Soft power is a concept developed by Joseph Nye of Harvard University to describe the ability to attract and co-opt rather than coerce, use force or give money as a means of persuasion. Recently, the term has also been used in changing and influencing social and public opinion through relatively less transparent channels and lobbying through powerful political and non-political organizations. In 2012, Nye explained that with soft power, "the best propaganda is not propaganda", further explaining that during the Information Age, "credibility is the scarcest resource".
Nye coined the term in a 1990 book, Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power. He further developed the concept in his 2004 book, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. The term is now widely used in international affairs by analysts and statesmen. For example, in 2007, CPC General Secretary Hu Jintao told the 17th Communist Party Congress that China needed to increase its soft power, and the US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke of the need to enhance American soft power by "a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security – diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action and economic reconstruction and development." In 2010 Annette Lu, former vice-leader of the Taiwan (Republic of China), visited South Korea and advocated the ROC's use of soft power as a model for the resolution of international conflicts. General Wesley Clark, when discussing soft power, commented that "it gave us an influence far beyond the hard edge of traditional balance-of-power politics."
According to the 2014 Monocle Soft Power Survey, the USA currently hold the top spot in soft power, being followed by Germany in second place. The top ten is completed by the UK, Japan, France, Switzerland, Australia, Sweden, Denmark, and Canada.
- 1 Description
- 2 Making power soft
- 3 Limitations of the concept
- 4 Measurement
- 5 Academic debates
- 6 Examples
- 7 Relevance
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Joseph Nye introduced the concept of "soft power" in the late 1980s. For Nye, power is the ability to influence the behavior of others to get the outcomes you want. There are several ways one can achieve this: you can coerce them with threats; you can induce them with payments; or you can attract and co-opt them to want what you want. This soft power – getting others to want the outcomes you want – co-opts people rather than coerces them.
It can be contrasted with 'hard power', which is the use of coercion and payment. Soft power can be wielded not just by states but also by all actors in international politics, such as NGOs or international institutions. It is also considered the "second face of power" that indirectly allows you to obtain the outcomes you want. A country's soft power, according to Nye, rests on three resources: "its culture (in places where it is attractive to others), its political values (when it lives up to them at home and abroad), and its foreign policies (when others see them as legitimate and having moral authority)."
"A country may obtain the outcomes it wants in world politics because other countries – admiring its values, emulating its example, aspiring to its level of prosperity and openness – want to follow it. In this sense, it is also important to set the agenda and attract others in world politics, and not only to force them to change by threatening military force or economic sanctions. This soft power – getting others to want the outcomes that you want – co-opts people rather than coerces them."
Soft power resources are the assets that produce attraction which often leads to acquiescence. Nye asserts that, "Seduction is always more effective than coercion, and many values like democracy, human rights, and individual opportunities are deeply seductive." Angelo Codevilla observed that an often overlooked essential aspect of soft power is that different parts of populations are attracted or repelled by different things, ideas, images, or prospects. Soft power is hampered when policies, culture, or values repel others instead of attracting them.
In his book, Nye argues that soft power is a more difficult instrument for governments to wield than hard power for two reasons: many of its critical resources are outside the control of governments, and soft power tends to "work indirectly by shaping the environment for policy, and sometimes takes years to produce the desired outcomes." The book identifies three broad categories of soft power: "culture", "political values", and "policies."
In The Future of Power (2011), Nye reiterates that soft power is a descriptive, rather than a normative, concept. Therefore, soft power can be wielded for nefarious purposes. "Hitler, Stalin, and Mao all possessed a great deal of soft power in the eyes of their acolytes, but that did not make it good. It is not necessarily better to twist minds than to twist arms." Nye also claims that soft power does not contradict the international relations theory of realism. "Soft power is not a form of idealism or liberalism. It is simply a form of power, one way of getting desired outcomes."
Soft power has also been defined as the ability of a country to persuade others to do what it wants without force or coercion. The term is now widely invoked in foreign policy debates.
