Introduction to superpowers

Hyperpower - USA

Superpower - EU

Emerging powers - China, Brazil, India 

Regional powers - Japan, Mexico, Nigeria 

Criteria for defining a superpower 




-Economy (strength)

-Military (strength)



1 of 19

Pillars of superpower status

MILITARY- armed forces, navy (eg USA & China have huge military)

POLITICAL-stable government, no corruption

CULTURAL-appealing way of life, mixture of cultures, welcoming atmosphere

RESOURCES -oil and minerals, or education and skills 

HARD POWER=relates to force, eg the military 

SOFT POWER=the power of persuasion, cultural attractiveness, valuea/ideology & moral authority

GEO-STRATEGIC POLICIES:policies that attempt to meet global & regional policy aims of a country by combining diplomacy with movement/positioning of military assets 

2 of 19

Political influence

British empire (colonialism) in the 19th century covered 1/4 of the planet 

21st century is defined by; diplomacy, spheres of influence, foreign aid, soft power etc...


4th largest economy in the world

growing by 10% a year for the last 2 decades

if this continues, by 2041, they were overtake America 

soft power :

-foreign aid 

-income equality


-tourist numbers

3 of 19

military force & cultural influence

a country must have nuclear weapons to be a superpower

Largest armies: China, USA, India, Russia, North Korea

USA accounts fot almost 1/2 of global military expenditure 

Cultural Influence: cultural exports & business franchises are extended all over the world

EG: McDonalds, Coca Cola, Starbucks, Subway

Americanisation is the most successful; eg media, cuisine, companies etc 

4 of 19

patterns of power over time

British Empire: a unipolar world, which gave over to a bipolar world when the cold war began 

in 1990, the USSR collapsed, USA became dominant and the EU was also powerful 

UNIPOLAR- A world dominated by one power e.g. The British empire 

BIPOLAR-a world governed by two superpowers with opposing ideologies e.g. USA & USSR

MULTIPOLAR-a complex world in which many powers and emerging powers compete for power

COLD WAR: a period of tension between Capitolist USA and communist USSR from 1945-1990, also nuclear weapons were around which added to tension 

COLONIAL: direct control exerted by a powerful country over a less powerful one, between 1600-1900

ACCULTURATION: a process of cultural change when two cultures meet & interact; the transfer of dominant culture to the less dominant 

5 of 19

Neo-colonialism & Mackinder's heartland theory

Neo-colonialism: a form of indirect control over developing countries, most of them former colonies 

economic leakage: where money earnt in a country leaves through foreign investors to their home country 

Mackinder's heartland theory 

1904 idea that Russia's geographical position makes it 'unconquerable'

- Russia's physical resources make it effectively independent 

6 of 19

BRIC Nations & G20

-In recent years emerging powers have had much more influence in terms of global economy, politics and environmental governmenance 

-The rise of BRICs could mark the change to a 'multipolar world'

BRAZIL; Gold, diamonds, iron ore & rainforest, growing middle class, diversified economy 

RUSSIA; large quantities of oil & gas, nuclear weapons, ageing population

INDIA; large quantities of coal, strong IT industry, youthful population, poor infrastructure 

CHINA; some coal, communist, growing economy, military power 

G20; focuses on global financial stability 

-Members include UK, France, Germany and Italy 

-90% of global economy, 80% global trade

-Self appointed, some members have poor human rights, 84% fossil fuel emissions 

7 of 19

Rostow Modernisation Theory, 1960

5 stage model that outlines the phases countries must go through to gain more power

STAGE 1; traditional society; barter, argiculture 

STAGE 2; Transitional stage; specialisation, surplus, infrastructure 

STAGE 3; Take off; industrialisation, growing investment, political change

STAGE 4; Drive to maturity; innovation, investment, less reliance on imports 

STAGE 5; High mass consumption; service sector dominates, durable goods flourish 

8 of 19

Dependency Theory- Frank, 1960

-splits world into 2, developed core and underdeveloped periphery

-the core remains powerful as skilled workers migrate inwards & cause brain drain in periphery

