Saudi Arabia, under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is undergoing radical and rapid changes at all levels. The Kingdom has taken on an all-new look. King Salman entrusted Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, an ambitious and visionary young man, with overseeing political, economic and social reform in the Kingdom. Prince Mohammed outlined the Kingdom’s overall reform vision in Vision 2030, which is based on three main pillars: a vibrant society, a prosperous economy, and an ambitious nation.
With those three pillars, Prince Mohammed not only wants to achieve a comprehensive renaissance for the Kingdom in the post-oil era of information and openness, but also to entrench and export Saudi Arabia’s soft power and transform the Kingdom into a global model of attraction.
By coining the concept of soft power, Joseph S. Nye reformulated the concept of power. According to Nye, states can achieve their national goals not through the means of coercion, temptation or military and economic power, but through soft means, or cultural and diplomatic instruments, and by exporting their model.
In the era of globalization and informatics, soft power has become the most important tool at the disposal of all nations—even superpowers—for achieving their national goals. The United States and China, the world’s two major powers, rely heavily on their soft power. China, for example, has deepened its influence in Asian countries because of the latter’s admiration for China’s developmental and industrial model.
According to the Global Soft Power Index (GSPI) 2021, which is the most important indicator for measuring countries’ soft power, Saudi Arabia ranked 24th worldwide and came in second in the Middle East, after the UAE. The Kingdom’s ranking is very advanced, taking into account that Spain has ranked 22nd, and countries such as Iceland and Luxembourg have been ranked beyond 30th-place in the index.
According to the index, the Kingdom’s advanced ranking is due to the reforms undertaken by Prince Mohammed bin Salman, including economic governance, eliminating corruption, allowing women to drive, establishing a women’s soccer team, hosting the G20 Summit, committing to the sustainable development goals of the United Nations and others.
The Kingdom has, thanks to these reforms, become an attractive global model or role model, according to GSPI 2021.
The future impact of this on the Kingdom is quite significant; alongside Saudi Arabia’s global reputation, which is shining ever brighter every day, the Kingdom will draw billions of dollars in foreign investment. At other levels and particularly the Kingdom’s national security, they will be enhanced by its official and popular ties, which are increasingly strengthening its soft power.
The Kingdom, under the leadership of its ambitious Crown Prince, is not content with the reforms that have already taken place. It is looking forward to new and ambitious initiatives to strengthen its soft power. The most recent of these efforts came with Crown Prince Mohammed’s Saudi Green Initiative—in the all-important area of climate change—by planting 10 billion trees throughout the Kingdom by the next decade. Thus, turning the Kingdom into a green city.
Finally, investing in soft power is one of the most successful and most effective investments for achieving states’ national goals in the age of informatics and liquidity currently prevailing in the world. However, it requires vision and a strong will, even though it may seem an unchallenging task. Under the leadership of Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Kingdom is making great strides towards establishing itself as an attractive global model on the back of its vast and well-planned investment of the elements comprising its soft power.
This article was originally published and translated from Kuwaiti daily al-Qabas.