Making power soft
The primary currencies of soft power are an actor's values, culture, policies and institutions – and the extent to which these "primary currencies", as Nye calls them, are able to attract or repel other actors to "want what you want." In 2008, Nye applied the concepts of hard and soft power to individual leadership in The Powers to Lead.
Limitations of the concept
Soft power has been criticized as being ineffective by authors such as Niall Ferguson in the preface to Colossus. Neorealist and other rationalist and neorationalist authors (with the exception of Stephen Walt) dismiss soft power out of hand as they assert that actors in international relations respond to only two types of incentives: economic incentives and force.
As a concept, it can be difficult to distinguish between soft power from hard power. For example, Janice Bially Mattern argues that George W. Bush's use of the phrase "you are either with us or with the terrorists" was in fact an exercise of hard power. Though military and economic force was not used to pressure other states to join its coalition, a kind of force – representational force – was used. This kind of force threatens the identity of its partners, forcing them to comply or risk being labelled as evil. This being the case, soft power is therefore not so soft. However, rationalist authors[who?] would merely see this as an 'implied threat', and that direct economic or military sanctions would likely follow from being 'against us'.
English media company Monocle released its fourth annual Soft Power Survey in 2013, ranking nations according to their soft power; the amount of attractiveness and thus influence a country has within the world. Ranking nations according to their standard of government, diplomatic infrastructure, cultural output, capacity for education and appeal to business, the list is calculated using around 50 factors that indicate the use of soft power, including the number of cultural missions, Olympic medals, the quality of a country's architecture and business brands.
Soft power, then, represents the third behavioral way of getting the outcomes you want. Soft power is contrasted with hard power, which has historically been the predominant realist measure of national power, through quantitative metrics such as population size, concrete military assets, or a nation's gross domestic product. But having such resources does not always produce the desired outcomes, as the United States discovered in the Vietnam War. The extent of attraction can be measured by public opinion polls, by elite interviews, and case studies.
The first attempt to measure soft power through a composite index was created and published by the Institute for Government and Monocle. The IfG-Monocle Soft Power Index combined a range of statistical metrics and subjective panel scores to measure the soft power resources of 26 countries. The metrics were organized according to a framework of five sub-indices including culture, diplomacy, education, business/innovation, and government. The index is said to measure the soft power resources of countries, and does not translate directly into ability influence.
Nye argues that soft power is more than influence, since influence can also rest on the hard power of threats or payments. And soft power is more than just persuasion or the ability to move people by argument, though that is an important part of it. It is also the ability to attract, and attraction often leads to acquiescence.
In international relations, soft power is generated only in part by what the government does through its policies and public diplomacy. The generation of soft power is also affected in positive (and negative) ways by a host of non-state actors within and outside the country. Those actors affect both the general public and governing elites in other countries, and create an enabling or disabling environment for government policies.
In some cases, soft power enhances the probability of other elites adopting policies that allow one to achieve preferred outcomes. In other cases, where being seen as friendly to another country is seen as a local political kiss of death, the decline or absence of soft power will prevent a government from obtaining particular goals. But even in such instances, the interactions of civil societies and non-state actors may help to further general milieu goals such as democracy, liberty, and development. Soft power is not the possession of any one country or actor.
The success of soft power heavily depends on the actor's reputation within the international community, as well as the flow of information between actors. Thus, soft power is often associated with the rise of globalization and neoliberal international relations theory. Popular culture and mass media are regularly identified as a source of soft power, as is the spread of a national language or a particular set of normative structures; a nation with a large amount of soft power and the good will that engenders it inspire others to acculturate, avoiding the need for expensive hard power expenditures.
Because soft power has appeared as an alternative to raw power politics, it is often embraced by ethically-minded scholars and policymakers. But soft power is a descriptive rather than a normative concept. Like any form of power, it can be wielded for good or bad purposes. While soft power can be used with bad intentions and wreak horrible consequences, it differs in terms of means. It is on this dimension that one might construct a normative preference for greater use of soft power.
