France’s impressive climb up the Soft Power 30 ranks shows what a new leader with a positive global outlook can do for a country’s reputation. Despite a year where we’ve seen historical friendships tested; leaders adopting more inward-looking approaches; and states aiming to exert power over each other rather than working with each other, it seems the world is still largely in favour of outward looking global cooperation. France’s four place jump was due in no small part to the global frenzy around Emmanuel Macron’s victory over the far-right Front National. The nation’s youngest ever president is riding a wave of domestic and international popularity – bolstered by his savvy online presence – as he looks to deliver on his pro-business and pro-EU agenda. Turning away from politics, France’s cultural assets remain a major draw card for tourists. The threat of extremism sweeping across Europe has not stopped international visitors from enjoying the joie de vivre France offers through its cuisine, museums and galleries, and scenery. But as with all soft power leaders, France has areas for development. Sliding down to 19 in our Enterprise sub-index this year, Macron has his work cut out for him if he hopes to catch up with Germany’s business acumen.
For the third year in a row and with no signs of slowing down, France dominates our Engagement sub-index, securing a 15 point leader over its closest competitor Britain. 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 having long campaigned for cooperation and integration, we’re likely to see France’s global engagement and influence strengthen.
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 success in this year’s Soft Power 30 has been underpinned by Macron’s impressive digital communications skills and his international following. He follows in the footsteps of Trudeau and Macri, who each used social media to galvanise their domestic and international audiences while riding a wave of popularity to electoral victory. But like Trudeau and Macri, Macron faces a challenge in maintaining momentum. We’ve seen a well-documented effect of leaders unable to sustain their early success; Macron should be working hard to keep his audiences excited and engaged.