Britain’s Brexit opportunity will allow the United Kingdom to reimagine and reshape its “Soft Power” influence in ways not possible since joining the European Economic Community. Soft Power is the way the modern world defines who is a global power. Britain must build on its present position and enter the world stage as the leading Soft Power nation. By marrying Britain’s Hard and Soft Power we can be a reinvented world power, argues Joel Casement.
Hard Power – mostly military prowess – is essential for Britain’s projection of power around the globe, as well as protecting us from global threats. It is key to neutralizing threats. Soft Power can be used to ensure those threats do not materialise by having an alternative diplomatic approach which builds alliances.
The term ‘Soft Power’ was first coined by American Political Scientist, Joseph Nye, who defined it as a nation’s ‘power of attraction’ via foreign policy, culture and values. It can also include creative industries, sporting institutions and financial institutions, such as the City of London. The ‘2018 Soft Power 30 Rankings’, compiled by political consultancy Portland Communications, has the UK ranked in the number one position globally.
The UK derives much of its current international profile and reach from its Soft Power assets – those aspects of our culture, business and education which are attractive to people around the world. Soft Power is unique in so far as it not limited to Government actions. Examples of this could be one-off events like the 2012 Olympics, which showcased the very best of Britain to the world. The UK’s contribution to development and human rights reform is shown through UK-based ‘non-governmental organizations’ (NGOs) – like Oxfam, Amnesty International, and Save the Children -which are all examples of Soft Power institutions.
Undertaken in the right way and with engagement from non-governmental interests affected, a Soft Power strategy would be an innovative source of strength for the UK’s wider international interactions and ambitions. Being a part of the EU means we have to operate as part of a monolithic block. This subdues the individual brilliance of Britain. Being an independent nation will allow us to showcase Global Britain on the world stage.
Soft Power requires a strong opt-in from the international community, which means British Governmental involvement should be minimal. Governments cannot push Soft Power, but should be able to nurture it. A simple example would be for the British Government to increase research funding in our world-leading institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge universities. The knock-on effect would be the UK attracting some of the best minds from around the world, adding to British Human Capital, and thereafter attracting foreign direct investment for relevant industries. Soft Power has clear diplomatic and economic benefits and is a far cheaper strategy of being a global power than solely investing in Hard Power strategies.
China could provide Britain with an opportunity to project Soft Power and for us to gain economically. The UK could be a secure home for investment from China, as a major economic power, which could prioritize its relationship with the UK over other major European economies. The British media often focus on China’s interest in education and tourism, which are legitimate Soft Power sources, and Beijing has long admired British expertise in financial and corporate governance.
Using Soft Power from interaction on financial and corporate governance issues, could be a springboard for building trade deals in the future. It could also enhance the British-Chinese relationship by over-coming the traditional Chinese view of Britain as a former colonial power which inflicted humiliation on China in the Opium War.
China is one example of how a post Brexit Soft Power Strategy would enable the UK to be more prominent throughout the world and more prosperous as a consequence. The examples which apply to China apply to nearly every nation on earth. This is the appeal of Soft Power. It is highly inclusive and effective and its successes are contagious.
International collaboration is key to building Soft Power. We will engage in trade with the world on a level not seen for a generation. Using trade as the means of building alliances is one of the oldest and most established methods of international diplomacy. Britain, as a hub of ideas and innovation with the best financial market in the world, stands on the precipice of becoming a world leading Soft Power nation.
Therefore, it is imperative we Get Britain Out of the EU as soon as possible, so we can begin to enhance diplomatic ties unilaterally and as fully independent nation once again. We are in a uniquely fortunate position of having a prestigious Soft Power base and a formidable Hard Power capability. Now is the time to cultivate our Soft Power and become a truly modern global power.