Academics have engaged in several debates around soft power. These have included:
- Its usefulness (Giulio Gallarotti, Niall Ferguson, Josef Joffe, Robert Kagan, Ken Waltz, Mearsheimer vs Nye, Katzenstein, Janice Bially Mattern, Jacques Hymans, Alexander Vuving, Jan Mellisen)
- How soft power and hard power interact (Giulio Gallarotti, Joseph Nye)
- Whether soft power can be coercive or manipulative, (Janice BIally Mattern, Katzenstein, Duvall & Barnet vs Nye, Vuving)
- How the relationship between structure and agency work (Hymans vs Nye)
- Whether soft balancing is occurring (Wohlforth & Brooks vs Walt et al.)
- Soft power and normative power in Europe (Ian Manners, A Ciambra, Thomas Diez, A Hyde Pryce, Richard Whitman)
- How civil resistance (i.e., non-violent forms of resistance) can often involve certain uses of soft power, but remains a distinct concept (Adam Roberts, Timothy Garton Ash)
Since the period of Pax Britannica the United Kingdom has held significant soft power. Today, it remains one of the most influential countries in the world, and came first in the Monocle survey of global soft power in 2012.
The UK has strong diplomatic relations with countries around the world, particularly countries in the Commonwealth of Nations and many others in Europe, Asia, the Middle-east, Africa and the United States. Diplomatic missions between Commonwealth countries are known as High Commissions rather than Embassies to indicate the closeness of the relationship. As a member of the European Union, the UK exerts influence both on countries within the Union, and on other countries around the world. The United Kingdom has one of the largest global networks of diplomatic missions. Many countries around the world use the British form of democracy and government known as the Westminster system.
The influence of British culture and brands is widespread, particularly notable during the period of British Invasion and more recently the Diamond Jubilee and 2012 Summer Olympics. The opening and closing ceremonies celebrated British culture and achievements with the world. London is the only city to have hosted the modern Olympics three times. British media is broadcast internationally, notably the BBC World Service, BBC World News and The Economist magazine. British film and literature have international appeal, and British theatre helps make London one of the most visited cities in the world. Schools and universities in Britain are popular destinations for students of other nations.
Alongside the English language, English contract law is the most important and most used contract law in international business. London is the headquarters for four of the world's six largest law firms. The UK and more specifically London is a centre of international finance where foreign participants in financial markets come to deal with one another. It is headquarters for major international corporations, many of which choose to be listed on the London Stock Exchange.
"Soft power has been a strong suit for the United States virtually from its inception – certainly long before the country became a recognized world power in the twentieth century. American 'exceptionalism' – the nation’s devotion to freedom, the rule of law, and the practice of republican government, its openness to immigrants of all races and religions, its opposition to traditional power politics and imperialism – has had a great deal to do with the rise of the United States to its currently dominant global role." 
The United States has long had a great deal of soft power. Examples include Franklin D. Roosevelt's four freedoms in Europe at the end of World War II, young people behind the Iron Curtain listening to radio Free Europe, Chinese students symbolizing their protests in Tiananmen Square by creating a replica of the Statue of Liberty that they called "Goddess of Democracy", newly liberated Afghans in 2001 asking for a copy of the Bill of Rights and young Iranians today surreptitiously watching banned American videos and satellite television broadcasts in the privacy of their homes. America's early commitment to religious toleration, for example, was a powerful element of its overall appeal to potential immigrants; and American aid in the reconstruction of Europe after World War II was an advertisement both of the prosperity and the generosity of the people of the United States.
Studies of American broadcasting into the Soviet bloc, and testimonials from Czech President Václav Havel, Polish President Lech Wałęsa, and Russian President Boris Yeltsin support that soft power efforts of the United States and its allies during the Cold War were ultimately successful in creating the favorable conditions that led to the collapse of the Soviet empire.
"Satellite TV is actively promoting American soft power in the Arab world in ways that the United States has been incapable of doing. The launch of the Arabic-language Alhurra satellite channel in early 2004 to provide news and entertainment in ways more beneficial to the U.S., marked an important turning point in U.S. public diplomacy development. Though it calls itself the largest Arabic-language news organization in the world, the Virginia-based Alhurra lacks the cachet and brand recognition of Al Jazeera, but its balanced presentation of news has earned it a small but significant viewership. Controversial innovations in radio broadcasting that target young mass audiences through a mix of light news and mild American popular music – Radio Sawa in Arabic and Radio Farda in Persian – have captured a substantial market share in their target regions."
Throughout the world
"The Pope won that struggle by transcending politics. His was what Joseph Nye calls "soft power" – the power of attraction and repulsion. He began with an enormous advantage, and exploited it to the utmost: He headed the one institution that stood for the polar opposite of the Communist way of life that the Polish people hated. He was a Pole, but beyond the regime’s reach. By identifying with him, Poles would have the chance to cleanse themselves of the compromises they had to make to live under the regime. And so they came to him by the millions. They listened. He told them to be good, not to compromise themselves, to stick by one another, to be fearless, and that God is the only source of goodness, the only standard of conduct. "Be not afraid," he said. Millions shouted in response, "We want God! We want God! We want God!" The regime cowered. Had the Pope chosen to turn his soft power into the hard variety, the regime might have been drowned in blood. Instead, the Pope simply led the Polish people to desert their rulers by affirming solidarity with one another. The Communists managed to hold on as despots a decade longer. But as political leaders, they were finished." 
Besides the Pope's visit, American broadcasting into Soviet-occupied Europe, particularly Poland, contributed to the rise of the Solidarity movement and to the collapse of the Soviet-backed regimes there and in the rest of the Warsaw Pact alliance.
The Soviets were the primary competitor to U.S. soft power throughout the Cold War. The Soviets were engaged in a broad campaign to convince the world of the attractiveness of its Communist system. In 1945, the Soviet Union was very effective in attracting many in Europe from its resistance to Hitler, and in colonized areas around the world because of its opposition to European imperialism. The Soviets also employed a substantially large public diplomacy program that included: promoting their high culture, broadcasting, disseminating disinformation about the West, and sponsoring nuclear protests, peace movements, and youth organizations. Despite all of this, the Soviets' closed system and lack of popular culture impeded the ability of the Soviet Union to compete with the U.S. in terms of soft power.
The most consistent competitor to the U.S. in terms of soft power resources remains to be Europe. European culture consisting of its art, literature, music, design, fashion, and even food have been global magnets for some time. Europe also competes with U.S. in promotion of human rights and international law throughout the world. Unlike America, the Europeans love of soccer enhances their soft power globally, whereas the primary sports of the U.S. such as football and baseball are largely unpopular on the world stage. In 2012, the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for over six decades [it has] contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe".
Asia and more recently China have been working to use the potential soft power assets that are present in the admiration of their ancient cultures, ares, fashion and cuisine. China is currently competing with the United States in areas of soft power by presenting itself as a defender of national sovereignty. This became an issue after the NATO air campaign to oust Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and NATO's support of the rebels in Libya. The Chinese are also competing with the United States to gain influence throughout the South Pacific, however some commentators have said their recent assertiveness in this region has created an appeal for nations in this region to align with the United States thus increasing U.S. soft power in this area.
The information age has also led to the rise of soft power resources for non-state actors. Primarily, through the use of global media, and to a greater extent the internet, non-state actors have been able to increase their soft power and put pressure on governments that can ultimately affect policy outcomes. Instead of front organizations, non-state actors can create cyber advocacy organizations  to recruit members and project their voice on the global stage.
