A few months ago the FT published an article saying that the US had overtaken the UK as leading in 'soft power'- Joseph Nye's notion re. the attractive power by which a nation can get other nation's to do what it wants without coercion or bribery.
Interestingly, both voters in the UK and the US have chosen to turn their back on 'soft power' and 'political correctness' and 'universal human rights' and the 'liberal world order'.
No doubt, Frau Merkel will be declared the new 'soft power' leader- till she loses upcoming elections.
Why is 'soft power' dying? Well, if an attractive person tries to make money out of their attractiveness they become vulnerable to a more or less plausible, or more or less brutal, pimp. What then ensues is not the accumulation of 'soft power' but a long history of more or less self-deluding prostitution.
Nation States, of course, don't actually hang out at street corners in stilettos and push up bras. Well, Belgium maybe but, generally speaking, it's not de rigueur. Still, any attempt to instrumentalize soft power will produce a reaction including an attempt to game that instrumentalization.
One way to 'lock in' present soft power is through multilateral agreements or resolutions passed by international fora. The problem here is that small countries get a blackmail opportunity by using their veto power or else ganging up in voting blocs. When this happens, big countries go back to bilateralism and so 'soft power' becomes irrelevant.
One big problem with 'soft power' is that it attracts Labour and Capital flows which may provoke nativist xenophobia. In the end, it is fears about migration which is killing off 'soft power' dreams at this moment in time. However there is a bigger problem relating to Capital flows, global supply chains and the costs and vulnerabilities associated with locking in to a foreign controlled Knowledge Ecology.