-periphery is dependent on wealthy core for trade & income 

-often recognised as neo-colonialism

Core -> Periphery

-manufactured goods.             -Aid

-political/economic ideas        -pollution 

Periphery -> Core

-Brain drain.                           -raw materials 

-Debt                                     -political support 

9 of 19

World Systems theory, Wallerstein, 1970s

-more dynamic version of core/periphery; a three tier model

-introduces the semi-periphery 

-all 3 zones are globally interdependent 

-places can move from all 3 tiers, more power shifts inwards, whereas less growth and stagnation moves back to the periphery

10 of 19


IGO= intergovernmental organisation 

-since end of cold war the world is dominated by free trade & capitalism 

-this has been promoted by many IGO's, strengthening its grip on the world economy

FREE MARKET CAPITALISM: private ownership of properties, businesses, the right to make profit & accumulate wealth, buying and selling in a competitive free market 

E.G.: USA, Canada, Japan, Western Europe

PROTECTIONISM: When a country protects its own industries by taxing (tarfiffs) on foreign imported goods, raising their price  (e.g. USA)

11 of 19

IGO's cont.


-Promotes globalisation, free trade

-goverened by Switzerland and rich companies 

-encourages governments to promote global links, creates initiatives to benefit the world 


-regulates global trade, promotes open trade, negotiates free trade agreements 

-governed by western states, has 164 members 

-WTO agreements have lead to explosion in global trade 

12 of 19

IGO's final


-promotes capitalism, stabilises global currencies

-189 member countries 

-manages international debt, promotes development in TNC's


-makes development loans, promotes free trade

-governed by USA government 

-allows TNC's to spread worldwide, contributes to LIC debts & promotes development infrastructure 

13 of 19


Publicly traded TNC's: owned by multiple stakeholders, around the world (usually other TNCs, banks) these stakeholders recieve dividends based on yearly profits

State-owned TNC's: the majority are completely owned by the government 

-TNC's support free market capitalism & free trade 

-they ensure dominance of global economy by investing in companies 

Patent: granting of exclusive ownership of intellectual property by a state to an investor

-anyone else wishing to use this must pay a royalty 

14 of 19

International Decisions

The UN; 1945

-maintains global security by enforcing peace, human rights, health law, environmental issues and humanitarian affairs 

social: improves literacy, education, preserves cultural sites

Environmental; solutions for climate change, protects ozone layer

economic prevents nuclear proliferation

health; responds to HIV/Aids, eradicated smallpox

political; resolves disputes, strengthens law

DIPLOMATIC sanction: reduced/removes diplomatic ties e.g. embasies 

MILITARY sanction: military strikes, or cutting off supplies to arms 

15 of 19

Emerging powers - impact on economy & environment


-water shortage due to agriculture

-land use for farming takes up space 


-crop growing and animal farming is water intensive 

-increased draught & desertification due to climate change 


-higher demand means price drop


-prices drop due to illegal mining and oversupply

-companies suffer as a result 

16 of 19

The contested Arctic

Economic exclusion zone EEZ: UN states that a country controls the sea bed and resources within 200 miles of the coast 

The arctic has:

-16% of undiscovered oil 

-30% undiscovered gas 

-26% natural gas liquids 

roughly 84% of resources are likely to be found offshore 

political: causes tensions as countries argue over resources/ownership

environmental: destruction of habitats, melting ice, land degredation

economic: expensive resources, countries want proft & cost of extraction

17 of 19

tension over mineral & economic resources

some resources are contested;

disputed land borders; e,g, India & Pakistan ; Kashmir 

disputed land mass; e.g. UK & Argentina over Falkland islands

dispute over economic zone; e,g,; the arctic ocean

SPHERE OF INFLUENCE: A physical region which a country believes it has economic, military, cultural or political rights 

tension over territory; Russia & Crimea, South China sea, 

18 of 19

Challenges facing superpowers

economic restructuring: from primary/secondary to tertiary and quaternary

EU & USA Challenges 

economic; debts, unemployments 

demographic ; ageing population, pension funds, population growth

political; political tensions, immigration, race relations under stress

resources; energy security issues, water supply issues

social; youth unemployment; political disaffection, health spending 

19 of 19


No comments have yet been made

Similar Geography resources:

See all Geography resources »See all superpowers resources »