It’s not whose army wins, it’s also whose story wins. And we have to think more about narratives and whose narrative is going to be the most effective.” – Harvard Kennedy School Political Science Professor Joseph Nye, 2010 TED Talk

The U.S. ranks No. 1 for Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at $18.56 trillion, and holds the top position in The National Brand Index.

When it comes to “hard power,” including its military and its economy, the U.S. has no rivals … at least for the immediate future.

Despite these clear hard-power advantages, the U.S. reportedly spent $670 million for “public diplomacy” in 2014, according to George Washington University professor of political science David Shambaugh.

In contrast, China spends $10 billion annually to project itself as a “soft power.”

China as a soft power? In essence, the answer is affirmative. China recognizes it needs more than the collective power of its 1.37 billion people, its second-ranking $11.39 trillion economy, and its growing military strength. China is trying to promote its distinct culture, its language and market its country as a place to invest and visit.

The aforementioned Professor Nye is widely credited with formulating the notion of “soft power” or projecting what you have in terms of culture, language, business, tourism etc. to those who may want the same.

Some contend as mentioned in the stately The Economist that a totalitarian state (e.g., China) may not effectively exhibit soft power as it may be interpreted as single-party propaganda. And yet China created The Confucius Institute in 2004 to entice the appreciation of its culture, to lure hundreds of thousands to study its difficult language and visit and invest in China.

Is the Politburo in Beijing trying to buy love?

From The Devastation of War, Occupation, Division and the Holocaust

The activities of the Goethe Institut improve Germany’s reputation abroad, enhance the quality of German-language teaching, contribute to the development of the German language, promote German artists worldwide, and attract talented youth and professionals to Germany.” – Tatiana Lanshina, “The Goethe Institute and Soft Power”

Germany experimented twice in “hard power” in the 20th Century … and lost big time, both times.

In 1951, Germany’s public relations (Öffentlichkeitsarbeit) were understandably at an all-time low … most likely the deepest nadir experienced by any country at any time. Interest in German Kultur, Sprache and Land was close to nil.

These facts did not stop Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the German government from creating the Goethe Institut in 1951. The mission of this 350-Euro non-profit organization, drawing the majority of its funds from the German foreign ministry, was to use the forgiveness of time to eventually and systematically regain interest in Das Land in der Mitte (The country in the middle of Europe).

Fast forward to today, Germany is No. 2 in the National Brand Index trailing only the United States. The country’s transformation from an international pariah to revered is nothing less than a public relations miracle (Öffentlichkeitsarbeitswunder).

The author of Almost DailyBrett has a framed Goethe Institut Zertifikat B1 for German language study in his office at Central Washington University. Is the Goethe Institut solely responsible for Germany’s resurrection? Of course not.

There are many other determinants including the reunification, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Economic Miracle, the Marshall Plan, Made in Germany, four World Cup wins, German business success, Germany’s hegemony in the European Union, the popularity of Angela Merkel and many other factors.

Germany understands more than other nations that hard power is not the answer. China obviously appreciates this fact as well. Ditto France with its Alliance Francaise, Italy with its Societa Dante Alighieri, Great Britain with its British Council, Spain with its Instituto Cervantes and Portugal with its Instituto Camoes.

All of the above brings up the obviously question: Who and what projects “soft power” for the United States? One other question: Are we satisfied with the answers?

Donald Trump, Hollyweird, American Media?

Certainly, the U.S. is nowhere near the lousy image that Germany endured – and still suffers – as a result of the 12 years of Hitler and the Nazis. Nonetheless, the U.S. image at home and abroad is less than ideal regardless of the nation’s military and economic hard-power advantages and the country’s number one ranking in the National Brand Index.

Who sets the tone for the United States of America?

Try traveling abroad and see how many times you are asked about Donald Trump once it becomes known that you reside in the Land of Uncle Sam? Does the intemperate, nocturnal Tweeter-in-Chief send the best of image of the red, white and blue across the fruited plain and across the ponds?

How about Hollyweird and the denizens of the TMZ?

The entertainment industry can’t even deliver the right envelope for its biggest announcement of the year (e.g., Oscar for Best Picture) at its most celebrated venue (e.g., The 2017 Academy Awards). Do we really want to entrust our soft power to this motley crew?

When it comes to our elite media, the American public sold the stock and voted them out of office. According to Gallup, the Woodward & Bernstein media of 1976 enjoyed a 72 percent approval rating. Last year, the same polling firm recorded a 32 percent approval rating for the boys and girls of the Fourth Estate, a 55.5 percent decline in the last 40 years.

If the American public is turned off by our nattering nabobs of negativism, why would those beyond our borders respect their interpretations of American soft power?

Maybe the time has come for a non-profit, soft-power Mark Twain, Will Rogers or some other American literary giant institute to celebrate American culture (e.g., baseball, hot dogs and apple pie), our unique take on the English language, and the USA as a wonderful place for investment and tourism?

Or maybe we can instead just leave the task to Donald Trump, Hollyweird and the failing American elite media?

https://www.economist.com/news/china/21719508-can-money-buy-sort-thing-china-spending-billions-make-world-love-it

http://www.ted.com/talks/joseph_nye_on_global_power_shifts

http://www.demdigest.net/tag/soft-power/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius_Institute

https://www.goethe.de/en/index.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/02/25/enemy-of-the-american-people/

http://www.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx

 

 

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