláče?), its polling numbers are likely a direct consequence of the sparsity of positive international coverage.
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The Czech Republic has recently begun the process of rebranding itself as “Czechia”, at the suggestion of PR advisors, but it doesn’t need a rebranding so much as it needs a branding. With its strong economy, central geographical position, and masses of tourists streaming to Prague every weekend, it’s well-positioned to assert itself further on the world stage, and to manifest its culture and politics. Czechia shouldn’t only be seen to speak up about immigration quotas.

Upward Mover

Downward Mover

No Mover

New Entry

Education 2016

SCORE

Digital

1

Culture

1

Enterprise

9

Education

1

Government

16

Polling

10

The United States takes the top spot of the 2016 Soft Power 30, beating out last year’s first-place finisher, the United Kingdom. America topping the rankings this year is perhaps a strange juxtaposition to Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, currently threatening to tear up long-held, bi-partisan principles of American foreign policy – like ending the US’s stated commitment to nuclear non-proliferation. On the other hand, President Obama’s final year as Commander-in-Chief has been a busy one for diplomatic initiatives. The President managed to complete his long-sought Iran Nuclear Deal, made progress on negotiating free trade agreements with partners across the Oceans Atlantic and Pacific, and re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba after decades of trying to isolate the Communist Caribbean Island. These major soft power plays have paid dividends for perceptions of the US abroad, as it finished higher in the international polling this year, compared to 2015. Perhaps not dragged down as much by attitudes to its foreign policy, the US’s major pillars of soft power have been free to shine, as measured in our Digital, Education, and Culture sub-indices. The US is home to the biggest digital platforms in the world, including Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, and the US State Department sets the global pace on digital diplomacy. Likewise, the US maintains its top ranking in the Culture and Education sub-indices this year. The US welcomed over 74 million international tourists last year, many of whom are attracted by America’s cultural outputs that are seemingly omnipresent around the globe. In terms of education, the US has more universities in the global top 200 than any other country in the world, which allows it to attract more international students than any other country – by some margin as well.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Home to many of the biggest tech brands in the world, the US is the global leader in digital technology and innovation. The Obama Administration and State Department developed the theory and practice of online-driven campaigning and ‘digital diplomacy’. The way the US has developed and leveraged digital diplomacy, gives the nation a significant soft power boost.
Weaknesses
It’s not just foreign policy that can drag down the image of America. Regular news stories of police brutality, racial tension, gun violence, and a high homicide rate (compared to other developed countries) all remind the world that America has its faults on the home front too. Speaking of which, the forthcoming Presidential election will have leaders in a lot of world capitals nervous at prospect of a Trump presidency.
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In truth, making any substantive recommendation before the results of November’s Presidential election are known would be an academic exercise. The two possible paths for US foreign policy under a President Clinton or President Trump are so widely divergent that one can only wait to see how the American electorate vote. In the meantime, President Obama’s recent diplomatic successes have been a boon for US soft power. If he can continue to build bridges and foster greater economic and political cooperation across the Atlantic and Pacific, he will leave office having re-established the US as the world’s preeminent Soft Power. This would certainly allow for a future Clinton Administration to hit the ground running on US foreign policy priorities.

Digital

3

Culture

2

Enterprise

14

Education

2

Government

13

Polling

5

Although beaten to the top spot in this year’s index, the UK continues to boast significant advantages in its soft power resources. These include the significant role that continues to be played by both state-backed assets (i.e. BBC World Service, DfID, FCO and British Council) and private assets and global brands (e.g. Burberry and British Airways). Additionally, the British Council, institutions like the British Museum, and the UK’s higher education system are all pillars of British soft power. The UK’s rich civil society and charitable sector further contribute to British soft power. Major global organisations that contribute to development, disaster relief, and human rights reforms like Oxfam, Save the Children, and Amnesty International are key components in the UK’s overall ability to contribute to the global good – whether through the state, private citizens, or a network of diverse actors. The UK’s unique and enviable position at the heart of a number of important global networks and multi-lateral organisations continues to confer a significant soft power advantage. As a member of the G-7, G-20, UN Security Council, European Union, and the Commonwealth, Britain has a seat at virtually every international table of consequence. No other country rivals the UK’s diverse range of memberships in the world’s most influential organisations. In this context, a risk exists that the UK’s considerable soft power clout would be significantly diminished should it vote to leave the European Union.

Country Analysis

Strengths
There is no dearth of soft power strengths in the UK’s assets, strong government, vibrant culture, considerable heritage and history, and strong digital capacity make the UK one of the most admired nations in the world. Over 1700 foreign correspondents are based in the UK, and with a dynamic media market of its own, London is global media capital.
Weaknesses
Brexit, the rise of UKIP, and increasingly incendiary rhetoric on immigration continue to send a message that the rest of the world is not welcome in the British Isles. While the Department for Business Innovation and Skills seeks foreign students in large numbers, the government’s immigration message suggests otherwise – much to the chagrin of British Universities.
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Britain goes to the polls to vote on its continued membership of the European Union in June, which leaves a huge question mark hanging over the future of British soft power. A move for the exit door would definitely set British global influence back by forfeiting its voice in European affairs. Barack Obama, Christine Lagarde, Kofi Annan, Hillary Clinton, and Justin Trudeau (to name a few), have all raised their concerns about Brexit. Of course, the issue is one for the British electorate to decide, but a post-Brexit Britain would certainly see a decline in its soft power stores.

Digital

2

Culture

8

Enterprise

11

Education

3

Government

9

Polling

1

We all like Canada – which, for a second year in a row, has maintained its position as the country people feel most favourably towards in the world. Canada’s soft power score reflects that of its people – diverse, polite, and generally impressive. It wouldn’t be possible to analyse Canada this year without mentioning heartthrob Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has won the world over with his politics as much as his looks. He utilised his opportunity at the World Economic Forum to promote feminism, and in line with the trustworthy perceptions of Canada, walked the walk by appointing a perfectly gender-balanced cabinet. But while people think fondly of Canada, their comfortable seat in the above average range might be overly solidified. It can also mean that they are unlikely to ‘wow’. Their predictability can be seen as a welcome anomaly in an otherwise turbulent world, but it can also be seen as overly complacent. Generally, beyond friendliness, they probably won’t blow you away, either with the bad or the good. But this fits honestly into their rhetoric: they’re not always trying to convince you that they’re the world’s greatest – Canadians are satisfied with just being them. A mind-set that is impossible not to admire.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Canada maintains its popular image with carefully calculated domestic and foreign policies, ensuring that even their worst mistakes are globally regarded as “not that bad”. In such an open environment, both with regards to landscape and political discourse, Canada’s strongest asset is its inclusion.
Weaknesses
Global engagement. With a small diplomatic network and few diplomatic cultural missions to speak of, Canadian soft power may be seen, but it’s not very heard.
Portland Recommends
Keeping an eye on Trudeau’s plans for Canada. If he can run the country with as much ease as he can explain Quantum computing, Canada would be in a strong position to start overtaking some of its competitors. The outcome of the US presidential elections in November will also have a profound impact on its friendly northern neighbours and will test whether Canada can stand its independent ground.