China’s soft power in Africa
A spring 2014 Global Attitudes survey from Pew Research Center states China receives mostly positive reviews in the sub-Saharan African nations polled, although South Africans are closely divided (45% favorable, 40% unfavorable). China's increasing soft power can be explained by looking at China's economic growth and regarding economic engagement with many African countries. China's expansion of trade and investment on the African continent and the spread of Chinese-led infrastructure projects gives positive impression about China towards people in Africa. China's economic engagement in African countries is considered as much more pragmatic and in consistency with the priorities of many African countries. Moreover, China's increasing role as a global superpower seems appealing and this drives a desire to tie African economies more closely to China's economy.
China has made a systematic effort to expand and give greater profile to its soft-power policies in Africa ever since the first Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2000. The commitments of China's soft power ranges from health, humanitarian assistance to academic, professional and cultural exchange. China's assistance to Africa, however, is not near the U.S. assistance in Africa.
Cultural exchange between China and Africa can be a representative example of how China has been spreading its soft power. In 2005, the first Confucius Institute was established in Africa. The institute is funded by the Chinese government and it provides Chinese language and cultural programming to the public. There are 19 institutes today in Africa and China has planned to spend 20 million renminbi for education projects in South Africa, including the teaching of Mandarin in 50 local high schools.
Furthermore, there is an increasing support for cultural visitors programs which gained momentum in 2004 when the African Cultural Visitors Program was established. There is a rising number of African entrepreneurs who choose to move to China and there are also diaspora communities in many Chinese cities that have been found.
Outside of Africa, Chinese soft power extends to countries like the Barbados. Barbadian Prime Minister David Thompson expressed admiration for the Chinese economic model and sought to emulate the way Chinese state controlled banks guided development.
South Korea's Hallyu diplomacy
"Hallyu", also known as the Korean Wave, is a neologism referring to the increase in the popularity of South Korean culture since the late 1990s. According to a Washington Post reporter, the increased popularity of South Korean entertainment has led to higher sales of other goods and services such as food, clothing, video games, and Korean language classes. Besides increasing the amount of exports, the Korean Wave is used by the government as a soft power tool to engage with the masses of young people all over the world, and to reduce anti-Korean sentiment.
In the 21st century, culture is power.
In 2012, the BBC's country rating poll revealed that public opinion of South Korea has been improving every year since the first rating poll for the country was conducted in 2009. In several countries such as Russia, India, China and France, public opinion of South Korea turned from slightly negative to generally positive. The report cited culture and tradition as among the most important factors contributing to positive perceptions of South Korea. This comes alongside a rapid growth in the total value of cultural exports which rose to US$4.2 billion in 2011.
First driven by the spread of Korean dramas televised across East, South and Southeast Asia during its initial stages, the Korean Wave evolved from a regional development into a global phenomenon due to the proliferation of Korean pop (K-pop) music videos on YouTube. Currently, the spread of the Korean Wave to other regions of the world is most visibly seen among teenagers and young adults in Latin America, the Middle East, North Africa, and immigrant enclaves of the Western world.
Russia's soft power
Russia has been developing its soft power by investing in various public diplomacy instruments throughout the 2000s but the term was first used in an official document in 2010 as President Medvedev approved an Addendum to the national Foreign Policy Concept. The term was not defined but it was described as related to cultural diplomacy. In 2013, the term appeared in a new version of the Foreign Policy Concept itself soft power was defined as "a comprehensive toolkit for achieving foreign policy objectives building on civil society potential, information, cultural and other methods and technologies alternative to traditional diplomacy". In 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin was named Time Person of the Year. In 2013, he was named most powerful person by Forbes magazine.
What is more, soft power extends beyond the operations of government altogether, to the activities of the private sector and to society and culture at large. Like the challenge of the Cold War, this one cannot be met by military power alone. That is why it is so essential that Americans – and others – better understand and apply softer power. Soft power has gained more influence because it addresses the underlying dispositions of the people who have increasingly become more active in their governments. This is true even in authoritarian countries where people and institutions are increasingly able to shape the debate.
