“Soft power” is a key contributor to the reputation of cities in Asia Pacific, according to "Engaging Cities: the Growing Relevance of Soft Power to City Reputations in Asia Pacific," a new study conducted by Weber Shandwick, which focuses on how cities in the region leverage soft power—those attributes of brand and reputation beyond politics, economics and military might – and reveals Tokyo’s reputation as the leading city of influence in Asia Pacific.

The study examines eight cities – Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo – across 16 soft power attributes that, when combined, contribute to a differentiated positioning of a city’s brand reputation and perceived influence. They include social media and digital technology; tourism; food, culinary and dining experiences; architecture and design; sustainability and the environment; and standard of living.

Tokyo’s reputation as a creative hub drives its top ranking across 10 of 16 soft power attributes examined, while the report also reveals Singapore’s top ranking for its innovative approach to sustainability and the environment and for offering a particularly high standard of living to residents. Hong Kong was rated first for being seen as the financial centre of the region, and Sydney was rated first across sports and leisure infrastructure, contemporary architecture and design, and gender tolerance, but was rated as the least influential city in terms of food, culinary and dining experiences.

“The dramatic urbanisation of Asian countries and the increasingly challenging environment in which civic leaders compete for creative talent, inward investment and tourism dollars has made brand reputation a priority for cities,” says Ian Rumsby, chief strategy officer, Asia Pacific, Weber Shandwick. “The ability to articulate, connect and promote unique, soft power attributes is now at the centre of success for governments and cities.”