Digital

7

Culture

5

Enterprise

5

Education

4

Government

11

Polling

4

Following a relatively unstable political period, which saw five prime ministers take the helm in as many years, it seems Australians have finally found a leader they support in Malcom Turnbull. But Turnbull’s more progressive views on climate change and same sex marriage have not yet managed to resonate on the international stage. Given another four years in power, Turnbull may be more successful in pushing his agenda and making a global name for himself. With Australians heading to the polls in July after Turnbull’s decision to call double dissolution, only time will tell if the leader is given the chance to translate his vision into reality. Stepping away from politics, Australia’s most significant movement this year was a massive jump in the Education sub-index, rising from 11th to 4th. Outperformed only by the US, UK and Canada, Australia’s impressive performance proves that the country remains a highly attractive and desirable destination for international students.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Australia continues to earn its moniker as the ‘Lucky Country’, and an improvement in its international polling score proves that the global community still admires its hospitality, culture, and flat whites and shiraz. Positive global perceptions have once again benefited Australia’s booming tourism sector, with the nation head and shoulders above the rest in terms of average spend per tourist.
Weaknesses
Australia may have come close to securing the Eurovision 2016 title, but the country has once again underperformed in the Engagement sub-index. The land Down Under mustn’t use its geographical isolation as an excuse for failing to compete with the likes of the US, UK, France, or even Canada in terms of diplomatic network and global reach.
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No Australian political duo has been more prolific and engaging on social media than Malcom Turnbull and Julie Bishop, but Australia has slipped slightly overall in the digital metric this year. While it’s clear that the government is making significant inroads in its digital diplomacy approach, it must continue to push this agenda across all departments to ensure its voice is heard abroad. Making strides in digital diplomacy may go some way in compensating for Australia’s comparatively small diplomatic footprint.

Digital

4

Culture

4

Enterprise

15

Education

5

Government

8

Polling

7

What a difference a year makes. Last year, Portland concluded that the world would be ‘happy to see more German leadership’. And Germany has certainly taken the lead on one issue – the refugee crisis. A country that has historically been reluctant to take the driver’s seat on foreign policy issues, it seems to have finally put itself out front. But Angela Merkel, who only last year was labelled by the Economist as ‘the indispensable European’ for her bold and principled stance, now looks increasingly isolated as resistance to her ‘Wilkommenskultur’ grows. The rise of right-wing movements in a country that, for historical reasons, has resisted such ideals has not gone unnoticed, attracting a great deal of international attention. Germany’s drop from second to third is therefore not surprising. But it is hardly Germany alone – it joins a number of other European countries who have slipped in this year’s ranking. Germany has maintained strong scores, particularly in Engagement, Culture and Digital. The draws of a strong economy, and the comparatively low cost of living and vibrant culture in cities like Berlin, mean that foreigners are flocking to Germany. German language uptake is also on the rise – in 2015, some 15.5m people studied German, 4% more than five years ago. German ist wieder geil.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Germany hasn’t always been great at exporting its culture. Its European rivals, particularly the UK and France, have been more ambitious and successful at this. But this is changing. Among other things, the vibrant tech, art, and music scenes of cities like Berlin are drawing more and more young people to Germany – often from unexpected places and for much longer than just a weekend city break.
Weaknesses
The realities of dealing with the refugee crisis have necessitated complicated political manoeuvring, not least with Turkey. Likewise, conflicts with Hungary, Austria, and other Eastern European countries have been at times embittered. All in all, it has been a tough year for Germany, both domestically and internationally. Unfortunately no easy solutions appear in the offing.
Portland Recommends
German is hip again – with language uptake on the rise, now is the time for a concerted push to export Germany’s cultural assets – from design, to film, to street style. We’ve had Scandi-cool, now it’s Germany’s time to shine.

Digital

10

Culture

12

Enterprise

20

Education

6

Government

4

Polling

16

The Netherlands has good reason to retain its rank in this year’s index. Admired for its welcoming spirit and tolerant society, it’s no wonder that the country holds significant soft power clout. This can be traced back to its strong government institutions, which have consistently upheld their citizen’s beliefs in progressive politics. The introduction of the Amsterdam Nachtburgemeester illustrates the willingness of the government to engage and support entrepreneurs, artists, and local communities for the good of all stakeholders. The result? A vibrant night-time economy and unique cultural identity that allow its capital Amsterdam to compete with cities such as London and New York to attract global talent, tourism, and investment. Home to five international courts, Europol and Eurojust, the country also has the title of legal capital of the world, making it a key destination for the legal and business communities. The Dutch education system is not only one of the cheapest in the western world, but also one of the most highly rated, creating an educated workforce and an irresistible draw for foreign students. Flexibility within the employment market is another key factor, with part-time work much more common than in other countries. Given the relatively small size of the country, the Netherlands has an impressively high score that matches its international outlook.

Country Analysis

Strengths
With a Master’s course setting you back just €1,984 a year, it’s easy to see why the country has no problems attracting Europe’s best and brightest to its universities, who come for the education and stay for the quality of life.
Weaknesses
No glaring weaknesses for the Netherlands, but with threats to the European project growing, there is a clear opportunity for the country to show the world what European values stand for. Moreover, the profile of Geert Wilders and the populism he represents doesn’t do much for Dutch Soft Power.
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The liberal, tolerant society that the Netherlands has cultivated matches the outlook of the increasingly powerful millennial generation. As they begin to assume positions of responsibility around the world, the Netherlands should look to leverage common positions to help form a broader consensus around progressive beliefs.

Digital

16

Culture

25

Enterprise

6

Education

7

Government

6

Polling

13

Denmark’s Soft Power ranking and score has taken a slight dip since 2015, but it still came in at a respectable 13th in this year’s index. For a country of only 5.7 million, it certainly punches above its weight in terms of soft power, and holds some of the highest standards of government and education which many other countries would want to emulate. Last year saw a change in Prime Minister with Lars Løkke Rasmussen taking up the reins for a second spell. Whilst it hasn’t thrown up the same level of political complexity as Denmark’s famous series Borgen, he does rely on a coalition to keep his centre-right Venstre party in power. Drops in ranking based on its Digital and Cultural scores have played a prominent role in the slight drop in this year’s index.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Aside from well-regarded design, Denmark’s architecture is also world-class. But it’s not all about the aesthetics. Together with most of its Nordic neighbours, Denmark ranks very highly in the Government category. It’s dropped one place to 6th but still has a score that most other countries would envy. Denmark has also shot up in the Education sub-index to 7th place, a significant improvement on 14th place in 2015. It could be that the country’s excellent system is gaining greater awareness globally.
Weaknesses
Denmark might well have come even higher in the index if they could find a way of improving their rather stubbornly low score on the Culture sub-index. Only five nations in the Soft Power 30 rank lower – and two of those are Nordic (Norway and Finland).
Portland Recommends
Denmark can be proud of having a big profile for a relatively small country. There is little to worry about with its high scores for Education and Government. However, as with other Scandinavian countries, a low cultural score needs to be addressed. Denmark has a rich heritage and a hip, modern city scene, replete with cutting-edge design, but these strengths have not yet shown through in the index. With a bit more emphasis on their existing assets, Denmark stands to improve its marks.

Digital

13

Culture

26

Enterprise

10

Education

8

Government

5

Polling

15

Moving up in this year’s rankings to 13th place, Finland has shown once again that it is more than capable of holding its own against larger, better-known countries when it comes to soft power. But as the least visited of the Nordic countries, Finland still struggles to attract significant numbers in tourists. Nevertheless, a strong government, a tradition of diligence, and an innovative way of thinking help Finland to stand out from the rest. The Finnish government consistently scores highly in Freedom House rankings and is known for its admirably low rates of corruption. Government effectiveness, including strides towards gender equality, has created an environment of both economic dynamism and societal equity.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Finland’s political values and effective government are the foundations upon which the country’s soft power is built. Finns have an impressive ability of combining the practical and aesthetic, as evidenced by the government-sponsored ‘Baby box’. The programme has contributed to Finland having one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world and serves as just one example of how the government translates good design into better government public services.
Weaknesses
A small population means that Finland struggles to export its brand to the world en masse at the same level as its Nordic neighbours. With no major cultural ambassadors (save maybe Moomin!), Finland finds it difficult to generate interest and convince tourists that their country is worth boarding a Finnair jet.
Portland Recommends
The more digital buzz Finland can generate, the better. If the Finnish population, 92% of whom are online, promote the admirable institutions the country has to offer, the entire population stands to benefit. SITRA, the civil-government agency dedicated to creating a greener, more sustainable Finland, is a prime example of the kind of content Finns should be promoting to the world.

