Over the centuries, the phenomenon of trading with foreign countries has been prevalent. This has seen the rise in the need for international relations which is defined by Wilson III (2008) as the study of relationship between countries and the connections that exist between different sectors in the global environment. A major tool for economic relations is the day-to-day communication that takes place between nations. Manfredi-Sánchez (2020) notes that diplomatic relations are achieved through channels that allow political entities to express their preferences as they seek benefits attained from cooperation with other entities. Among the concepts used in achieving international relations is diplomacy which is also referred to as soft power. This essay examines soft power and illustrates its significance regarding a significant international event that will be discussed in detail.
Diplomacy (Soft power)
In the field of international relations, soft power is defined by Nye Jr (2008) as the capacity to inspire others to attain the results preferred without using coercion or payments but rather through attraction. While it entails attraction, soft power is mainly exercised by powerful nations which attempt to influence and promote their values and ideas among other nations. To successfully employ soft power, countries rely on various successful resources that in turn influence other countries to aspire to the same goals. Wilson III (2008) reveals that political values, culture, and foreign policies are the major resources employed to drive attraction. While relying on such resources, countries may rely on their business trade whereby they showcase the success of their economies as well as their ability to innovate. Due to such abilities in trade, companies automatically attain power in major fields as other countries try to emulate them for similar trade and business acumen (Wang, 2008). Ideally, a reflection of governance, international relations, and diplomacy all play as soft power that assists in influencing international relations among countries. Countries like the United States which can handle public affairs such as international conflicts between superpowers by employing diplomacy already have soft power.
Strengths of soft power
A major strength of soft power is its ability in enabling governments to enhance their credibility as compared to other nations. The strength of soft power in influencing others to do something is well showcased by New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern in her speech to Harvard graduates in 2022. In her speech, Jacinda called upon the graduates to protect democracy through the pursuit of genuine debates and dialogue. In a manner of establishing soft power, Jacinda presented a case of New Zealand where she stated that the country’s policymakers have laws that address issues such as climate change, decriminalizing abortion, and banning military-style assault rifles (Chang et al., 2022). She noted that to influence change, online providers and social media companies have to identify their power and take action. Nye Jr (2008) asserts that credibility plays a crucial source of soft power. Through building a positive reputation, governments can compete for credibility as they enhance their weakness to the credibility of others.
Soft power also has strength in its ability to influence the preference of others. Feklyunina (2016) underscores the fact that being a leader is not shaped by one’s power to issue commands but also by leading by example which ultimately attracts others to do what the leader wants. Similarly, in international relations, powerful countries rely on making their policies sufficiently friendly and attractive so that other nations aspire to help in achieving shared objectives. For example, in her speech, Jacinda noted that democracy has been fragile. However, she showcased that the New Zealand government had managed to crack down on gun ownership in the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks (Chang et al., 2022). She showcased that the gun reforms established in New Zealand sought government, civil society, and tech company support as a means to change the scope. This well resonated with the Texas school massacre. Her speech sold out the strategies used in New Zealand by showcasing that they were ideal for solving similar cases in the United States. Nye Jr (2008) further states that through the three major concepts of public diplomacy, daily communications, strategic communication, and the development of long-term relationships, a country can easily create an attractive image of itself. The image in turn helps the country improve its chances of attaining its required outcomes in the international field. Therefore, by being able to present itself in a positive light, a country can rely on soft power to influence other countries to want what it prefers without having to pay them or threaten them.
Due to its ability to attract voluntary action, soft power exhibits strength in that its solutions last longer as compared to the reliance on hard power. Nye Jr (2008) reveals that reliance on compulsion often leads to conflicts among countries while voluntariness leads to consent. Countries that engage in public diplomacy have activities such as educational exchange programs, visitor programs as well as cultural events. Feklyunina (2016) asserts that through such activities, countries in pursuit of soft power send an image of being a nation that not only cares for the well-being of its local environment but also the policy environment in the receiving country. Therefore, by relying on the already available tools such as media and press and international exchanges, soft power can yield consent which in turn achieves lasting international relations.
Limitations of soft power
Irrespective of its strengths, it still is hard to develop soft power approaches. Wang (2008) asserts that the soft power approaches focus on human beings who notably have individualistic complexities. As further supported by Feklyunina (2016), the current international context is complex characterized by a grey area existing between peace and war, business and politics, national and multinational, or between internal and external. With such differing ideologies, what attracts one country may fail to attract another country, and therefore no surelity of the success of the soft power strategies employed. As Manfredi-Sánchez (2020) underscores, the beliefs, societal norms, and preferences of different people are influenced by various factors. This means that soft power requires the integration of other strategies to ensure international governance. For example, it requires a plurality of actors which all result from both soft and hard mechanisms (Manfredi-Sánchez, 2020). Therefore, developing soft power approaches is complex due to the differing ideologies and preferences of various nations. Quantifying soft power is hard and thus it becomes hard to measure its success. Wilson III (2008) asserts that soft power focuses on change in attitudes which is a hard factor to measure in numbers.
International relations are governed by the need for some governments to become leaders in political, economic, or cultural aspects. This has seen a rise in the soft dimension of power where countries seek for strategies to attract others to do what they want. Without relying on coercion or payments, soft power is mainly exercised by powerful nations which attempt to influence and promote their values and ideas among other nations. Such nations rely on international trade, social media, and education systems to underscore the positivity of their values and thus attract other nations to do the same. Soft power has been ideal as it helps countries enhance their credibility, influence the preferences of others and attract voluntary action which results in long-lasting results. This is a positive result as compared to hard power strategies which use coercion and result in conflicts. Irrespective of its strengths, soft power is often not enough on its own and requires the integration of hard and soft mechanisms for its utmost success. It also needs to be understood that the values and preferences of some countries differ and it may therefore be hard to employ soft power to influence them. Therefore, for countries intending to influence others through soft power, they need to understand the needs, values, and preferences of other countries before influencing them toward the intended preferences.
Chang, C.J. et al. (2022) New Zealand PM tells Harvard graduates to protect democracy, takes aim at Big Tech in commencement address: News: The Harvard Crimson, News | The Harvard Crimson. The Harvard Crimson, Inc. https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2022/5/26/commencement-2022/
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