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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

When power is silent

Analyzing Bangladesh’s soft power in the global context

Update : 12 May 2023, 11:12 PM

Soft power is the ability to get what one wants through “attraction rather than coercion or payments” as described by the founder of the concept. It arises from the attractiveness of a country's culture, political ideals, and policies. 

In the 21st century, to a larger extent, hard power has been replaced by soft power and promoting soft power has occupied significant place in the foreign policy formulations and implementations of many countries.

Bangladesh's position in the Global Soft Power Index is now 97th, eight steps ahead in the list. Bangladesh has improved by 37% in the global soft power index in one year -- with a brand value of$ 508 billion. 

The Global Soft Power Index sheds light on how a nation's brand is perceived and identifies the major factors influencing its reputation and impact globally. 

Additionally, this demonstrates the nation's governmental stability, which will attract more foreign investment and additionally, enhancing the nation's economic potential, increased foreign investment can aid in developing new industries and the growth of already established ones.

Bangladesh now needs to improve competitiveness to improve brand value and attract FDI. This may draw more companies, company owners, and innovators to the nation, spurring even more economic development. The economic potential of a nation can be further improved by increased innovation and creativity due to increased economic competition.

A better brand value can also represent economic excellence by showcasing the nation's infrastructure and technological prowess. Megaprojects like the Padma Bridge and Metro Rail allow the nation to show its dedication to infrastructure modernization and improved connectivity.  

Bangladesh has the potential to further improve its image and brand value on the international stage as it continues to invest in these areas and capitalize on its specific strengths.

China

The Chinese have turned to more traditional tools of soft power: Promoting Chinese language, educational exchanges, media expansion, and pop culture icons. China has become a top destination for international students. 

China has set up a few thousand Confucius Institutes throughout the world. The centres, nonprofit organizations affiliated with China's ministry of education, provide Mandarin language courses, cooking, and calligraphy classes, and celebrations for Chinese national holidays. Beijing has thrown its weight behind its foreign language news outlets to establish greater control over narratives about China. 

It also wields soft power through other societal and cultural channels, including literature, art, film, music, scholars, and sports figures. Celebrities like film director Zhang Yimou, actor Jackie Chan, pianist Lang Lang, professional athletes Yao Ming and Li Na, ballet dancer Tan Yuanyuan, and pop singer Jane Zhang are unofficial cultural ambassadors.

Chinese athletic performances are a projection of power as well. Hosting the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing put the country on display.

China is attempting to export its approach to development, which has lifted hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty. The Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI, described by leaders as a vehicle for soft power, calls for spurring regional connectivity. 

It seeks to bring together the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road through a vast network of railways, roads, pipelines, ports, and telecommunications infrastructure that will promote economic integration from China, through Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, to Europe and beyond. 

Way forward for Bangladesh

Now, it is pertinent to look at the soft power of Bangladesh. Though, very often Bangladesh makes headlines in the areas of climate change, political violence, garment factory collapse and so forth, there are some positive issues as well that make the headlines. 

Cricket is one of them. It is no wonder that the number one all-rounder, Shakib Al Hasan is in Bangladesh. Cricket can be one of the major sources of soft powers of Bangladesh. 

The brand of “Made in Bangladesh” can be another major source of Bangladesh's soft power. Recently, some of the RMG exporters have decided to print “Made in Bangladesh” in Bangla in the sticker alongside English.

The positive image of Bangladesh in UN peace-keeping missions is also one of the prime sources of Bangladesh's soft power which needs to be promoted, as is the Bangladeshi diaspora around the world -- their hard work, honesty, integrity and above all, their contributions to the world economy.

Bangladesh is often cited as one of the successful countries in case of women's empowerment, socio-economic development, maternal mortality rate reduction, and so forth.

Ideas like “micro-credit” and “social business” developed in Bangladesh can also be considered as soft power of the country which is followed by others around the world. 

The United Nations has declared International Mother Language Day on February 21 in respect of our sacrifice for the Bangla language. It is unfortunate that rhe world is not aware of this achievement and we must change this.

Bangladesh needs to explore and promote its soft power in the changing power dynamics of the global order -- which require further studies along with effective, visionary long-term strategiexs and actions.


M S Siddiqui is Non-Government Adviser, Bangladesh Competition Commission. e-mail: [email protected].

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