Digital

5

Culture

3

Enterprise

18

Education

9

Government

15

Polling

9

With nearly 84 million tourists arriving annually, France maintains the title of the world’s most visited country. Yet while the strength of its cultural assets – the Louvre, its cuisine, the Riviera – have helped it hold onto this title, the country remains vulnerable. In the last year, France made headlines for the horrific terror attacks that shook its capital. Since the beginning of his mandate, President François Hollande has struggled to revitalise the French economy. Unemployment has risen steadily, and businesses are weary of France’s seemingly over-regulated and overprotective market. Its “new-blood” Minister of the Economy, Emmanuel Macron, is labouring to shake things up. His newly announced political movement, En Marche! (Forward) hopes to break party lines and revive the Eurozone’s second largest economy. Only time can tell if the initiative will pay dividends. Until then, France can still count on its unequalled diplomatic prowess to safeguard its position near the top of the Soft Power 30. It remains a global diplomatic force, asserting its presence through one of the most extensive Embassy networks.

Country Analysis

Strengths
France’s soft power strengths lie in a unique blend of culture and diplomacy. It enjoys, for historic reasons, links to territories across the planet, making it the only nation with 12 time zones. Its network of cultural institutions, linguistic union “la Francophonie” and network of embassies allow it to engage like no other. Its top rank in the Engagement sub-index comes as no surprise.
Weaknesses
France continues to struggle as a result of the global financial crisis and President Hollande’s failure to lift the nation’s economic competitiveness has delayed its full recovery. Germany’s economy, in comparison, makes France look in need of reform.
Portland Recommends
The standard Anglo-American remedy of liberalising economic policies sounds cliché, but it would help France on the Enterprise sub-index. A more economically dynamic France could unlock its full potential by leveraging its global footprint to establish itself as an even more attractive global partner.

Digital

19

Culture

11

Enterprise

19

Education

10

Government

14

Polling

19

Belgium dropped one place this year to 18th. The bifurcated federal state has long been a centre of European and international activity, playing host to both the European Commission and NATO. Fittingly so, as the country has one foot in Germanic Europe and the other in Latin Europe. In the past year, however, the country has also increasingly become a hub of terrorist activity, with links made between Belgium-based suspects and attacks in Paris in November last year. Brussels, too, was rocked by a devastating act of terrorism in March in the deadliest terror attack in Belgium’s history. In spite of the unfortunate turn of events and subsequently critical press associated with the nation, people continue to think of it positively. Belgium’s polling score has increased since last year, proving that the general public will not be sucked in to media hype but instead cares more about Belgium’s abundant assets including Magritte, Stromae, and moules-frites.

Country Analysis

Strengths
For such a small nation, Belgium packs a cultural punch. Les français, say what you will, but pommes frites are a Belgian delicacy. So too is some of the best beer in the world, waffles, chocolate, and everyone’s favourite cartoon adventurer, Tintin.
Weaknesses
In theory, the Belgian government is a model of power-sharing consociationalism, dividing political and administrative functions between three regions. In practice, though, these divisions have often hindered cohesion and effectiveness, preventing the nation from reaching its full potential as a European leader. Some have pointed to Belgium’s division as a reason for security failures.
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Belgium is known as a country divided, not least for its complicated political system. But if Belgium’s national 'Red Devils' football team, made up of players from every region of the country, can collaborate and cooperate effectively, Belgium can do the same. Last year the team was named number one in FIFA’s world rankings; perhaps if the rest of the country follows suit, it can take the top place in next year’s Soft Power 30.

Digital

23

Culture

20

Enterprise

7

Education

11

Government

7

Polling

11

What a year for New Zealand. The highlight was undoubtedly securing another stunning Rugby World Cup victory, made even sweeter by the fact that it was Australia whom the All Blacks triumphed over. New Zealand’s position and size means that it can be overlooked in favour of its big brother, but the Kiwis are often far more politically and socially adventurous. Three years after becoming the first Oceanic country to legalise same-sex marriage, New Zealand has found the ideal balance between exploring new opportunities and remaining steadfastly confident in its history and identity. This attitude shone through during the country’s recent referendum to change the national flag and while change wasn’t implemented, the vote united the nation and proved that its people are willing to push boundaries and challenge conventional thinking. 2015 was also a spectacular year for New Zealand’s tourism industry, with visitor arrivals rising 11 percent and net migration rising 9 percent. Tourism New Zealand’s 100% Pure Campaign has been hugely effective in promoting the diversity in experiences the country has to offer and it’s unlikely that arrival numbers will fall anytime soon.

Country Analysis

Strengths
New Zealanders enjoy a healthy and vibrant democracy so it’s no surprise to see the country perform best in our Governance sub-index. Ranking in the global top five for the World Bank’s Voice and Accountability and Government Effectiveness indices, as well as the Economist Democracy Index, New Zealand may be small but it could teach many world powers a thing or two about good governance.
Weaknesses
The New Zealand government has struggled to engage an international audience on social media. A much stronger digital diplomacy approach, especially for Prime Minister John Key and Foreign Minister Murray McCully, is critical if New Zealand hopes to be recognised as a nation with more to contribute to the world.
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New Zealand’s fall to 29th in the Engagement sub-index, along with a slight dip in its international polling score, indicates that global recognition of New Zealand may be falling. It’s understandable that New Zealanders may be swept away by the beauty and isolation of their own oasis, but it’s important not to drop too far from the international radar. If Helen Clark is elected to replace Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary-General later this year, it will give New Zealand a much bigger voice on the world stage.

Digital

12

Culture

10

Enterprise

4

Education

12

Government

17

Polling

6

In this second iteration of the Soft Power 30, Japan improved on its already high standing, rising to 7th. It continues to be known for its efficiency in the private sector as well as in the public: Japan’s competitiveness remains among the highest of the countries surveyed, and its governance has been shown to be effective. Japan has history on its side – it was one of the first countries in the region to integrate into the international system, and was the first Asian economy to experience a massive economic boom. This international notoriety, paired with its reputation for excellence, provides Japan with significant soft power on the global stage. It is one of the most widely represented states diplomatically, with embassies in 144 countries. Interestingly, though known as one of the most high-tech countries in the world, Japan does not count among its strengths digital diplomacy, having low digital engagement by its Premier and Foreign Minister. Indeed, Japan does not seem to focus too heavily on public diplomacy, as it has very few cultural missions abroad. Yet this does not do extensive damage to Japan’s soft power, as it continues to play an integral role in many international organisations and to be viewed favourably by the majority of global public opinion.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Aside from Japan’s well-recognised economic competitiveness, its cultural exports are one of its main strengths. Japan hosted 13 million visitors in last year. Japan also has a hugely popular music industry (J-Pop), which is appreciated throughout Asia. Its culture is so effectively exported globally that the government itself puts little effort into cultural promotion.
Weaknesses
Where Japan’s soft power falls short is in its relations with neighbouring countries China and South Korea, both of which scored Japan very low in our international polling. Japan would do well to take a leaf out of Germany’s book in its approach to strengthening regional relations.
Portland Recommends
Japan has performed well across the board in both iterations of the Soft Power 30, yet it mustn't become complacent in its position. With regional rivals competing for global influence, Japan’s soft power will be of utmost importance in the coming years. Improvements in the education sector and official public diplomacy can help preserve Japan’s soft power and cement its position as a regional and global power.

