In 2017, France made a truly impressive climb up the Soft Power 30 ranks, moving from 5th to 1st. In doing so, it showed what a new leader with a positive global outlook can do for a country’s global reputation. This year, despite having slipped one position to second, French soft power is still in a better relative position than it has been in all other years, bar 2017. No doubt there will be some disappointment among Francophiles, but the fall to 2nd need hardly be seen as a Waterloo moment. Under Emmanuel Macron, the future of French soft power is bright. If Brexit presses ahead, it’s hard to imagine the UK hanging on to the top spot, and that leaves France well positioned to return to the summit of the table in 2019. France’s cultural assets remain a major draw for tourists – France welcomes more tourists than any other country in the world. On the global stage, Macron has quickly established himself as the key champion of the liberal international order. As German Chancellor faces political headwinds at home, Macron will need to take up a larger share of the burden in driving a positive international agenda for France and Europe more widely. But as with all countries, France has areas for development with respect to soft power. There is plenty of scope for improvement in the Enterprise and Government sub-indices for next year. Macron’s reformist ambitions are clear, but will he be able to deliver on them?
For the fourth year in a row and with no signs of slowing down, France dominates the Engagement sub-index, with an 8-point leader over its closest competitor, the UK. In terms of international reach, France is the best-networked state in the world and is a member of more multi-lateral organisations than any other country. And with Macron showing confidence and ability on the world stage, we’re likely to see French soft power in the global affairs space continue to be an asset well into the future.
Macron is no doubt feeling the pressure to translate his pro-business agenda into a dynamic global economy. But with France falling across the Enterprise metrics, the leader will need to make some quick and decisive reforms if he hopes to shift momentum.
France’s performance in the last two Soft Power 30 rankings has been much improved from 2015 and 2016. Clearly the differentiating factor in France’s recent success has been the leadership of President Emmanuel Macron. Moreover, he has made effective use of digital communications and boasts a large international following on social media platforms. As we warned in 2017, Macron’s major challenge will be maintaining momentum. As France is the leader in Engagement, Macron should leverage France’s sizable diplomatic network and drive a positive agenda of global cooperation. At home, France needs to continue to improve on Enterprise. Pursuing this dual agenda would give France every change of a first place finish in 2019.