Nation Branding, Soft, and Subtle Power Projection: A Comparative Study of UAE and Qatar

By Khushboo Shah
Submitted to Session S6704 (CUMES Undergraduate Research Poster Presentation, 2021 Annual Meeting
This paper argues that branding is a strategic practice for UAE and Qatar, which operates on an interconnected economic and political level in both countries. The purpose of branding, on an economic level, is to amplify the market value of each country’s real estate properties (the product) to attract investors. The country, vis-à-vis its iconic real estate properties, can be sold like a product on the world stage as the processes of globalization and neoliberalism have altered the relationship between the state and the private sector. For UAE and Qatar, real estate, city, and nation branding are intertwined and concentric circle like processes, where one reinforces the other. While branding serves as a strategic political tool for both countries, branding outcomes vary for Dubai and Doha due to the different nature of their real estate projects. Dubai’s real estate such as Burj Khalifa hold economic and symbolic capital through which the state (UAE) exerts and consolidates “soft power” on the world stage. In this way, UAE looks inward, via its real estate properties on the ground, to project power in the international realm. Qatar’s branding has a diplomatic edge as it looks outward to project power, via owning symbolic real estate in other countries such as the Shard and Harrods in England. This way, it compensates for its lack of world- famous iconic projects and exerts “subtle power.” The paper employs content and textual analysis of select interviews, financial reports, brochures, and advertisements to demonstrate how branding works in praxis to fulfill the strategic aims of both nation-states. Both countries’ real estate markets are worthy of scholarly attention with regards to international relations, as they are tied to the question of security, in economic terms, in the region.