Digital

8

Culture

21

Enterprise

8

Education

13

Government

3

Polling

8

With its exceptional governance structure, growing international recognition through television programmes like The Bridge, and unrivalled landscapes, Sweden once again leads its Nordic neighbours in terms of soft power. So much so that it came out on top in the latest edition of the Good Country Index. Well known for its education and welfare systems and achievements in social and gender equality, Sweden is often seen as having only mastered the less exciting aspects of soft power. But it is also making strides in innovation and technology, becoming the world’s second most prolific tech hub on a per capita basis behind Silicon Valley, thanks to the massive success of Spotify and Skype. The fact that Sweden is now seen as a model child for European innovation is testament to its reputation for thinking globally from the outset. However despite its overwhelming strengths, Sweden hasn’t been immune to the impact of Europe’s refugee crisis. Arguably one of the most open countries in the world – ranking fourth in the number of asylum seekers it accepts – Sweden has been overwhelmed by the volume of refugees and migrants arriving into Europe. Sweden’s open approach to welcoming refugees has left the government unsure how to respond to the influx, and these recent challenges indicate that while Sweden remains an economic pillar of strength, cracks are beginning to appear politically.

Country Analysis

Strengths
The Nordic model has proved successful for Sweden and it continues to enjoy a top three ranking in the Government sub-index, outranked only by Norway and Switzerland.
Weaknesses
There are few areas where Sweden underperforms, but no stand-out weaknesses. However, Sweden has fallen back in the Culture sub-index, slipping three places from last year. Despite seeing strong growth in tourist arrivals in 2015, Sweden has a long way to go before attracting the same numbers as other European countries.
Portland Recommends
Sweden is deserving of its Top 10 ranking and has quite rightly been admired around the world for decades. But Sweden shouldn’t rest on its laurels when dealing with new and unexpected challenges. Sweden’s egalitarian approach to refugees is admirable but the crisis has showed that the nation is capable of misjudging the gravity of situations. As global leader in dealing with asylum seekers, the world will be looking to solutions from Sweden. Can they be found?

Digital

20

Culture

15

Enterprise

2

Education

14

Government

2

Polling

3

Despite being one of few developed nations with a conscripted army, whose troops keep their arms at home, Switzerland has steadfastly maintained its neutrality. This multicultural nation has been actively involved in peace building efforts globally, having founded the International Committee of the Red Cross, one of the world’s biggest humanitarian organisations and three-time winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Switzerland is also home to some of the world’s most important organisations and institutions, including many UN offices, the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organisation and hosts both the European (UEFA) and international (FIFA) governing bodies of football. While the country may not be seen as the most exciting nation, it has a strong history of democratic rule and a robust economy. The proof is solidly in the pudding, as Switzerland ranks third in the international human development index and performs well in measures of gender equality, global competitiveness, and innovation.

Country Analysis

Strengths
If a transparent and effective government, widespread prosperity, and high levels of development aren’t enough, Switzerland boasts unbeatable mountains for winter sports, and is also responsible for giving the world fondue, raclette, Toblerone and Bircher muesli.
Weaknesses
Having such picturesque views and a harmonious, multicultural population must come at some price – and that price is high. Zurich and Geneva rank in the top five most expensive cities in the world and despite a generally high GDP per capita and low unemployment rate, income inequality remains a challenge.
Portland Recommends
Switzerland claims the headquarters of the world’s leading scientific research facility, CERN - the same organisation known for pioneering the introduction of internet technology. Yet Switzerland struggles most with its digital capabilities, and is particularly lacking in digital diplomacy. In an increasingly digital world, Switzerland should take lessons from groups like CERN and utilise its technological resources to start engaging with global public through digital platforms.

Digital

9

Culture

29

Enterprise

12

Education

15

Government

1

Polling

14

Norway’s climb up the rankings this year reflects the strength of its society and government. With the collapse in global oil prices, the country faced a threat to its sovereign wealth fund. However, smart leadership and a prudent approach to investment have cemented Norway’s position as a leader in responsible capitalism. The economic and diplomatic clout that accompanies the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world cannot be underestimated; it owns on average 1.3% of every group listed on any stock market, meaning that the fund has become a powerful foreign policy tool in its own right. This increases both Norway’s hard and soft power status by enabling the country to exert some control over foreign companies, as well as providing an economic incentive for positive diplomatic engagement. Norway responded to the refugee crisis by donating $1.2 billion, which, according to the Oxfam “fair share” measure, meant that the country contributed 385% of its allocated portion of an $8.9 billion funding appeal for Syria made by the United Nations. This further shows how seriously the country takes its international responsibilities. All of this rests on the strong institutions of the Norwegian government. Their long-term approach to fostering an enterprise-friendly society with incredibly high living standards — helped by their oil wealth — means that they can afford to positively project their soft power around the world while remaining an attractive investment, migration, and tourism destination.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Coming in at number one on the UN Human Development Index, Norway’s citizens enjoy the highest living standards in the world. Not a bad attribute to be recognised for.
Weaknesses
Norway’s strength in the hydrocarbon sector could be considered a weakness. With its economy largely dependent on such a precarious industry, diversification must remain top of mind for the government.
Portland Recommends
With strong scores across all other categories, Norway can afford to dedicate some resources to either promoting its existing cultural institutions, or more realistically, providing the necessary environment for youth and other sub-cultures to thrive and become cultural assets themselves.

Digital

14

Culture

6

Enterprise

25

Education

16

Government

19

Polling

12

Despite some significant domestic challenges – both economic and political – Spain’s soft power is on the rise. The Iberian nation moves two places up to 12th from last year’s placing on the Soft Power 30. From the onset of the global financial crisis, Spain’s economic challenges have been well documented. The knock-on effects of the collapse in house-prices and high youth unemployment has affected the wellbeing of Spanish society. This hasn’t been helped by the more recent political situation, with ongoing deadlock over the formation of a government since the election of December 2015, and a question mark over Catalonia’s future in the Kingdom. But these concerns do not appear to have weighed on the country’s soft power. Millions from around Europe and further afield still enjoy the appeal of Spain’s wonderful culture, cuisine, creativity, and climate. In 2014, Spain welcomed 65 million international visitors and it was second only to the US in total tourism earnings, suggesting when people come to Spain, they stay for a while and spend generously.

Country Analysis

Strengths
It is of little surprise that Spain scores highest for its culture. Just ahead of its Mediterranean rival Italy, Spain comes 6th which accounts for much of its strength when assessing the country’s overall score. What is more surprising is that Spain ranks equally high for its Engagement. This is helped by the country’s diplomatic network and contribution to global development and engagement. Despite its well documented domestic issues, Spain is still a major soft power internationally.
Weaknesses
With the current political deadlock which followed the 2015 election, Spain has slipped two places to 19 based on its Government scoring. This is to be expected and ongoing questions over Catalan independence will not have helped. Spain still lags behind on its enterprise scoring. It has slipped four places on last year’s ranking, suggesting it has more to do to provide a better environment for those who wish to do business in the country.
Portland Recommends
The picture for Spain’s soft power seems clear. Its cultural status is amongst the very best in the world and that would seem solid for the future. What is less certain is the nation’s ability to provide a globally-attractive business environment, which is far from matching its cultural strength. Spain clearly does well in engaging with people across the world, but it needs to provide a clearer path to convert this into economic benefit.

