Defining a superpower

Defining a superpower (including examples):

  • Location and size
  • Resources
  • Population
  • Economic power
  • Military power
  • Cultural power - religion and beliefs
  • Hard and soft power
  • Created by: Ett
  • Created on: 25-04-15 11:47

Location and size

The location and size of a country determines its influence over others. Larger countries tend to have more natural resources.

Influence can be...

  • Physical e.g. the presence of the army in another country 
  • Cultural e.g. language, media


Russia - shares 14 borders e.g. Poland, China, Finland, Georgia

          - largest country in world = 17 million km2

          - used political and physical influence over satellite states during Cold War to spread Communism and the Red Army enforced Soviet regimes

America - cultural power e.g. Mcdonaldisation

                - only shares 2 borders

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A country's resources can influence economic development

China - coal reserves = 114 million tones (Mt), oil reserves = 24.4 billion barrels

Energy resources used as a means of influence by stopping production and controlling distribution...

  • Russia cut off Ukraine's gas supplies in 2014 during the ongoing Ukraine crisis due to an Naftogaz's (Ukraine state gas firm) unpaid debt payment of $1.95 billion to Gazprom (Russian state gas firm)
  • OPEC Crisis of 1973 - OPEC increased oil prices by 70% and started an oil embargo for supporters of Israel during the Yom Kippur War e.g. Britain and America

But...some countries do not benefit from their reserves:

  • TNCs control reserves - Shell and BP and Nigeria's oil industry
  • Exporting most reserves e.g Australia iron reserves (28 billion tonnes) mostly exported 
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A country's population can determine its economic success.

A sufficient labour force maintains economic growth 

  • UK immigration from A8 countries supplements labour force e.g. Migration Observatory (Oxford University) - "foreign-born persons in total employment increased from 7.2% in 1993 to 15.2% in 2013", in sectors of employment such as healthcare (shortages)

China + India cheap labour

Population does not always determine economic growth...

Singapore - 1/2 London's population

                   - controls most South-East Asia's economy

                   - low tax

                   - Export Processing Zone = no duties or tariffs (attracts businesses)

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Economic influence

The strength of a country's economy determines the influence it has.

World Bank - 12 largest economies in world account for 2/3 global economy

Top ten largest economies in 2014 examples (measured in GDP,US$):

1st = USA - $17 trillion

2nd = China - $10 trillion

7th = UK - $2.5 trillion

8th = Russia - $2.4 trillion

  • Most powerful currencies - the US dollar and the Euro
  • Determine global economic policies, interest rates - G8 e.g. Japan, UK, USA 
  • Control global trade - trade blocs e.g. the EU - trade tariffs 
  • Largest economies influence aid donations e.g. may have 'strings attached' e.g. privatisation
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Military power

The size of a country's military force can greatly influence political power.

A country's defence budget determines the strength of its military


USA - 1.4m active personnel, defence budget = $689 billion

            - involved in many wars e.g. Korean War, Vietnam and Global War on Terrorism

            - world's largest nuclear arsenal

China - 2.3m active personnel in PLA, defence budget = $129 billion (increasing 12-15% per year)

           - concerns that China will use its power to settle the ownership dispute of islands in the East China Sea - may have oil + gas reserves. 415 potential clashes between Japanese and Chinese aircraft over these islands in 2013.

Balancing military power - UN Security Council determines whether military internvention is justified or not

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Culture - religions and beliefs

In the past, country's have used religious belief to extend their influence.

In the past, 1783-1947:

British Empire - spread Christianity through its colonies e.g. through large parts of Africa - Christian population in Kenya = 82.5%

Religion can influence the politics of a country...

  • Catholicism forbids abortion and discourages the use of contraceptives

The spread of ideologies can be used as a political tool to extend a country's influence...

  • Capitalism - through US global news channels e.g. Fox - supported US "war on terror". Maintains US global political influence - 
  • Communism - used by the Soviet Union during the Cold War
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Hard and soft power

The influence of a superpower can be measured in soft and hard power. Hard power is generally more influential than soft power.

Hard power:

  • Military - nuclear weapons, military bases, military force and intervention

In the middle: 

  • Trade and commerce
  • Aid

Soft power (cultural):

  • Higher education - quality of universities
  • Sports - London 2012 Olympic Games
  • Media - Bollywood, the news, television and film (e.g. Disney as a global brand)
  • Pop culture - J-pop
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