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“Going beyond your own limits”

Simon Anholt sees Germany as proof that a positive image has a lot to do with international engagement.

Interview: Helen Sibum, 28.08.2021
The political advisor Simon Anholt
The political advisor Simon Anholt © picture alliance / dpa

Mr Anholt, Germany was ranked number 1 in the most recent Nation Brands Index and number 3 in the Good Country Index which you also publish. What does that tell us?
Germany is actually one the few countries that ranks almost as high in the Good Country Index which measures real behaviour as it does in the Nation Brands Index which measures perceptions. So Germany is the country that best proves my central thesis: If a country wants a better image, it has to behave better in the international domain. Germany contributes more to the world outside its borders than almost any other country. So the message is: If you want a good image, there is only one way to achieve it and that’s by contributing something to humanity.

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For a couple of years now, the positive perception of Germany has often come along with the claim that it should take on more international responsibility. Has Germany accepted that challenge?
It’s true that a leadership vacuum has opened up as a result of the United States under Donald Trump no longer providing the kind of multilateral moral guidance it had provided before. My feeling is that President Biden hasn’t plugged that gap yet and maybe never will. But I don’t think any other one country can either. It has to be a coalition of countries. The broader that network the better. But Germany must certainly play a major role in it.

In what way has the Corona crisis changed the perception of Germany?
Not at all. Things that happen inside countries don’t normally affect perceptions abroad. In this sense, the pandemic is just a domestic event that happens to be repeated. Only a minority of people might remember that a certain country managed the pandemic well. All that is going to do is to confirm people who liked this country before that they were right.


The Briton Simon Anholt has advised governments around the world on how to become more engaged internationally. He coined the term “nation branding”, but today is critical of the concept.


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