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TOPIC: soft power


Soft Power Or Sportwashing? What's Driving The Mega Saudi Image Makeover Play

Saudi Arabia suddenly now leads the world in golf, continues to attract top European soccer stars, and invests in culture and entertainment... Its "soft power" strategy is changing the kingdom's image through what critics bash as blatant "sportwashing."


PARIS — A major announcement this week caused quite a stir in the world of professional golf. It wouldn't belong in the politics section were it not for the role played by Saudi Arabia. The three competing world circuits have announced their merger, putting an end to the "civil war" in the world of pro golf.

The Chairman of the new entity is Yassir Al-Rumayan, head of the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund. Add to this the fact that one of the major players in the world of golf is Donald Trump – three of the biggest tournaments are held on golf courses he owns – and it's easy to see what's at stake.

In the same week, we learned that two leading French footballers, Karim Benzema and N'Golo Kanté, were to join Saudi club Al-Ittihad, also owned by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund. The amount of the transfer is not known, but it is sure to be substantial. There, they will join other soccer stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo.

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How The Sari Conquered The World

The prestigious Design Museum in London – named European Museum of the Year in 2018 – is currently staging a landmark exhibition, The Offbeat Sari, all about this item of dress and the clamour of attention it is enjoying.

London Calling: How does India look from afar? Looming world power or dysfunctional democracy? And what’s happening in Britain, and the West, that India needs to know about and perhaps learn from? This fortnightly column helps forge the connections so essential in our globalising world.

The curry has conquered the world; the sari less so. It is, in concept, the most simple of garments: a single piece of unstitched fabric. In execution, it’s really tricky to wear for those who don’t have the knack. All those pleats – the tucking in – and then the blouse and petticoat which are part of the ensemble. Quite a palaver.

When Western women wear a sari – often as a perhaps misguided token of cultural respect – you often wish they had stuck to a trouser suit. And in its heartland, the sari is nothing like as ubiquitous as it once was. Among young urban Indian women, as far as I can make out, the sari is saved for high days and holidays.

Yet the elegance and versatility of the sari, as well as its timeless quality, have caught the attention of fashion gurus and designers, desi and otherwise. The prestigious Design Museum in London – named European Museum of the Year in 2018 – is currently staging a landmark exhibition, The Offbeat Sari, all about this item of dress and the clamour of attention it is enjoying.

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The Hardest Soft Power: How Moscow Forces The Russian Language On Occupied Ukraine

Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine goes well beyond the battlefield. Russia is trying to destroy Ukrainian identity by imposing the Russian language in occupied areas, as a prime weapon in Moscow's policy of "Russification."


KYIV — In all spheres of public life, where the enemy's boots have trodden, we will have to fight back against Kremlin myths, while dealing with the tragic consequences and the physical ruins of the attacks that have caused irreparable damage to the people of Ukraine.

In Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk, a new generation of forcibly Russianized Ukrainian youth has emerged over the past nine years. At the same time, cities and villages that were under temporary occupation suffered similar catastrophic losses.

For these and other reasons, which have damaged national interests, it is crucial to pay increased attention to the spheres of education, culture, and media in the de-occupied territories.

Experts point out that this process could be tragic for Ukraine, as the Kremlin has been doing everything it can to break the mental ties between the occupied territories and Kyiv since the first days of the occupation.

It all started with linguistic discrimination, bans, threats, and then the actual genocide of the Ukrainian people. A linguistic ban is one of the most significant humanitarian risks associated with Russian aggression.

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Is Soft Power Dead?

With an activist Supreme Court creating a gap between democratic rhetoric and reality in the U.S., and Russia and China eager to flex military muscle, the full-force return to hard power looks bound for dominance.


PARIS — Russia's war in Ukraine rages on, tensions are erupting in the South China Sea and now abortion rights are being stripped away in the U.S.: Looking around the world, we have to ask: what is left of the notion of soft power?

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How can we talk about the power to convince when the power to coerce is increasingly the norm? And when there is such a gap between rhetoric and reality in the U.S. and in Russia and China, hard power almost seems to have become part of soft power?

“We will lead the world not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example,” Joe Biden said the day after his election. But what kind of example was he talking about? That of the Supreme Court’s judges, whose decision promises a terrible future to women and to all those who still wanted to believe in an enlightened and liberal America?

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Banjot Kaur

Taking A Position: A Call To Regulate Yoga In India

Trained practitioners warn that unregulated yoga can be detrimental to people's health. The government in India, where the ancient practice was invented, knows this very well — yet continues to postpone regulation.

