France leapfrogs US and Britain to emerge as world's leading 'soft power', Singapore ranked within top 20

The election of  President Emmanuel Macron helped France overtake the US and Britain as the world's top soft power.
The election of President Emmanuel Macron helped France overtake the US and Britain as the world's top soft power.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS - France has leapfrogged the United States and Britain as the world's top so-called soft power, helped by the election of President Emmanuel Macron, according to a study of countries' non-military global influence on Tuesday (July 18), AFP reported. 

While France has risen, Mr Donald Trump's ascent to the White House has seen the US slip from the top last year to third place in the Soft Power 30 study, compiled by PR company Portland Communications and the University of Southern California.

Soft power measures a country's ability to secure international alliances and influence others through its attraction and appeal.

The study uses polling in 25 countries and digital data to measure a country's influence.

It takes into account factors such as the ability of countries to attract foreign students to its universities and tourists, as well as its cultural allure.

France's rapid rise from fifth place last year, when it was in the doldrums under unpopular ex-president Francois Hollande, is partly due to the centrist Mr Macron's election in May.

But the country's diplomatic reach also played a key role.

"France's greatest strength lies in its vast diplomatic network," the study says. "It is unrivalled in terms of membership to multilateral and international organisations, as well as in its diplomatic cultural missions."

"With Macron having long campaigned for cooperation and integration, it is not unreasonable to expect France's global engagement and influence to grow."

France also remains the world's top tourist destination, the report said.

The terror attacks that have cost the lives of more than 230 people since 2015 "have not stopped tourists flocking to France and enjoying its rich cultural offering, cuisine, and lifestyle", the report says.

The top five countries by order are France, Britain, US, Germany and Canada. Japan has risen to sixth place from seventh, Switzerland is seventh and Australia slips to eighth.

The survey attributes the US decline - it has slipped from first last year to third - to a deterioration of "global sentiment" as a result of Mr Trump's "America First" policy.

The US was still "unrivalled" in higher education, technological innovation and the production of film, music and TV, it pointed out.

The report also noted that Singapore slipped a notch from 19th spot the previous year to 20th, but remains in a strong position globally.

"The ever-ambitious city-state continues to dominate in Enterprise, and performs well in Digital and Education. While Singapore dips in Culture and Engagement, its upcoming Asean chairmanship puts it in a strong place to boost its global presence," it added. 

Mr Jonathan McClory, author of the report and General Manager of Portland’s Singapore office, said of Singapore's rating: “There is still much to be positive about... it remains in the top 20. Making the top 20 puts Singapore in the elite league of global influencers."

"As with 2016, Singapore’s biggest soft power strength lies in the attractiveness of its economic model and business-friendly ecosystem. The key for Singapore going forward will be to build on its reputation as global hub for business, finance, and logistics, and pivot towards leveraging its creativity, innovation, and cultural assets.”

Meanwhile, the report's authors warn that Britain's fall - it was top of the rankings last year - "should serve as a warning of what is likely to come for post-Brexit British influence."

With negotiations under way for Britain to leave the European Union within two years, the report says: "It is hard to imagine the direction of travel for British soft power... will be upwards in the future."