top of page

The Soft Power Phenomenon

Do you ever come across a country and wonder “what makes the country so special?”.

Is it their mouth-watering bursts of flavorous cuisines? Or their collection of exotic animals? Or their immaculate and fabulous collections of entertainment choices? Or even their invincible domination of sports? The relevance of countries are partially dependent on marketing – in creating a spotless image about their unique areas of expertise, one which no country can come close to. And what better way to engage in these attention-seeking activities than to exploit the general audience’s passions and feelings?

The Soft Power Phenomenon

These curated specialties are often intricately hidden by governments, and is as what is popularly known as Soft Power - a nascent form of diplomacy. No state explicitly mentions their soft power incarnations; because that would defeat its purpose. Marketing is loud but never evident – soft power structures are no different. They help countries to covertly consolidate and declare their sovereign existence and subsequently bridge ties with other nations by sharing the milder apolitical aspects of the country; in essence, gain a footing in the international realm for future prosperity in a globalized and interconnected world. Soft power models aid many countries to disseminate a specific idea about the country; of what it would like to be primarily associated with when their name pops up in random conversations or at the diplomatic stage. It hits two birds with one stone: proliferates international diplomatic or negotiation efforts in amassing regional support and allies, boosts trade and economic relations with the world, while simultaneously charming ordinary people. Since the introduction of social media, soft power has amplified the projection of soft power. The excessive and unmitigated usage of social media platforms in this generation enable countries to further garner prominence by showcasing their presence, culture, and ideologies.

Soft power is ubiquitous. From the devices you are using to read this article down to the very words you are currently reading. Posturing the success of soft power is simple, but calculated. It does so by shaping preferences through appeal and attraction. It may be a complex concept to understand, but the coming examples will enlighten, and perhaps even disillusion, you.

The Korean Pop Sensation

Lo and behold the genre which took over the world (and award shows): K-Pop. Korean pop genre emerged in the early 1990s, amidst the Asian Financial Crisis, with a structure incredibly different from western pop culture. K-pop is upbeat, K-pop is cute, K-pop is performance, K-pop is beauty, K-pop is deliberately parasocial. These attributes are unique to Korean Pop, and they are heavily controlled by entertainment companies. However, their international fame is not accidental, but rather buttressed by the South Korean government's subtle funding and marketing. The unprecedented success of K-pop has pushed RoK at the forefront of the global entertainment hub, and has helped reinvent RoK’s image beyond electronics. Today, South Korea is a major tourist hub in Asia. Their culture and cuisines (as well as skincare) are better celebrated, they have won Oscars, and their entertainers are winning Oscars and MBEs.

The Unforgettable Mascots Shadowing a Terrible Historical Tale

Thing in (country*) :/.

Thing in Japan :D.

Japan is known for many reasons. When one thinks of Japan, they think of whatever area they are most interested in. Economics &politics? They are one of the strongest economy and a regional power. Engineering? They possess terrific engineering and manufacturing capabilities. Culture & entertainment? They grace their world with fine cuisine, video games, kawaii mascots, and anime. Japan’s soft power lies in the latter: their culture and entertainment. This export has contributed significantly to Japan's soft power abilities by attracting global audiences and fostering a fascination for Japanese culture. In many ways, the soft power tools have helped Japan in concealing their ghoulish past as an Imperial nation who plagued Asia until their defeat during World War II. Today, Japan is all about Hello Kitty, Sushi, and Haikyu.

The Ying-Yang Diplomacy of Animals

Pandas are black and white. And so is the Ying-Yang peace symbol. What better way to practice peace than to ‘gift’ pandas. This is the Chinese method labelled as ‘Panda Diplomacy’, wherein the Chinese Government (who has the official rights to all pandas in the world) ‘loan’ pandas to countries with whom they share positive diplomatic relations as a gesture of goodwill, strengthening their international presence. The pandas are cared for in zoos by the host nation until its return back to China, incurring all the necessary costs. Although, finding pandas in the likes of Sweden undeniably boosts visits to the region and the zoo.

The Immaculate Juxtaposing Flavours of South-East Asia

Without the distinguishment, it would be rather difficult to identify the country the subtitle is referring to because Southeast Asia takes the crown for their cornucopia of dishes. But Thailand is the country, and they differ for their camouflaged use of Gastrodiplomacy, or the use of food in aim of fostering international relations and for cultural exchange. Thailand has propitiously implemented gastrodiplomacy to promote their flamboyant culture globally with their world-famous pad thai, khoi suey, and mango sticky rice. The Thai government assists in funding international Thai food festivals, elevating Thai restaurants globally, and exporting purely Thai ingredients.

The Indian Colonization of a Colonial Sport

Cricket is a sport invented by the British (much like most sports). But today, when one thinks of Cricket, they think of India. India's cricketing triumphs, and the global reach of cricketing passion amongst Indians have become one of India’s many soft powers. Cricket has aided the country in building international connections, particularly with Commonwealth Nations, promote our culture, and enhance India's international reputation beyond the realm of sports.

Ultimately, the catch-22 of soft power is that its efficacy solely lies in the power of the public’s likes and dislikes. Regardless of authenticity, if their attention is not captured, the spectacle of elaborate features have failed.


The Latest 

Subscribe to the Imperium Newsletter!

Thanks for subscribing!

  • 3 Month Odyssey

    Valid for 3 months
  • Best Value

    Silver Membership

    Valid for 6 months
  • Gold Membership

    Valid for one year