Digital

6

Culture

24

Enterprise

1

Education

17

Government

22

Polling

21

2015 was a big year for Lion city-state, not least because Singapore jumped from 21st to 19th, breaking into the top 20. It was also the year that Singaporeans marked the 50th anniversary of their independence. But there was a poignant moment too; the way in which the population came together to mourn the death of their founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. Despite Lee’s passing, the government has proven more than capable of carrying on his legacy of remarkable transformation. Patriotic fervour was felt in full effect throughout the “SG50” events, which celebrated all that the “small” country has accomplished in a short period of time. And Singapore has numerous reasons to celebrate – it ranks top of the Enterprise sub-index, a testament to its successful transformation from underpopulated British colony to an independent economic force. With low unemployment, seemingly endless commercial incentives, and widespread economic freedoms, it is no surprise that Singapore has attracted significant international investment over the years. Its strategic location at the Strait of Malacca has further enabled Singapore to become a critical centre for business and global transport hub. The unity of the nation and the publicity it received in its half-century celebrations provide Singapore with a huge opportunity to build on this momentum and become a key player on the international stage – an opportunity that might bring up its soft power rank even higher next year.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Enterprise remains Singapore’s greatest strength. A city-state built on trade, Singapore has proven its sterling economic credentials. The government has made great strides in attracting foreign investment and facilitating business over its 50 year history, positioning the Lion City as a global commerce and finance hub. In fact, the World Bank has consistently rated the island nation the easiest place to do business in the world.
Weaknesses
While Singapore’s business sector is vibrant, it has struggled to translate its economic assets into strengths in other areas. The nation’s small size impedes a truly global diplomatic reach, which is most significantly felt in its poor showing in the Engagement sub-index. Considering its high levels of development, Singapore falls short diplomatically, both in terms of physical presence abroad and participation in international organisations and treaties.
Portland Recommends
Singapore’s supremacy in trade and industry is undeniable. If the nation can mobilise the strengths it has developed over its short history and widen their scope, focusing on boosting their cultural and diplomatic influence, it would help to expand Singapore’s soft power. As a vibrant multicultural nation, the country has much to offer, from the hybrid delicacies at hawker centres to world-class tourist attractions, including the biggest rainforest zoo. Singaporeans need to share these delights with the rest of the world, proving once and for all that it is a destination in its own right, not just one of the best airports for an Asian stopover.

Digital

17

Culture

13

Enterprise

13

Education

18

Government

10

Polling

18

2015 proved to be a testing year for Austria. Tensions over the refugee and migration crisis prompted an increasingly tough policy approach that culminated in the adoption of strict laws on asylum and fraught relations with other EU states. Domestically, the country saw the rising prominence of right-wing parties, who look set to profit off increasing social tensions and economic under performance. From an external perspective, these events have landed a blow to Austria’s glowing reputation as a stable, wealthy, and welcoming country. International media coverage over the course of the crisis has been less than favourable, with the U-turn on border controls and asylum caps negatively portrayed, especially when compared to Germany’s decision to welcome over one million migrants. The fact that this media narrative placed Austria on the same side as less liberal states in Eastern Europe has weakened Austria’s carefully honed image of being a good global citizen. Despite this undercurrent of instability, Austria still has much to be proud of: high living standards, robust political institutions, and persisting positive global perceptions of the country all contribute to what is still a strong global image. Its commitment to neutrality has helped it to become a centre for international diplomacy, with international organisations such as Organization for Security and Cooperation Europe, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, International Atomic Energy Agency and Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries basing their headquarters in the country.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Austria scores highly in polling with its high living standards setting it apart, even as compared to the rest of wealthy Northern Europe. And for good reason – Austria’s government structure is well-executed. The country has a small shadow economy as percentage of GDP, only outranked by the US and Switzerland, and high levels of press freedom, demonstrating the successes of the government.
Weaknesses
Austria’s U-turn on refugees is illustrative of shifting attitudes within the country towards external engagement. If this continues, the country’s strong diplomatic network will struggle to convince its peers of Austria’s commitment to being a positive force in the world.
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Austria needs to ensure that its reputation on the global stage doesn’t suffer as a result of the refugee crisis and political backlash. As the site of talks on the Syrian crisis, the Iranian nuclear deal and many others, Austria should look to highlight its positive contributions to global peace and security to counter negative media narratives.

Digital

24

Culture

7

Enterprise

26

Education

19

Government

23

Polling

2

Italy has moved up one place from 12th last year. Despite continued economic struggles, issues with government effectiveness, and corruption and a migrant crisis crashing at its borders, the land of Prada, pizza and Pavarotti is still loved by the world, coming second in our polling. People love the delicacies the country has to offer, its sleek cars, and cutting edge clothes. Since becoming Italy’s youngest Prime Minister ever in 2014, Matteo Renzi has been expected to pull his country out of Berlusconi’s bunga bunga bedlam. But while Italy welcomes the third most tourist arrivals in Europe and boasts the third largest economy in the Eurozone, the country is working towards more sustainable public finances and delivering more employment opportunities. What it lacks in pure economic strength though, it more than makes up for in culture. Italy boasts the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, exceptional museums and galleries, and a strong football culture, drawing in 48 million tourists annually.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Without question, Italy is a ‘cultural superpower’ that has set global trends for millennia, from Caesar to Gucci. Visit any major city or tiny paesino and stumble upon beautiful landscapes, impressive churches, and monuments.
Weaknesses
Internal political struggles and the global recession have had an enormous impact on Italy, and the country has struggled to recover. Young people in particular are under-educated and unemployed, the nation is straining to absorb a growing migrant crisis, and the government is lacking the means to address these issues, translating into low scores in the areas of economy and education.
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Italy’s recent present has struggled to live up to the glory of its rich past. But if the country can take a page out of the book of Prime Minister Renzi – a bold, innovative reformer – and play to its strengths, perhaps Italy can become a stronger, more well-rounded soft power.

Digital

11

Culture

14

Enterprise

27

Education

20

Government

30

Polling

30

With its annual military parades and occasional encroachments into European air and naval space, soft power might not spring to mind when thinking about the Russian Federation, a new entry to this year’s rankings. However, since the mid-2000s, an enormous emphasis has been placed on enhancing Russia’s image at home and abroad. Despite setbacks due to the ongoing skirmish surrounding Ukraine and Crimea, Russian state broadcasters manage to reach millions of viewers at home and millions more worldwide. State-owned channel RT now offers services in multiple languages giving it one of the largest audience bases of any global news broadcaster. Moreover, Russia has re-established itself as a diplomatic powerhouse taking a joint lead with the United States in seeking to negotiate a peace deal in Syria. Russia remains an economic force (albeit a currently shrinking one), with migrants from Central Asia and other parts of the former Soviet Union flocking to the country. With the help of these migrants, Russia is changing the face of many of its major cities, taking them from Post-Soviet style accommodation blocks to stylish business centres and new apartment buildings. Russia’s global cultural appeal draws in more than 29 million tourists annually. Whether it’s history, art, or literature, Russian culture is widely appreciated and studied. It is also a key to why so many travel to this culturally rich nation. However, recent changes in domestic policies, specifically the anti-gay legislation introduced in 2013, has had damaging effects on Russia’s reputation in many countries.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Russia’s media engagement is world class. State-owned channel RT broadcasts across the globe in English, Spanish, Arabic, and Hindi to very high ratings, particularly in Europe and South America, and its YouTube channel was the first ever to receive over a billion hits. Russia is also very strong diplomatically and has taken the lead with other top powers in establishing dialogue to tackle issues of global security.
Weaknesses
Russia’s government is persistently hit by corruption scandals, most recently exemplified by the revelation of a state-sanctioned sport doping scandal. This in turn drives down trust in government and scares off potential investors. Discriminatory legislation against sexual and racial minorities is also a step in the wrong direction for Russia’s soft power.
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Russia would do well to remember that much of its current success stems from the outward looking policies of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Russia would benefit from turning away from isolationist policies and building on the dialogues it has established with other nations to re-assert itself as a reliable and open partner to the rest of the world.

