Singapore retains 21st spot in global soft power ranking

Singapore came out tops in one of the study's six subindexes called "enterprise" and ranked eighth in the "digital" category.
Singapore came out tops in one of the study's six subindexes called "enterprise" and ranked eighth in the "digital" category.PHOTO: REUTERS

It scores in enterprise, digital areas, can do better in culture, global engagement: Study

Singapore has emerged 21st among 30 nations in a global ranking on soft power, which measures countries on their ability to use persuasion and attraction to influence others in international relations.

The Republic, however, came out tops in one of the study's six subindexes called "enterprise", which looks at the attractiveness of a country's business model, its capacity for innovation and its regulatory framework.

It ranked eighth in the "digital" category for its robust digital infrastructure and advanced digital government services, according to The Soft Power 30 report released today. The annual ranking, which started in 2015, is produced by strategic communications consultancy Portland, in partnership with the University of Southern California's Center on Public Diplomacy.

The year's study assesses 30 countries around the world using metrics in six categories - culture, digital, education, enterprise, engagement and government, along with an international poll of 12,500 people across 25 countries.

France was No. 1, followed by the United Kingdom and Germany.

The study attributed France's ranking to the political leadership of President Emmanuel Macron and the country's soft power resources, such as its presence in multilateral organisations and the appeal of French culture.

While Singapore did well in enterprise and digital, it ranked lower in culture, coming in 28th out of 30, education (22nd), engagement (30th) and government (24th).

For the international poll component, which surveyed respondents on their perceptions of the foreign countries' culture, technology products, liveability, friendliness and cuisine, among others, Singapore ranked 21st.

BE CREATIVE, HAVE GLOBAL PURPOSE

Better leveraging Singapore's cultural assets, an emphasis on creativity and a clear sense of global purpose - like as a more vocal champion for multilateral cooperation and the primacy of international rules and law - would all benefit Singapore's soft power.

MR JONATHAN MCCLORY, creator of the index and Portland's general manager for Asia, on how Singapore can improve.

Put together, it ranked 21st in the overall ranking of soft power, maintaining last year's result and down from 20th in 2017.

Mr Jonathan McClory, creator of the index and Portland's general manager for Asia, said: "Singapore's global brand is really built on its economic model and business-friendly environment. That has served Singapore well, but there is a need to push beyond that."

He said the areas for improvement are in culture and global engagement. "While Singapore showed improvements in the international polling on cuisine, liveability and friendliness this year, culture remains stubbornly low and the worst-performing category," he noted.

"Better leveraging Singapore's cultural assets, an emphasis on creativity and a clear sense of global purpose - like as a more vocal champion for multilateral cooperation and the primacy of international rules and law - would all benefit Singapore's soft power," he added.

He said there is untapped potential in the bicentennial celebrations, which have been domestically focused. "The way the bicentennial emphasises Singapore's history as a multi-ethnic, multicultural society and underlines diversity as a key strength is a perfect example of how the 200-year anniversary can be used in telling Singapore's story to the world," he added.

Asked about Singapore's ranking, author of Brand Singapore Koh Buck Song said building a nation's brand is a long-haul, whole-of-country effort, down to the ordinary Singaporean who can extend friendliness to tourists here.

 
 

He said being consistently ranked at the 21st and 22nd spots in the international polling segment in the past five years shows a reality of aggregated opinions about Singapore globally and that its soft power reach in certain places is obviously less than in other states.

To widen global engagement, he said, Singapore can look at expanding its presence abroad through embassies, extending overseas development aid and investing more in initiatives such as celebrating diplomatic ties with other countries.

"To really move the needle globally requires international dominance of markets or mindshare, or some impetus or inspiration that is truly impactful, as well as amplification by word of mouth, and time for this to spread and sink in," said Mr Koh.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2019, with the headline 'S'pore retains 21st spot in global soft power ranking'. Print Edition | Subscribe