World superpowers, also called global superpowers, are the world’s most powerful nations that have the most influence over the world. These countries’ have dominant positions characterized by their ability to exert influence or project power on a global scale. These countries’ moves are watched closely by the entire world, especially their military and foreign policies, as they can greatly impact the rest of the world. Global superpowers are financially stable enough to assist nations that need humanitarian or humanitarian aid and are also strong technologically and educationally.
Economically, superpowers have GDPs in the trillions. GDP, or gross domestic product, represents the total dollar value of all goods and services produced over a period and is one of the most common indicators to track the health of a country’s economy. For example, the United States, the largest economy in the world, has a GDP of about $20.5 trillion.
The term “global superpowers” first appeared after World War II, applying to the United States and the Soviet Union. The U.S. and the USSR dominated world affairs during the Cold War, and only the U.S. remained a “superpower” after the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991.
The United States
The United States is considered to be the one true global superpower today. The U.S. is the world’s most dominant military and economic power with a military budget of US$686.1 billion for 2019 and a GDP of US$20.5 trillion.
President Trump’s policies on immigration and foreign trade as well as his foreign policy and military decisions have drawn a lot of attention from around the world, including the United States’ closest allies. Some of these include withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, issuing a travel ban on six Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., leaving the Paris climate accord, and a series of military decisions that include an early January 2020 drone strike on Iran.
China is considered to be an emerging superpower or a “potential superpower.” Some even argue that China will pass the United States as a global superpower in the coming decades. China’s GDP is $13.6 trillion, the second-highest in the world. It is also the most populous country in the world and the second-largest by landmass.
While China’s defense spending is significantly lower than that of the United States at $250 billion, it is still the second-highest in the world. Additionally, China makes up for it with its increasing diplomatic pushes, its rise to one of the largest contributors to the global economy, and its technological advances, especially with artificial intelligence (AI).
Russia is another potential global superpower. Russia is the world’s largest country by landmass, covering most of northern Asia and Eastern Europe and shares borders with over a dozen countries. Its GDP is $1.7 trillion and its population is about 144.5 million people.
Different world leaders, scholars, and journalists disagree about whether Russia is a potential superpower or if it is already a superpower. The late Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, stated that Russia is a superpower in 2009, citing the U.S.’s waning influence in global affairs. Matthew Fleischer of the Los Angeles Times argued in 2014 that Russia would only become a superpower if climate change melted the permafrost that currently covers about two-thirds of the country, revealing plentiful stores of natural gas, oil, and precious minerals, allowing the country to control the world’s supply of these resources.
Others argue that Russia is not even a potential superpower since it has trade relations of a Third World country, a much smaller GDP than China or the United States (about 8% of the United States), and no highly rated universities, among others things.
The European Union (EU) is considered to be an emerging superpower by scholars; however, reaching a status of a global superpower in the 21st century has greatly been slowed down because of the euro crisis and Brexit. The EU’s 2018 GDP is 18.8 trillion, closely following that of the United States. Although the EU doesn’t have a combined army (yet), several of its members have very substantial military capabilities, such as those of Germany, the UK, and France.
Despite this, some argue that the EU might not be sustainable with so many member nations, each of which has differing economic and political interests and priorities. Additionally, the EU lacks a unified foreign policy and cannot project military power worldwide (as of right now).
India is a potential global superpower. India is the world’s second-most populous nation and is expected to pass China’s population by 2025. India has matched its growing population with significant economic growth and has the largest and youngest workforce in the world. Additionally, India has built up its military to feel secure against its enemies surrounding its borders, such as Pakistan and China. The Indian military boasts about 100 nuclear warheads and two aircraft carriers, indicating that India is one of the few nations in the world that is capable of projecting military influence anywhere.
In addition to its growing population, a booming economy, and strengthened military force, India also has more billion-dollar start-up business than everywhere in the world, only third to the U.S. and China.
While the United States is considered to be the one, true global superpower in the world, several nations are looking to become part of the club in the 21st century.