• Created by: Jenna
  • Created on: 12-05-15 13:40

What is a superpower?

A state/nation that has the power exert influence over global trade patterns. It exerts its power through military, economic and culture.

Three levels of global power are recognised: Superpowers (USA, EU), emerging superpowers(BRICS) and regional powers- tends to be continental influence rather than global (Japan)

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The mechanisms of power

Hard: Military presence and force:

  • nuclear weapons
  • large air, naval and land forces
  • being part of NATO

Intermediate: Trade and Aid:

  • favouring certain trade partners
  • aid is often gave 'with strings attached'
  • control imports and exports

Soft: Culture

  • using the media to promote e.g. americanisation
  • exporting culture in the form of film and TV
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Patterns of power

Unipolar pattern: is a world with 1 dominant power, this was the case in 1944 when the British Empire was the dominant power.

Bipolar pattern: in which two opposing superpowers exist, this was the case between 1945-1990 when the USA and USSR were in the Cold War

Multipolar pattern: of 3 or more powers which seems to be the pattern at the moment since 2010. This involves EU, USA and China

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Theories to explain powerful countries

  • Modernisation Theory (Rostow)- 5 stage development pathway in which countries move up. The Bitish Empire was the first to experience the industrial revolution.
  • Dependency Theory (A.G.Frank) divides the world into an economically developed core and an underdeveloped periphery. The core constantly keeps the periphery in a state of underdevlopment by expoliting their raw materials and by selling them back as manufactured goods.
  • World systems theory (Wallerstein) recognises a three tiered world, a core, a semi-periphery and periphery. The countries move up and down the tier.
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A direct form of control which included:

  • using threat and force by military
  • imposing laws, languages and culture
  • creating a 2 class society- the colonisers and the colonised

this type of control was used to create and sustain the British Empire between the 16th and mid 20th centuries.

Imperialism- is described where a foreign government governs a territory without significant settlement. E.g. Africa in the late 19th century and the American domination of Puerto Rico and the Philippines can be cited as examples of Imperialism.
Hegemony- leadership or predominant influence exercised by one nation over others, to achieve world domination

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Indirect control by developed countries over developing countries. Less use of military control but more of economic. (also known as economic imperialism)

control is exercised through:

  • Trade- low raw material from the developing countries costs less to export, then they make manufactured goods from it
  • Aid- strings attached- country has to spend the aid in the way the donor country wishes them to.
  • TNC's
  • Debt- loans to be paid back with interest

For example: China and Africa , UK and Ghana (fairtrade)the worst form of imperilism from Ghana's first president.

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British Empire

Beginning of 20th century the British Empire was the biggest global superpower. It was aided by the industrial revolution 

In 1913 the global GDP of Birtish Empire was 37% this included building and owning the Taj Mahal and pyamids in Egypt

Why did the British empire end?

from 1913-1950 the world had 2 major wars and suffered a lot of damage and therefore became economically unstable and many countries demanding independence e.g. Jamaica and India.  

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  • biggest economy for a country $17 trillion in 2015
  • US dollar is the global currency- oil and gold priced in dollars= cheaper for USA


  • 2nd largest Army in the world (1.4 million land persons)
  • have enough nuclear weapons to end human life
  • 25,000 aircraft whereas Russia, China and India combined only have 10,000


  • dominant global culture- 'Americanisation'
  • Mcdonaldization
  • Disney
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1945-1990 Bi-polar world USA & USSR opposed

Fell because of political freedoms- Glasnost- communism didnt make out to be all that it said to be- military spending went through the roof.

Resources- largest natural gas fields in the world, iron ore, oil and coal reserves (exported to Europe)

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Rapid economic growth has had a major impact on the world. it is called the "workshop of the world"

Environmental costs of growth- 16/20 cities that are the most polluted in the world are in China


Economy has grown 8-12% each year- fastest growing economy ever

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World's biggest economy

27 countries 

Federation of National States 


Agricultural Exports, Energy Independant, Most developed of the BRICs.


Political Insecurity and Poverty.


Olympics and World Cup = Global Stage, Potential to export Food and Technology.

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The future (BRICS)

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are all emerging powers, hoping to become superpowers. 

the BRICS are fast at adopting communication technology and improving life expectancy through better healthcare

They benefit from economic growth 

challenges they bring to USA and EU- current superpowers... 

  • resources- Brazil (natural gas and petroleum) and Russia (largest natural gas reserves)
  • Military dominance- Russia, China and India are nuclear powers which could shift military power from USA to Asia 
  • Space- China and India have well active and funded space programmes 
  • Technology- India have benefitted from IT and outsourcing businesses in technology
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Theories explaining colonialism

Modernism: a philosophy of ideas from, the 19th century about 'modern society'. Modernists believed the world could be improved by human intervention. They thought europeans were superior, so Europe could improve the world by colonising. 

Mackinders Heartland theory: British philosphers in 1900's believed whoever controlled Europe and Asia (biggest landmasses) would control the world. Whoever ruled the pivot, would control the heartland, which would then control the world. The heartland went from east Europe to Russia the pivot was the centre of this

Evangelic christianity and Darwinism: part of colonialism is spreading the christian word which is known as evangelism. The Brtisih sent missionairies to their afican colonies with this in mind. Now 50% of Africans are Christian. 

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China and India compared

Recent Political History and Development Path

  • Fought a brutal Civil War in 1949 with the Chinese Communist Party victorious.
  • Was a Dictatorship until 1976 under Mao Zedong.
  • Since the 1980s, China has opened up and traded with the World.
  • The One Child Policy has been running since 1978.
  • Current Social and Political Systems
    • Communist Dictatorship - one Communist Party.
    • No free elections.
    • Leaders Transition every 10 years.

Recent Political History and Development Path

  • India gained independance from the UK in 1947.
  • India split from Pakistan and suffered conflict between Muslims and Hindus.
  • India remined undeveloped and poor into the 1980s.
  • Red Tape and Inefficiency still exist today. 
  • Current and Social Political Systems- Worlds Largest Democracy.

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Popularised by Jim O' Neil, who came up with the idea of the BRICS





They are all going to see a rise in the number of people eligible to work relative to those not working.

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IGO's involved in global decision making

  • UN- 193 members-the 5 permanent members of this are the UK, France, China, Russia and USA.
  • WTO- world trade organisation- promotes free trade and reduces poverty. For example the UK is in involved with trade in Ghana making cocoa
  • IMF- stops a national crises becoming an international crises. for example if one country is in debt with another country the IMF will loan them some money to resolves issues.
  • World Bank- provides funds for large scale projects & helps countries in financial trouble
  • G8- the group of 8 have recently become the G7 due to losing its member Russiain March 2014 (due to kick off in Ukraine). The former G8 helps boost political power, it was formed at the end of the cold war in 1989 for Germany, USA and Russia who all fought on the same side of WW2 to stop conflict and resolve political issues together.
  • Trade Blocs- such as EU and NAFTA- The North American Free Trade agreement- worlds largest free trade zones which boosts economic growth for Canada, USA & Mexico
  • NATO- North Atlantic Treaty Organisation- 28 members, USA hosting country- resolve issues in politics and military- a reaction to the cold war in 1949. Article 5 used in terrorist attacks of 9/11 happened.
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