NEW DELHI — Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the observance of the eighth International Yoga Day from Mysuru, in southwestern India, early on the morning of June 21. Together with his colleagues from the Bharatiya Janata Party, he set out to mark the occasion in various parts of the country — reviving an annual ritual that had to take a break for the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yoga is one of the five kinds of alternative Indian medicine listed under India’s AYUSH efforts — standing for "Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and naturopathy, and Homeopathy." Among them, only yoga is yet to be regulated under any Act of Parliament: All other practices are governed by the National Commission for Indian System of Medicine (NCISM), Act 2020.

Yoga and naturopathy are taught at the undergraduate level in 70 medical colleges across 14 Indian states. The Mangalore University in Karnataka first launched this course in 1989; today, these subjects are also taught at the postgraduate level.

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A Tough Choice For Brazilians: Learn English Or Mandarin

The answer from Chinese professionals may surprise you...


SAO PAULO — At some point before 2030, China's nominal GDP is expected to overtake that of the United States. The Chinese economy will become the biggest in the world. This will arrive well ahead of the forecast of Jim O'Neill, who coined the acronym BRICS, and initially predicted that the C in BRICS would surpass the U.S. in 2027.

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The Post-Western World Is Still A Messy Place

The West is in relative decline, especially compared to Asia, but no obvious alternative 'system' has emerged.


BEIJING — The Great Recession of 2008, election victories for Trump and Brexit, recent forecast of continued slower growth for the United States, Europe and Latin America: All are signs of a major change underway.

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Nando Sommerfeldt and Holger Zschäpitz

Brexit, The End Of European "Soft Power"

Europe has seen its relative economic and military power decline for decades, but its "soft power" has held strong. But even that is now at risk.

BERLIN — We would probably have been content with the status quo here in the Old World. The U.S. and China are by now, economically speaking, significantly superior to us. They also play in a different league on the military front.

All of this could be borne with magnanimity, seeing as the Old World has something in abundance that no other region on the planet has to offer, namely its good reputation. Even as the hard numbers, such as GDP, may be trending in the wrong direction, Europe is still a force to be reckoned with in "soft power."

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Julien Bouissou

Indian Spiritual Leader Lays Yoga Path For World Peace

Under the watchful eye of the Indian government, yoga master Sri Sri Ravi Shankar wants to resolve the world's conflicts through a breathing technique. At a gathering last month, he attracted 3.5 million followers in New Delhi.

NEW DELHI — Legal wranglings added an extra element of suspense to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar"s latest "mega event." Ahead of the World Culture Festival in New Delhi, where 3.5 million poeple gathered last month to meditate en masse, local authorities had threatened to cancel the event over concerns that the lotus-positioned believers would unleash "absolute chaos." They worried too about the environmental implications of the event, which featured nearly 40,000 musicians and dancers.

Shankar, a yoga master with tens of millions of followers in 155 countries, certainly knows how to attract a crowd. In India, his portrait is displayed in airports and on city billboards. For the country's affluent urban class, his smiling face, framed by long hair and a black beard, has become a symbol of happiness and a stress-free life.

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China 2.0
Gabriel Grésillon

From Soft To Hard Power, China's New Ambitions

Presented as a peaceful power for the past decade, China is now seen as a potential military aggressor by many. Amid the tug of economic and political interests, China keeps rising.

BEIJING — Here lies the vision of China"s peaceful rise. It is a concept first put forward in 2003 by Chinese authorities as the country was gradually reinforcing its role in international affairs.

But this concept comes with many layers: Even while China is exporting its products all over the world, Beijing explains that it has no hegemonic ambitions. So what happens when we try to convince ourselves of the good faith behind the term "Peaceful Rise?" Can China be a superpower that is fundamentally unintrusive, and not a threat for its neighbors?

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Elena Chernenko

Putin Worldview: Russian Stability And Soft Power, Blind Western Interventionism

MOSCOW - When Vladimir Putin took office as President for the third time, he sent the Ministry of Foreign Affairs a document outlining the philosophy that would guide his approach to international relations for the next five years. Only recently released, the document is very revealing, showing that Putin’s worldview, and his idea about Russia’s role in that world, has changed substantially since he first took office as president in 2000.

One of the main thesis of the document is that Russia will have to build an international policy in an extremely unstable world, and that many of the world’s problems come from attempts by the West, and particularly the Unites States, to interfere with the internal matters of other countries.

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