My new piece for Thai Enquirer:
Commentators often talk about soft power: the ability to wield influence and shape preferences without having to resort to hard military power. American cultural influence, political values and economic power ensures that it continues to indisputably lead the world in this regard.
America’s image as “shining city on the hill”, a beacon of hope and opportunity, might have been tarnished somewhat in the Trump era. But if the admiration that Thai students have for the United States can be treated as a microcosm of its influence on the world, then surely American soft power is alive and well?
Perhaps it would have remained so. But in 2020, this is an admiration that has come to be punctured, quite severely. Faced with a deadly pandemic, American exceptionalism seems to have taken on a satiric tone. This is a sense that pervades Thai students in the United States, some of whom have fled for the relative safety of home, some still stuck stateside.