Geography - superpowers case studies



  • in the 1980s Japan was economically destined for superpower status
  • per capita GDP was higher than the UK and USA by 1980 and it was a world leader in exporting consumer electronics, ICT, cars and industrial machinery to the rest of the world
  • in the 1990s economists expected Japan's economy to continue to grow but this did not happen
  • Japan's economy has barely grown at all since 2005 but is now two lost decades
  • a property value bubble burst in 1989-90 which led to a collapse in the Japanese stock market
  • high interst rates of 4 -6% encouraged saving not spending so the economy slowed
  • Japan's ageing population quickly became a problem, slowing the economy further
  • more competitive Asian economies e.g. South Korea and then China, stole Japan's lead on hi-tech consumer goods
  • Japan warns us that predicting the economic power of countries in the future is really just educated guesswork
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Arctic oil and gas

  • the US Geological Survey estimates that 30% of the world's undiscovered gas and 13% of oil resources are in the Arctic
  • amounts to 90-100 million barrels of oil worth billions of dollars
  • dispute areas around whether an area of ocean bed known as Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of Russia's continental shelf
  • 3 parties in dispute have nuclear weapons (Russia, USA and EU)
  • in 2007 the Russians used a submarine to place a Russian flag on the seabed at the North Pole which made tensions worse
  • number of scientific expenditions to the Arctic has increased as countries seek to have a greater presence in the area
  • both Russia and Canada have created dedicated 'Arctic Forces' to protect their interests
  • tensions are likely to rise further as global warming makes the Arctic increasingly accessible to shipping for longer periods of the year, and oil and mineral exploration becomes easier
  • as oil reserves run out Arctic oil will look increasingly tempting
  • UN will decide whose claims stand and whose do not
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Russia's western border

  • 1991 - collapse of communism and the independence of former Soviet republics, several newly independent countries in this sphere has raised the possibility of joining the EU and/or NATO
  • increased tensions between western Europe and Russia have implications for people and economics
  • EU and US economic sanctions following the 2014 Ukraine/Crimea crisis have isolated Russia economically but also affected EU exporters who can no longer sell to Russia - Russian consumers have also suffered as imports have dried up
  • open conflict in Crimea, eastern Ukraine and Georgia led to the forced displacement of tens of thousands of people as well as hundreds of deaths
  • NATO deployed additional air and ground forces to its eastern border in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria
  • speculation from political commentators of a new Cold War between Russia and the Western allies has increased since 2008
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South and East China seas

  • China has stated its sphere of influence in South East Asia in a policy referred to as the Island Chain Strategy
  • China is actively pursuing a policy of controlling the ocean from its coast to the First Island Chain
  • it launched its first aircraft carrier in 2012 and plans 2 more by 2020
  • policy has problems
  • many rocks, islands and areas of continental shelf in the South and East China seas are dirsrupted
  • areas are militarily important to China in terms of defending what it sees as ocean areas it should control
  • largest naval presence in the area at the moment is the USA due to its close allies Japan, South Korea and the Philippines
  • islands could be economically important as they may harbour oil and gas reserves
  • China's recent strategy in the area has been to occupy deserted islands and to artificially build largely or even new islands especially in the Spratly Islands
  • 2014 - China began constructing an airport on reclaimed land
  • 2015 - China began the construction of a port and possibly an airport
  • 2015 - some reefs appeared to be being developed into a Chinese military base
  • China's actions - 'Great Wall of Sand' - new island bases are built of sand
  • 'Nine-dashed line' - reference to Chinese maps delimiting the area of claimed control in the South China Sea using nine dashes
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