Digital

18

Culture

16

Enterprise

3

Education

21

Government

26

Polling

28

The birthplace of tech giant Samsung, South Korea dropped two places this year, coming in at 22nd. The East Asian nation hit its stride in the 1980s, becoming one of a group of East Asian “tigers” that took off following a series of economic – and eventually political – reforms. These changes laid the foundation for its eventual success, as the nation has exported its soft power through the likes of K-pop and a variety of digital innovations. Through its immense outputs, especially in the form of consumer electronics, South Korea performed particularly well in the Enterprise sub-index, coming in 3rd. Despite these strengths, the nation has struggled regionally. Bordering the unstable regime in Pyongyang, South Korea’s security remains a constant source of concern. This has translated in some cases to government weakness, but has also proven to be an opportunity for the nation to work diplomatically with China and the US to resolve crises on the Korean Peninsula. For the last ten years, South Korea has had high-level representation on the international level with Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary General. With his second term coming to an end this year, South Korea will have an opportunity to find new ways to amplify its soft power strengths.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Digital innovations drive the growth of business and cultural outputs in South Korea. Domestically, a large proportion of the population has access to the internet, mobile phones and broadband subscriptions. Despite the country’s relatively small size, global use of Korean products from the likes of LG, Hyundai and Kia is vast. In fact, Korean multinational conglomerate Samsung consistently produces the top-selling mobile phones in the world.
Weaknesses
South Korea saw little improvement in its polling score – standing at 49.95, the country ranks below neighbouring Japan and comes in at 27th overall. With a corruption scandal hitting former Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo last year, public confidence in the government suffered. It is somewhat unsurprising, then, that South Korea also struggled in the Government sub-index.
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When one thinks about South Korea, its combative cousin to the north, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea naturally comes to mind. Yet negotiations regarding the stalemated conflict between the two are often headed by superpowers China and the United States, overshadowing South Korea’s abilities to negotiate on its own behalf. South Korea must rely less heavily on the efforts of others and take a more assertive role in negotiations to prove its soft power strengths in its own right.

Digital

25

Culture

18

Enterprise

17

Education

22

Government

12

Polling

17

The Emerald Isle slipped one place to 20th this year, but it’s not all bad news for Ireland. The Irish charm stretches all four corners of the globe. From St Petersburg to Honolulu, one can find an Irish pub in any major city on the map and feel the same warm hospitality. But rest assured a pint of Guinness is not Ireland’s only soft power asset. Ireland has had a good year in terms of governance, and it’s no surprise that this is where the nation performs strongest. The world stood to attention when Ireland became the first country to legalise gay marriage by referendum, a decision many hailed as a revolution. And it continued to impress with Enda Kenny’s government introducing gender quotas to fill a record 35 seats in the Dáil with women. On the soft side, Ireland ticks all the boxes: a vibrant and welcoming culture, steadfast governance, and stunningly picturesque landscape.

Country Analysis

Strengths
With Dublin acting as European headquarters to some of the world’s biggest digital names – Google, Apple, LinkedIn to name a few – Ireland has carved a niche for itself in the enterprise sector, and continues to nurture a young, dynamic, and technically skilled workforce.
Weaknesses
Despite some positive stories on the domestic front, Ireland struggles with the unique challenge of being ambitious but small. Moreover, it’s still feeling the effects of the merge between its foreign affairs and trade ministries. Its low Engagement score reflects a relatively small diplomatic network.
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Ireland faces an interesting challenge in pursuing a promising tech-based future while holding onto its old-world, Irish charm. The government should be thinking about ways to combine its rich culture with its technological assets so as to not sacrifice one for the other. Doing so will eliminate any doubt that Ireland isn’t forward thinking enough to be Europe’s digital hub.

Digital

30

Culture

28

Enterprise

29

Education

23

Government

25

Polling

22

Greece has held steady on its position at 25th, a feat not insignificant considering the turmoil of the last two years. Following anti-austerity protests, the election of populist left-wing party Syriza, and the threat of Grexit, Greece has been on the front-line of the ongoing migrant crisis. But the nation has remained stoic and shown that even with limited resources, a resourceful country can achieve a lot. Hundreds of Greeks have opened their arms and their doors to refugees, with a volunteer group even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. And despite the recent volatility, Greece holds onto its rich past, which it demonstrates proudly throughout a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, delectable food, and drink, and a vast collection of Greek literature and philosophy read throughout the world. Although Greece continues to struggle economically, the Eurozone has recently agreed to another installment of its bailout loan to help ease its debt. This, combined with other pledges of debt relief, will for the time being allow Greece and the rest of Europe to turn their attention to addressing the plight of refugees on the continent and beyond.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Who doesn’t dream of a summer holiday in the Greek islands? Greece, unsurprisingly, performed well in international polling, and is generally considered an attractive place to visit, with good food, beautiful beaches, impressive landmarks and a generally rich culture. It’s also the birthplace of democracy, philosophy and western civilisation.
Weaknesses
Following a strong showing in the Digital sub-index last year, Greece has struggled to maintain its momentum, with limited government social media presence and fairly low internet saturation. The country also scored poorly in Enterprise. But Greece has had more pressing matters at hand, what with a protracted recession and budget deficit, further compounded by the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.
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The golden age of the ‘cradle of Western civilisation’ has passed, as the world’s first democracy struggles politically and economically. While a Grexit seemed imminent last year and many feared for the stability of Prime Minister Tsipras’ government, the Greeks have proven resilient and the world has taken notice. The country may not immediately be in a position to address its business and digital weaknesses, but as it recovers, Greece would benefit from a renewed effort to strengthen its digital assets and more effectively build its soft power brand online.

Digital

22

Culture

23

Enterprise

24

Education

24

Government

21

Polling

27

Poland climbed one place this year, to 23rd. The Eastern European country underwent a number of changes in the past 12 months, which were reflected in its results. Following a year marked by a growing migrant crisis throughout Europe, Poland elected conservative Andrzej Duda of the Eurosceptic Law and Justice Party last May, beating out the incumbent in the closest presidential race in the country’s history. The new leader has taken an increasingly confrontational stance with its EU partners, rejecting Germany’s proposed quota system for taking in immigrants because of security fears. Poland’s increasingly strained relationship with the rest of Europe was widely reflected in polling, in which the country dropped to 27th. Despite this, Poland has unexpectedly improved across the Engagement and Culture sub-indices. Much of this can be attributed to Poland’s economic liberalisation policies and increasing membership in international organisations, which began in 2004 with its accession to the EU. It could also reflect gains made under the previous government. Nevertheless, Poland is now at risk of a constitutional crisis, slipping toward authoritarian rule.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Since joining the EU, more and more tourists across Europe and the rest of the world are getting a taste of all the cultural assets Poland has on offer. With a rich history, impressive architecture, and a wide range of outdoor activities made possible through the surrounding sea, mountains and forests, Poland welcomed 16 million tourists last year.
Weaknesses
The political change brought about with the 2015 election has had a marked effect on Poland. Whereas the country previously ranked high in government scores, media freedom has decreased in the past year, police surveillance powers have increased, and general security fears have reversed much of the liberalisation that had taken place in the past decade.
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While fears of terrorism are felt across much of the world, Poland’s approach to addressing security concerns seems to have harmed its international reputation. The country has numerous cultural assets, as evidenced by its strong showing in the Culture sub-index. Poland would benefit from better leveraging not just its cultural heritage, but also its contemporary cultural offering.

