Brazil is losing its soft power, according to a new report by the University of Southern California on global influence wielded by countries across the planet. The country has slipped from 24th place to 29th place in the last year alone.
The report measures what political scientists term ‘soft power’, which means a country’s ability to influence their diplomatic partners. Rather than achieving foreign policy goals through military and force, soft power is measured through a range of subjective themes.
The report is compiled by the University of Southern California’s school of public diplomacy and PR firm Portland Communications. In its three years of ranking soft power, Brazil has fallen from 23rd to 29th place.
Despite its fall, Brazil is still the only South American country in the USC’s top 30 soft powers. It comes just before Chile, which sits in 32nd place. Meanwhile Argentina occupies 33rd place, and Mexico ranks 34th.
According to the report, Brazil has declined in spite of the “success of the Rio Olympics”. It says that the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff “overshadowed” the sporting event.
Since Rousseff’s impeachment, the report notes that Brazil has dealt with “ensuing instability, economic turmoil, and ongoing corruption scandals”. This plays no small role in perceptions of Brazil’s soft power.
Factors measured by the report include perceptions of government abroad, digital democracy, education, a country’s global cultural contributions, enterprise, and engagement.
According to the report, Brazil has seen weaker performances in engagement, enterprise, digital and “perhaps most tellingly, in Government where it has fallen to the bottom”.
Meanwhile, its fellow BRICS countries show a moderate success. China has climbed from 30th to 25th place since 2015, while Russia has moved from 27th to 26th since 2016.
Some positive trends
But there are other indicators that influence soft power rankings too. Desire from foreign students to study abroad in a place is one example. Things like availability of luxury goods and technology, a palatable cuisine and friendliness also play a role in the rankings.
According to the USC’s rankings, “Brazil has risen in the Culture sub-index, with the broad appeal of Brazilian Carnivale, its football culture, and an enviable laid-back beach lifestyle”.
The report notes that Latin American countries tend to stick close together in fluctuations in the rankings. When one nation does well, the others also see a rise in their soft power rankings. With Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Mexico as economic leaders of the region, USC says that they are useful indicators of Latin America’s soft power in comparison to other continents.