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- Defense Science Board, Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Strategic Communication (Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, September 2004)
- Giulio Gallarotti, Cosmopolitan Power in International Relations: A Synthesis of Realism, Neoliberalism, and Constructivism, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2010, how hard and soft power can be combined to optimize national power
- Giulio Gallarotti, The Power Curse: Influence and Illusion in World Politics, Boulder, CO.: Lynne Rienner Press, 2010, an analysis of how the over reliance on hard power can diminish the influence of nations.
- Giulio Gallarotti. "Soft Power: What it is, Why It's Important, and the Conditions Under Which it Can Be Effectively Used" Journal of Political Power (2011), works.bepress.com.
- Soft Power and US Foreign Policy: Theoretical, Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, ed. Inderjeet Parmar and Michael Cox, Routledge, 2010.
- Steven Lukes, "Power and the battle for hearts and minds: on the bluntness of soft power," in Felix Berenskoetter and M.J. Williams, eds. Power in World Politics, Routledge, 2007.
- Janice Bially Mattern, "Why Soft Power Isn't So Soft," in Berenskoetter and Williams.
- J.S. Nye, "Notes for a soft power research agenda," in Berenskoetter and Williams.
- Young Nam Cho and Jong Ho Jeong, "China's Soft Power," Asia Survey 48, 3, pp. 453–72.
- Yashushi Watanabe and David McConnell, eds, Soft Power Superpowers: Cultural and National Assets of Japan and the United States, London, M E Sharpe, 2008.
- Ingrid d'Hooghe, "Into High Gear: China's Public Diplomacy", The Hague Journal of Diplomacy, No. 3 (2008), pp. 37–61.
- Ingrid d'Hooghe, "The Rise of China's Public Diplomacy", Clingendael Diplomacy Paper No. 12, The Hague, Clingendael Institute, July 2007, ISBN 978-90-5031-117-5, 36 pp.
- "Playing soft or hard cop," The Economist, January 19, 2006.
- Y. Fan, (2008) "Soft power: the power of attraction or confusion", Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 4:2, available at bura.brunel.ac.uk.
- Bruce Jentleson, "Principles: The Coming of a Democratic Century?" from American Foreign Policy: The Dynamics of Choice in the 21st Century.
- Jan Melissen, "Wielding Soft Power," Clingendael Diplomacy Papers, No 2, Clingendael, Netherlands, 2005.
- Chicago Council on Global Affairs, "Soft Power in East Asia" June 2008.
- Joseph Nye, The Powers to Lead, NY Oxford University Press, 2008.
- Nye, Joseph, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics.
- Joshua Kurlantzick, Charm Offensive: How China's Soft Power is Transforming the World (Yale University Press, 2007). Analysis of China's use of soft power to gain influence in the world's political arena.
- John McCormick The European Superpower (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). Argues that the European Union has used soft power effectively to emerge as an alternative and as a competitor to the heavy reliance of the US on hard power.
- Ian Manners, Normative Power Europe: A Contradiction in Terms?, princeton.edu
- Matthew Fraser, Weapons of Mass Distraction: Soft Power and American Empire (St. Martin's Press, 2005). Analysis is focused on the pop culture aspect of soft power, such as movies, television, pop music, Disneyland, and American fast-food brands including Coca-Cola and McDonald's.
- Middle East Policy Journal: Talking With a Region, mepc.org
- Salvador Santino Regilme, The Chimera of Europe's Normative Power in East Asia: A Constructivist Analysis Regilme, Salvador Santino Jr. (March 2011). "The Chimera of Europe's Normative Power in East Asia: A Constructivist Analysis" (PDF). Central European Journal of International and Security Studies 5 (1): 69–90.
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- House of Lords - The UK's soft power assets: their role and function (publications.parliament.uk)
- Barack Obama & the use of soft power
- Global Power Barometer
- Is China’s new communications worldview coming of age? David Bandurski
- The Benefits of Soft Power
- Simulation and Soft Power
- Soft Power definition
- Soft Power, Smart Power and Intelligent Power A lecture in honor of Joseph Nye
- Scandal Erodes China’s Soft Power, Frank Ching