Digital

29

Culture

22

Enterprise

22

Education

25

Government

28

Polling

20

As the first European power to project itself and its language across the Atlantic, Portugal quickly became one of the world’s first superpowers, colonising countries in Africa, South America, and Asia. Fast-forward 600 years and Portugal continues to battle the effects of the 2008 financial crisis. With the election of Prime Minister Antonio Costa and the government’s backing from far-left parties, it appears that Portugal’s war over austerity economics is back. This issue, and many others, will not receive high-level engagement from government officials on social media, not least because Portugal ranked low on the Digital sub-index. Its head of state and other ministers have little to no presence on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. In fact, the government’s online services are far from being ideal and Portugal is still an exceptionally bureaucratic state. It might surprise you to see Portugal’s presence in the rankings, but the country’s tourism economy is booming. So much so that it gained a position from last year’s edition and the country is now ranked 21st overall. Offering the perfect mix of culture, cuisine and calor, visitors from all over the world journey to Porto, Lisbon, the Algarve, and the rolling plains of Alentejo to listen to fado music, drink Port wine and take in the Lusophone culture.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Portugal is considered one of the most peaceful and socially progressive nations in Europe. In 2001, the country was one of the very first to decriminalise the personal possession of all drugs and treat the problem as a public health issue. In addition, its distance from less stable regions of the world and its 3,000 hours of sunshine per year make tourism its primary soft power asset.
Weaknesses
Portugal's non-tourism based economy, though diversified, could stand to be more dynamic. After the 2011 bailout from the IMF, the country was Europe’s prize pupil when it came to implementing and keeping to austerity targets. It will be interesting to see how the new “anti-austerity coalition” of Antonio Costa plans to lead the country forward.
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Portuguese is the 6th most spoken language in the world. Portugal should therefore use its soft power strengths of language and culture to further develop relations with Brazil and the Lusophone countries of Africa. Lisbon continues to hold real promise as a burgeoning centre of culture, creativity, and entrepreneurialism and the government should look to support and promote this.

Digital

27

Culture

27

Enterprise

21

Education

26

Government

18

Polling

26

The Czech Republic was quick to get back on its feet after the Velvet Revolution of 1993, and is often heralded as the most stable of the post-Communist European states. Its industrialized economy consistently thwarts unemployment and shows the fastest growth rates in the EU—in late 2015, GDP growth was at 4.4%.But it has been a more tumultuous year for Czech social policies. As with much of Europe, it earned its most significant media coverage for resistance to immigration and pressure from Brussels to share the migration burden by meeting mandatory refugee quotas. In fact, it came under scrutiny from the UN for human rights violations committed through its asylum processing policy. As a small and fairly young nation, the Czech Republic makes a strong showing by placing in the Soft Power 30—but its position has slipped, and the likely lesson is that economic strength alone is not enough to drive global influence.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Economically, it is on the rise, with unemployment continuing to fall and no sign of stopping. The Czech Republic is effectively consolidating its status as a compact economic powerhouse of Mitteleuropa.
Weaknesses
Media coverage of the Czech Republic in the last year has cast the country in something of a negative light. And since Prague makes little attempt to engage with the rest of the world, either digitally or culturally (key government persons go without social media, and when was the last time you ate a koláče?), its polling numbers are likely a direct consequence of the sparsity of positive international coverage.
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The Czech Republic has recently begun the process of rebranding itself as “Czechia”, at the suggestion of PR advisors, but it doesn’t need a rebranding so much as it needs a branding. With its strong economy, central geographical position, and masses of tourists streaming to Prague every weekend, it’s well-positioned to assert itself further on the world stage, and to manifest its culture and politics. Czechia shouldn’t only be seen to speak up about immigration quotas.

Digital

15

Culture

30

Enterprise

23

Education

27

Government

24

Polling

25

Hungary is one of only three new countries in this year’s Soft Power 30, debuting at 26. And it’s not difficult to see why. A nation of more than a thousand natural springs, 13 Nobel laureates, and the birthplace of impressive composers and performers (Franz Liszt, Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly to name a few), Hungary has an enormous amount to offer in terms of soft power. But it’s also been a challenging year for the Hungarians; one that has seen them thrust into the international limelight, and not always for the right reasons. The world waited with baited breath as Prime Minister Viktor Orban responded to Europe’s refugee crisis. His challenging of the EU quota plan and hard-line stance against migration saw his approval ratings skyrocket domestically, but earned the leader few friends internationally. Only time will tell if Orban’s continued defiance and criticism of many western governments will have a lasting effect on Hungary’s soft power standing.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Digital. While Hungary doesn’t perform exceptionally well in terms of digital infrastructure, its government has a solid social media presence. In fact, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is in our top five for most engaged international followers on Facebook.
Weaknesses
Hungary is by no means lacking in culture, with a rich history shining through in its architecture, music, and folk dance. Most impressive is that Hungarians have, per capita, one of the highest tallies of Olympic medals. But the nation scores lower than any other in our Culture sub-index. Hungarian culture deserves greater recognition and the government should be investing more to strengthen and promote these substantial assets.
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With international attention focused almost solely on Hungary’s increasingly strained relationship with European partners right now, it will need to work that little bit harder to be recognised for anything other than political strong-arming. The Foreign Minister and Prime Minister should leverage their success on social media to push Hungary’s cultural assets and draw global attention away from the nation’s less popular attributes.

Digital

28

Culture

9

Enterprise

16

Education

28

Government

29

Polling

29

China once again makes the Soft Power 30. Despite the recent economic slowdown, the world’s most populous nation continues to flex its economic muscle on the world stage and reshape the international system, and rise up the soft power ranks. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) – the China-led rival to the Asian Development Bank – will hold its inaugural meeting in June, representing a milestone in China’s global engagement, revealing an emerging vision for a Chinese world order. For many countries, particularly in Africa and along the Silk Road Economic Belt, China’s economic and cultural impact is already being felt. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has increased his grip on the levers of power since taking office in 2012, and is regarded as the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. As China marked the 50th Anniversary of the Cultural Revolution this year, this development has caused some consternation amongst China watchers. Interference with Hong Kong’s jealously guarded political freedoms, and continued island building in the South China Sea, have made China’s neighbours in the region nervous. With one of the largest overseas populations, the Chinese diaspora is a source of both international cheerleaders and critics. Nonetheless, the Middle Kingdom is increasingly respected and admired globally (particularly outside of the West), as the ‘Beijing Consensus’ poses an alternative model of economic development for emerging-market countries seeking rapid economic growth. While lack of democracy and free press continue to negatively impact perceptions, there is no question that China will remain a draw for investors and visitors alike, as it assumes the position of a 21st Century super-power.

Country Analysis

Strengths
China’s history, cuisine, and increasingly its language, are important cultural soft power assets. When combined with its improved international engagement, there is a growing understanding of China’s global objectives and interests. These will be important strengths as more people look to China to play a constructive role in world affairs.
Weaknesses
China’s political system remains at odds with its economic strength. While the liberalization of the one-child policy has helped present a softer face to the world, political and press freedoms have moved in the opposite direction in recent years. These restrictions stifle enterprise while preventing the scrutiny the Chinese state so desperately requires. China’s leaders have made overt references to the concept of soft power in recent years, demonstrating its importance to Chinese policy makers. However, soft power cannot come from government alone.
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A more liberal approach to policy, including easing internet censorship, would have a positive knock-on effect on nearly all aspects of China’s soft power. Internationally, China has a way to go to prove it is a responsible world power. A negotiated settlement to the South China Sea dispute would help diffuse tensions with ASEAN member states, while a reduction in cyber-warfare would ease Western concerns about China’s growing international role.

Digital

26

Culture

17

Enterprise

30

Education

29

Government

27

Polling

24

Riding the wave of a politically momentous year, Argentina just breaks into the Soft Power 30. The election of right wing Mauricio Macri marked an end to 12 years of Presidents Kirchner, and gave an immediate boost to the perceptions of Argentina, a trend reflected in the nation’s significant improvement in international polling. Promising to implement a compelling reform plan and reinvigorate Argentinian politics, the former Buenos Aires mayor is living up to President Obama’s prediction that “Argentina under Macri is poised to play a more influential role on the global stage”. Argentina has done well to become the only other Latin American country in the index, and with Brazil falling slightly this year, it is quickly becoming one of the region’s soft power exemplars.

Country Analysis

Strengths
President Macri is a politician with broad domestic and global appeal, backed by a well-cultivated social media presence. He was clever in encouraging enthusiastic young voters to spread his campaign messaging online, and has since become one of the most followed and engaged with world leaders on Facebook and Instagram.
Weaknesses
Argentina lags behind when it comes to its business and enterprise acumen, scoring at the bottom end of the WEF Competitiveness Index, Heritage Economic Freedom, and World Bank Ease of Doing Business metrics. The South American nation has a long way to go before competing with global enterprise powerhouses like Singapore or Switzerland. But things are looking up.
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Argentina under Macri managed to secure one of the most anticipated market comebacks in a decade – a sale of debt worth more than $16 billion – and if his ambitious policies are successful, he will return desperately needed foreign investment to Argentina. Only time will tell if the leader can overcome the many obstacles waiting for him, but Argentina should continue to focus on building investor excitement.

Digital

21

Culture

19

Enterprise

28

Education

30

Government

28

Polling

23

Having recently suspended its President Dilma Rousseff, who is currently facing an impeachment trial, Brazil has the world’s eyes watching to see if it can deliver a successful Olympic Games. For Brazilians, this may provide an opportunity to forget their worries for two weeks and do what they do best — party. For everyone else, however, the country is perceived as being on the brink of an economic and political disaster. International ratings agency Fitch recently downgraded Brazil’s debt to “junk” status. In addition, the Petrobras scandal has implicated more than one hundred people and become the largest corruption scandal in the history of Brazil. And all this before mentioning the Zika virus pandemic ravaging the country. In last year’s rankings, we said that Brazil would be among the most interesting countries to watch. With so many soft power assets, and a number of opportunities for development, Brazil could have easily climbed higher. But poor showings on the Government sub-index and weak scores for Education overshadowed Brazil’s strength in the Culture sub-index, where it shines with football, samba, and carnival. Brazil has therefore fallen to 24th position. The 5th most populous country in the world still ranks above the other BRICS nations. But one thing is for sure, a weaker Brazil is a key impediment to the agency of the developing countries.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Even though it’s been overshadowed by political and economic instability, you can’t ask for a better platform than hosting the Olympic Games. It certainly did a lot for London and Beijing.
Weaknesses
Unsurprisingly, Brazil scored poorly in the Government sub-index, which analyses trust in government, government effectiveness, and public safety. Additionally, perceptions of corruption and a rise in unemployment from 7 to 10 percent last year did the country no favours for attracting foreign investment.
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The old tag “Brazil is the country of the future... and always will be” epitomises the roller coaster that has been Brazil’s economy over recent years. The exotic country still benefits from a truly global profile and has excellent brand recognition. Nevertheless, Brazil remains a “country to watch” to see if it can triumph in its everlasting battle with corruption.

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Downward Mover

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Government 2016

SCORE

Digital

9

Culture

29

Enterprise

12

Education

15

Government

1

Polling

14

Norway’s climb up the rankings this year reflects the strength of its society and government. With the collapse in global oil prices, the country faced a threat to its sovereign wealth fund. However, smart leadership and a prudent approach to investment have cemented Norway’s position as a leader in responsible capitalism. The economic and diplomatic clout that accompanies the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world cannot be underestimated; it owns on average 1.3% of every group listed on any stock market, meaning that the fund has become a powerful foreign policy tool in its own right. This increases both Norway’s hard and soft power status by enabling the country to exert some control over foreign companies, as well as providing an economic incentive for positive diplomatic engagement. Norway responded to the refugee crisis by donating $1.2 billion, which, according to the Oxfam “fair share” measure, meant that the country contributed 385% of its allocated portion of an $8.9 billion funding appeal for Syria made by the United Nations. This further shows how seriously the country takes its international responsibilities. All of this rests on the strong institutions of the Norwegian government. Their long-term approach to fostering an enterprise-friendly society with incredibly high living standards — helped by their oil wealth — means that they can afford to positively project their soft power around the world while remaining an attractive investment, migration, and tourism destination.

Country Analysis

Strengths
Coming in at number one on the UN Human Development Index, Norway’s citizens enjoy the highest living standards in the world. Not a bad attribute to be recognised for.
Weaknesses
Norway’s strength in the hydrocarbon sector could be considered a weakness. With its economy largely dependent on such a precarious industry, diversification must remain top of mind for the government.
Portland Recommends
With strong scores across all other categories, Norway can afford to dedicate some resources to either promoting its existing cultural institutions, or more realistically, providing the necessary environment for youth and other sub-cultures to thrive and become cultural assets themselves.

Digital

20

Culture

15

Enterprise

2

Education

14

Government

2

Polling

3

Despite being one of few developed nations with a conscripted army, whose troops keep their arms at home, Switzerland has steadfastly maintained its neutrality. This multicultural nation has been actively involved in peace building efforts globally, having founded the International Committee of the Red Cross, one of the world’s biggest humanitarian organisations and three-time winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Switzerland is also home to some of the world’s most important organisations and institutions, including many UN offices, the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organisation and hosts both the European (UEFA) and international (FIFA) governing bodies of football. While the country may not be seen as the most exciting nation, it has a strong history of democratic rule and a robust economy. The proof is solidly in the pudding, as Switzerland ranks third in the international human development index and performs well in measures of gender equality, global competitiveness, and innovation.

Country Analysis

Strengths
If a transparent and effective government, widespread prosperity, and high levels of development aren’t enough, Switzerland boasts unbeatable mountains for winter sports, and is also responsible for giving the world fondue, raclette, Toblerone and Bircher muesli.
Weaknesses
Having such picturesque views and a harmonious, multicultural population must come at some price – and that price is high. Zurich and Geneva rank in the top five most expensive cities in the world and despite a generally high GDP per capita and low unemployment rate, income inequality remains a challenge.
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Switzerland claims the headquarters of the world’s leading scientific research facility, CERN - the same organisation known for pioneering the introduction of internet technology. Yet Switzerland struggles most with its digital capabilities, and