What is this topic about? • The superpowers, and emerging powers, are the most powerful and wealthy nations • They have both economic and political power, often globally • Power and wealth shift over time and this topic explores these changes • Changing patterns of power have global implications, which need to be explored and understood. The New York Stock Exchange, a global power centre
CONTENTS 1. Who are the superpowers? 2. The role of Superpowers 3. Superpower futures Click on the information icon to jump to that section. Click on the home button to return to this contents page
1. Who are the superpowers? • Superpowers are countries, or grouping of countries, with global influence and power • They have economic, cultural, military and geo-political influence • Economic wealth (see graph) is only one aspect of superpower status • One way to group the world's most powerful is:
The geography of power • In terms of superpower status, size is not everything • Some ‘demographic superpowers’ have relatively little economic power • Military spending (see table) is one form of power, as it allows superpowers such as the USA to have global military reach • The USA is a highly influential power in economic, military, geopolitical and cultural terms • Only the EU comes close to the influence of the USA, but the EU is a federation of 27 nation states who do not always agree Use a data website such as www.wri.org to experiment with ranking power and status using different data types
Changing patterns of power • Superpowers shift over time; the Uni-polar world of the British Empire gave way to the Bi-polar cold war world • In 1990, as the USSR collapsed, a new USA dominated Uni-polar world was ushered in; the EU has grown to be increasingly powerful also • Many people think the future will be a more complex, fragmented and regional multi-polar world • It is important to recognise that power can decline as well as grow
The BRICs and emerging powers • The BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are the emerging super powers • Mexico and the Gulf States could lay claim to be in this group also • This group of countries is very different, with perhaps only China capable of challenging the USA in the near future.
Superpower theory • There are several theories which help explain the rise and pattern of superpowers • WW Rostow’s ‘Take Off’ model (modernisation theory) is often used to illustrate how countries move from relative underdevelopment, to a state of high mass consumption • Not all countries have managed to industrialise and develop • AG Frank’s Dependency Theory argues that this is because the developed countries (superpowers and emerging powers) maintain the developing world in a ‘state of underdevelopment’, draining it of: Human capital (‘brain drain’) Resources (minerals, ores, food) • This helps maintain the developed world’s lifestyle, cheaply
The BRICs, and NICs, have developed in recent decades • This suggests some countries have broken free from dependency and developed in the way Rostow’s model suggests • Immanuel Wallerstein’s World Systems Theory seeks to model this ‘three sided world’: • Wallerstein’s ideas are partly related to the economic theory of Supercycles (Kondratiev waves – see table) • These suggest economic growth passes through phases based on key new technologies • These new technologies bring growth to particular geographical regions
2. The role of Superpowers • In the past, superpowers such as the British Empire and other Imperial powers maintained direct control over territories • This era of colonialism ended in the period 1945-1980 when colonies gained independence • A characteristic of a superpower is the ability to take control, through war, of troublesome regions believed to threaten superpower security • Whilst rare, superpowers still take direct military control over territory:
Neo-colonialism? • Left-wing geographers argue that superpowers use subtle, indirect ways to maintain power today • These ways are often termed neo-colonialism • Aid is often given to allies and ‘friends’ rather than the most needy countries (see table), and much aid is ‘tied’ in various ways. • Debt repayments channel money from the developing to the developed world • Even debt relief schemes, such as the HIPC scheme (see map) have been criticised • For HIPC countries to qualify for debt relief, they must follow the economic policies of bankers in the developed world Note the total lack of overlap between the most indebted nations and the top 10 receivers of US aid.
International Trade • The world trade system is essential a western ‘free trade’ one • The USA and EU have been very influential at the World Trade Organisation in the past • The World’s three major stock markets (London, New York and Tokyo) are all in the ‘west’ • In a globalised world, TNCs play a crucial role in world trade, and most TNCs originate in the EU and USA • Emerging superpowers, especially China, have taken advantage of global trade to develop and grow
International decision making • Global decision making revolves around inter-governmental organisation (IGOs) • Some IGOs involve all nations, such as the U.N. – others are more exclusive such as the G8, or regional such as NATO. • Membership and voting rights may give key players disproportionate power. • Some influential organisations such as the World Economic Forum (Davos Group) are not-for-profit organisations outside government control. • IGOs do change over time; the G20 has become more influential in recent years, reflecting the increasing power of the BRICs
Cultural influence Fast food, Coca-cola, rock music on the juke box in this American dream diner • Superpowers exert a cultural influence – the widespread use of English, tea drinking and cricket are a cultural legacy of the British Empire • Today, the most influential culture is that of the USA • ‘Americanisation’ suggests that this culture is spreading. This spread is made easier by: • Global brands and logos • The Global media e.g. Disney and CNN • Globalised transport and communications connections • American based TNCs • Widespread use of English Is ‘Mcdonaldisation’ or ‘Cocacolonisation’ a positive or negative development? The issue tends to be divisive; some anti-globalisation campaigners accuse the USA of cultural imperialism, and blame US consumer culture for the erosion of local cultural traditions. On the other hand, many Chinese see Americanisation as positive, as it shows progress and development.
3. Superpower futures • As the primary emerging superpower, China has much to gain from its growing global status • Poverty reduction in China (see graph) has been staggering • China has become motorised, with over 170 million vehicles at the end of 2008; some estimates suggest there were only 3000 cars in Beijing in 1978 • Inequality in China is a growing issue, although in general the population is much better off • In Brazil and India there is a growing middle class of consumers • In India by 2009 there were 500 million mobile phones in use and over 700 million in China
Superpower resources • Growth, wealth and the status that accompanies it brings new problems to the emerging powers. • Chief among these is pollution; as resources consumption and eco-footprints grow, so does pollution . • What if eco-footprints in the BRICs (see graph) begin to approach those of the developed world? Almost 70% of China’s energy comes from coal Acid rain is a serious problem, as is water pollution and urban air pollution; in 2004 25,000km of Chinese rivers failed water quality standards
Declining superpowers? • The emergence of the BRICs does challenge the hegemony of the USA • The USA is not about to enter precipitous decline, but its influence may lessen • There is evidence that the BRICs are catching up, as the number of largest TNCs based in the USA falls, but rises in the BRICs (see graph) • There is also some unease among the BRICs that IGOs such as the G8 and UN Security Council are dominated by the USA and EU
Global Shifts in the Car industry • In 2002, car sales in China were just over 3 million • By 2009 sales had exploded to 11 million, beating the 10 million sold in the USA • The potential for growth in car sales in China is vast • Two of the ‘Detroit Three’ (Chrysler and GM) went bankrupt in 2009, shedding jobs and factories • USA car companies have only survived because of Government bail-outs and selling or scrapping their loss making brands. • Several brands have been sold to Indian and Chinese companies
Development or dependency? • Does the rise of the BRICs represent an opportunity for the least developed countries to develop new relationships with wealthy countries? • China’s interest in the developing world, especially Africa, has grown in the last 10 years • China has invested in infrastructure such as road and rail, which Africa desperately needs. • In some ways any investment is good investment • Critics argue that Africa is still exporting its raw materials cheaply, and that the investment brings few jobs – Chinese workers are often used instead of local labour. China’s trade with Africa increased 10-fold between 1999 and 2009, to $110 billion Most trade is with oil exporters – Sudan, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Angola China approved $10 billion in loans to African nations in 2009 China has invested in Zambian copper mines, iron ore mines in Gabon China has gifted $150 to build a new African Union headquarters in Addis Adaba
Superpower Conflict • Would a multi-polar global future increase tension and conflict? • Sources of tension might be considered in terms of three global agendas: