Soft power: the good, the bad, and the ugly

The title may be a bit misleading, because each of these three examples of soft power have a mix of both three. I’ll highlight some of each, but there’s plenty more that could be drawn from them. First example is the use of recent (relatively) Russian tactics against its “near abroad”, its old sphere of influence if you will, from USSR times. Second one is the lack of soft power that China wields, which is self-inflicted. And the last one is the recent trend in the US, which if facing the loss of soft power by the government, but not by the popular culture.

Soft power and why China doesn't have it

Soft power becomes powerful when people imagine themselves transformed, improved, by adopting a new style. Koreans and Armenians imagine they will be freer or more successful if they become Americans — or Australians or Canadians. Young men and women from the provinces imagine they will be more glamorous if they look and act like people in Paris, London, or New York. If a society thinks it is unique because of its system, or its style, or its standards, it can easily exert soft power, because outsiders can imagine themselves taking part in that same system and adopting those same styles.