Superpower geographies revision notes (Edexcel, A2, Contested Planet)

Overview and notes for superpower geographies.

Edexcel, A2, contested planet.

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Superpower geographies revision notes
Superpower geographies
What is a superpower?
Examiner's tip: make sure you have learnt definitions of `superpower' and `emerging superpower' for the exam.
SUPERPOWERS-they are states or organisations with a dominant position in the international system. They have the ability to
influence events in their own interests and project power on a worldwide scale to protect their interests.
They have a disproportionate influence over decision making.
The concept of a superpower
Superpowers- their power is primarily economic and military, e.g. the USA and EU.
Emerging superpowers- their power is often based on increasing economic importance and sometimes resources, e.g.
China and Brazil.
Regional powers-their sphere of influence tends to be continental rather than global.
Some superpowers also recognise geographical power which is an incorporation of more than one types of the above power.
Typical mistake: China and India are often thought of as similar, but
they are not.
They have to meet some of the following factors:
Typical mistake: many candidates do not understand that the EU is a
bloc, whereas, the USA is a nation state.
1. Size-large areas have greater natural resources and Russia exerts influence over its 14 neighbours.
2. Military-a larger military is viewed as more powerful. Also the access to nuclear weapons can show the influence, e.g.
China, UK, USA and India.
3. Economic indicators-countries with the largest economies often have a significant influence with the 12 largest economies
earning 2/3 of the world's GDP- disproportionate.
4. Religions-previously long-term Christians were a large majority as a result of colonisation from the Europeans. Islam is a
now established religion and is common in emerging countries. Capitalism is a result of globalisation.
5. Resources- energy sources, i.e. through fossil fuels have an influence on the power exerted by the superpowers and this is
a result of the dependency on resources. Also raw, rare materials can be more influential because of their value.
6. Population-large economic growth can occur by a large work force. Not necessarily true because of Singapore's emergence
and they have a smaller population than what is defined as a superpower.
The geography of power and international influence
Superpowers maintain their influence in different ways from hard (overt) to soft (subtle) mechanisms.
1. Hard- this means that military is the most threatening mechanism. The USA has a military presence on all continents except
Antarctica. Its military is strengthened by membership to NATO.
2. Intermediate- this is where trade and aids acts as mechanisms. The memberships of trade blocs can further extend
economic power with respect to resources, as well as imports and exports. Aid is often given with strings attached and
favours the superpower donor.
3. Soft- this is through culture and ideology mechanisms. The media plays an important role in promoting images and
messages, e.g. Americanisation (cultural superpowers).

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What are the changing patterns of power?
Examiner's tip: you should be able to understand and describe the changing geography of power in terms of unipolar, bipolar
and multipolar patterns.
Examiner's tip: you should learn a timeline of superpower change and be able to refer to the changing geography of power in
terms of unipolar, bipolar and multipolar patterns.
I. Unipolar pattern-one dominant power, e.g. the British Empire.
II. Bipolar pattern-two opposing superpowers exist, e.g.…read more

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Theories of colonialism
The world can be improved through human intervention and achievement. This idea is focused on that Europe could improve the
He believed that the British had a natural capacity for ruling others. Modernists believed that Britain not only could but should rule.
Mackinder's heartland
Mackinder believed that whoever controlled Europe and Asia (the largest landmasses) controlled the world. He believed in an idea
of the "heartland" which extended from Eastern Europe into Russia and at the centre was the "pivot".…read more

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International Organisations
E.g. WTO
This is through unsustainable lending which leads to debt crisis.
Not doing enough to create trade.
Exploitation of workers.
Exploitation of resources.
Developed nations
Brain drain of young people to more developed nations.
Aid for corrupt dictators.
Case study: Ghana
Ghana gained independence from British colonial rule in 1957.
English is Ghana's official language.
1/3 of people in Ghana live on less than $1 a day.…read more

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Theories of superpowers
Examiner's tip: provides a useful structure for the exam. Remember these theories are also related to topic five: bridging the
development gap.
Liberal Vs. Marxism
This is the creation of wealth and power with a high focus on capitalism as a tool for creating wealth.
The Asian Model
China, South Korea and Taiwan have developed rapidly since the 1970s due to the investment of the large TNCs.
They opened up free trade and foreign investment.…read more

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Dependency theory
DEPENDENCY THEORY-this is the idea that developing countries remain dependent on wealthier developed nations for their trade
and income. This theory argues this is the reason for the cause of the poverty trap.
They have no profit for investment because they cannot afford to add value to their raw materials.
This theory suggests that in order to develop they need to adopt a virtuous cycle of development where they keep their surplus and
invest in the manufacturing industries.…read more

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The European Union
The EU has grown more unified and more powerful- both politically and economically.
EU countries control 31% of the global GDP.
Some members of the EU are involved in international organisations, e.g. the G8 and NATO.
The EU was set up to achieve political and economic co-operation.
How has the EU changed since its beginning?
The EU has permanent staff (the EU commission).
The European Parliament which governs common laws economically (e.g. the consumer law), socially (e.g. human
rights) and environmentally (e.g.…read more

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Modernisation theory
The aim of the modernisation theory is to assist communist areas where war damage had brought economic collapse. Investment
was focused on Japan, India, Singapore, Mexico and the Philippines. Many of these countries were ex-colonies struggling to thrive
in independence which are currently major colonies.
The modernisation theory continues at work especially after 1991 with the collapse of the USSR. There was a priority to provide aid
and investment.
The role of superpowers
Maintaining control
International organisations.…read more

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Implies that once culture is better than the other.
The culture is deficient because it is put in second place.
Some countries oppose cultural imperialism because they believe it suppresses cultural diversity: preservation of language,
musical styles or literature.
This is known as ANTI-AMERICANISM which is a cultural backlash especially on American values.
Spread of Americanisation
All cultures are a blend and there would be no such thing as a `pure' culture. Addition of other cultures is enriching.…read more

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China is the largest consumer of cement in the world.
The high demand is a result of the requirement for construction in their cities which is driven by the economic growth (7.5%-10%) a
year. The demand from China is so large that three largest mining companies of iron ore (who control 80% of the supply) decided to
raise the global price of iron ore by 70%.…read more


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