Influence and Attraction: Culture and the Race for Soft Power in the 21st Century
By John Holden, edited by Mona Lotten. British Council, 2013, 42 pages
The British Council has published a report on the changing status of cultural diplomacy and so-called "soft power" in the world. It describes the shift of cultural influence from Western centres in North America and Europe toward BRIC countries and other emerging economies. While countries such as the United Kingdom are scaling back their cultural programmes aimed toward influencing an international audience (for example, the British Council), countries such as Brazil and China are rapidly expanding their own equivalent programmes. China has transformed itself from having no international cultural institutions in 2004, to having over 322 Confucius Institutes worldwide in 2011 and surpassing former leading countries such as France, Britain and Germany.
The report stresses the importance of culture in modern diplomacy, but also discusses its changing nature. Cultural diplomacy is currently shifting from the old government-dominated system to a system where the leading roles are taken by NGO's, foundations and individual citizens. Social media and popular culture are also seeping into the cultural diplomacy field, and events which would be regarded as trivial and insignificant before now influence global politics (the report gives the example of Gordon Brown's official visit to India during which he had to respond to allegations of racism in the British Big Brother television show). The report predicts that in the future the direct involvement of governments in cultural diplomacy will diminish and that the role of NGO's and peer-to-peer contact will increase.
To view the report, please visit: www.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/documents/influence-and-attraction-report.pdf