In a ‘good country’ league table, where would the UK stand now? | Tim Adams

Disregard for international law does not figure in Simon Anholt’s new book on what makes a nation great

If we ever stopped to think about it, each of us holds a subconscious league table of nations in our heads. Some of this has to do with proximity and knowledge – we might have more trust and affection for Portugal or Peru if we had visited either, for example. More has to do with associations of integrity, which is why we would be more likely to welcome a new Covid-19 vaccine made in Japan than one developed in Russia.

Simon Anholt, who coined the idea of “nation branding”, spent a unique career advising the leaders of 55 countries how they might move up this notional league table. Some of his challenges – Albania, Mongolia – were tougher than others. In a new book, The Good Country Equation, he shares some of the lessons he learned. One is that propaganda may work internally in countries, but never externally. Another is that a country’s status is transformed largely by “symbolic actions” that capture the world’s attention. Broadly, collaborative and creative actions enable a country “to trade at a premium”; insular and nationalistic actions have the opposite effect.

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