Policy Papers

Small states in a global age: soft power, cultural influence, and state-branding

03 Sep 2015

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The shifting contours of the global order since the late 1990s and early 2000s intersected with changes to the very concepts of power and influence. Joseph Nye has defined ‘soft power’ as the ability to appeal to and persuade others using the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideals, and policies. For states, the employment of soft power means getting other states to work towards desired mutual outcomes through co-option rather than coercion. New forms of power projection have shifted the ways in which regional structures of power are organized. A wide array of new opportunities have opened up for small states seeking to leverage their limited political, economic, and strategic assets and overcome some of their spatial or geographical constraints.

After moving rapidly to take advantage of the systemic fluidity that opened up, the UAE can continue to exert influence through: high-profile prestige investments in the health, education, and cultural sectors; the hosting of major international sporting events; the growth of luxury-level international travel and tourism; and the promotion of pioneering research and development into diverse energy sources.