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Despite Hobbit, NZ falls off global Top 20 'Soft Power' list

“Gangnam style,” Brazil’s burgeoning status and Turkey’s increasing global outreach have all combined to push New Zealand out of a new ranking of the world’s top 20 “soft powers.”

Each year, London-based trendy globalist magazine Monocle measures countries’ influence based on their values, culture, policies and institutions.

In 2011, New Zealand ranked 17th largely on the basis of two things – rugby and Hobbits. This year, the ranking has dropped to 21st, with only the Hobbits featuring:

“New Zealand milks JRR Tolkien’s sagas for all they’re worth…the country’s mint has even produced special Hobbit coins,” Monocle says, adding that New Zealand also plays an important diplomatic role in the South Pacific."

The UK displaces the US from the top slot, mainly due to the successful London Olympics. In particular, Monocle describes Danny Boyle’s three-hour Games opening ceremony as a “brilliant advert” shown for free in “pretty much every country (which even included the briefest lesbian kiss, something that may have come as a surprise to some viewers in Saudi Arabia).”

The US drops to second due to its continued dependence on “hard power” while Germany has reached its highest ranking yet at the expense of France with its “economic uncertainty and stumbling president.”

Others to rise are Sweden (fifth), Japan (sixth) and Denmark (seventh). Going down are Australia (ninth behind unchanged Switzerland) and Canada (10th).

The latter is ranked highly for its tolerant immigration policy in contrast with Australia’s failings in that area, according to Monocle.

South Korea jumps to 11th, thanks to just one man, Psy, and his “Gangnam Style” anthem that has made “K-pop” the biggest cultural phenomenon of 2012.

Finland (13th) and Italy (14th) also improve their rankings along with Brazil (17th) and Turkey (20th) while Norway, the Netherlands and Spain have lost ground. Austria (18th) and Belgium (19th) hold their places.

Ireland, Poland, Mexico and Thailand rank in the top 30 for the first time. China, Singapore and Israel all lose ground.

Another riser is Portugal, which was the focus of Monocle’s October issue for the country's role in turning the “Lusophone” grouping of Portuguese-speaking former colonies into a new powerful global force of 250 million citizens.

Russia retains its 28th ranking, with President Putin’s “compelling soft power” being undermined by his use of hard power as his main diplomatic weapon.

Postscript: Monocle's December-January issue also selects Air New Zealand's Rob Fyfe as one of its top 20 "collaborators to call on in 2013" for his achievement in turning the airline into one that is admired around the world. The magazine suggests the ideal collaboration for Mr Fyfe would be British Airways, which "could do with a bit of Fyfe's innovation."

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