Superpowers Flashcards Preview

Human Geography > Superpowers > Flashcards

Flashcards in Superpowers Deck (33):

Defining superpowers

Tend to have a disproportionate amount of global influence.
The USA is the only true superpower, because it is so much more powerful than other countries.
The EU- 28 countries and 510 million people is a nuclear weapons power and the world's second largest economy. The fact that they often disagree is a weakness. It could be further weakened when the UK leaves.


Sources of power

Economic- large GDP gives countries the wealth needed to be a global player.
Political- leading within global organisations such as the UN ,IMF and WTO.
Military- nuclear weapons are required to threaten or force a country's will on others.
Cultural- having ideas, arts, music, food and fashion that other people find appealing is a source of power.
Demographic- power requires power.
Natural resources- fossil fuels, land for farming, mineral wealth and water resources all increase self -sufficiency.


Mechanisms of power

Hard power- using military and economic influence.
Soft power- subtle persuasion of countries.
Joseph Nye argues that countries need to combine hard and soft power into smart power.
Hard power can get results but its often expensive and risky.
Some view military action as unnecessary or illegal, so aggressor may lose allies.
Soft power relies on a country having respected culture, values etc.
Soft power is low cost.


Changing mechanisms

The relative importance of hard power has changed over time. In the past, military force and hard power were the common mechanisms for achieving and maintaining power.
In 1904, Mackinder produced an influential geo-strageic location theory, called the Heartland Theory. This was influential:
Persuaded people that Russia needed to be contained.
Reinforced the idea that control of physical resources was important.
In the 21st these ideas seem old-fashioned:
Modern military technology can hit deep inside another countries territory.
Physical resources are traded internationally.
Wars and conflict are generally seen as abnormal.
Soft power has become more common as a way of gaining influence and maintaining power, by containing economic and political alliances.


Imperial power

The period 1500-1950 was an imperial era.
The development of empires relied on:
Powerful navies.
Large and advanced armed forces.
Businesses to exploit resources.
A fleet of merchant ships.
People from home country to act as the government and civil service.
Empires were maintained directly by force. Britain had the largest empire, reaching its peak in 1920 when it controlled 24% of the world's land.
Imperial power ended when European countries gave independence to their colonies. This was because the cost of maintaining empires were too high, as Europe rebuilt after the war.


Indirect control

No superpowers has significant empire.
Indirect power became important during the cold war era. The USA/USSR sought allies among other countries. This included:
Military alliances.
Foreign aid.
Support for corrupt and undemocratic regimes in the developing world.
Some argue that Western nations continue to control their ex-colonies through neo-colonialism:
A debt-aid relationships.
Poor terms of trade.
Loss of their brightest and most productive people.
China has been accused of having neo-colonial actions in Africa.


Indirect mechanisms of power

Political- dominance in international decision making.
Military- threat of large, powerful armed forces with global reach.
Economic- use of trade deals and trade blocs to create economic alliances that create interdependence.
Cultural- use of the global media to spread the ideology and values of a country.


Geopolitical stability and risk

Uni-polar should be stable, but the costs of being the hegemon are high and hard to sustain.
Bi-polar involves a tense stand off between opposing powers.
Multi polar has no dominant power.


Emerging powers

Huge human resources
Economy has grown massively
Increasingly engages with other parts of the world.
It has military ambitions.
Other BRIC and G20 countries could become more powerful in the future.
It is likely that in the future they will:
Demand more say international organisations.
Have more influence over global financial decisions making
Play a greater role in international peacekeeping missions and disaster response.
The BRIC countries account for 42% of all carbon dioxide emissions. This means that a global environmental governance agreement to tackle global warming has to involve these countries.


Strengths and weaknesses

Countries with ageing and even declining populations face major problems in the future in paying for increasingly costly healthcare while their workforce shrinks.
Shortages of physical resources could derail the ambitions of some countries while growing pollution could stall the growth of others.
Countries with modern infrastructure, balanced economic sectors and good energy supplies will do better than ones yet to develop these supplies.


Development theory

WW Rostow's Modernisation theory- suggests that economic development only begins when certain pre-conditions are met: modern infrastructure, education, banking and effective government.
AG Frank's Dependency theory- areas that the relationship between developed and developing countries is one of dependency: this prevents developing countries from making economic progress.
Wallerstein's World Systems theory- global system of core, semi-periphery and periphery nations. A good fit for the current pattern of developed, emerging and developing countries.


Superpower influence on global economy

Have a disproportionate influence on the global economy.
At the end of WW2, the EU/USA created a range of global inter-governmental organisations to promote this model.
World Bank lends money to promote economic development.
WTO- works to remove the barriers of international trade.
IMF- promotes global economic stability.
WEF- acts as a forum for discussion between business, politicians and IGos.


TNCs in the global economy

Public owned - owned by shareholders.
State owned- owned by governments. Found in communist countries. They are less democratic.
World's biggest TNCs are from countries like USA, EU and China.
25% of the biggest 2000 companies in 2016 were from the USA.


Cultural influence

It is an aspect of power, linked to economic influence and the development and spread of new technology.
TNCs are the key drivers of cultural globalisation and Westernisation.


Global action

Superpowers and emerging powers have the ability to act globally. This is especially true to the USA.
The includes:
Intervening in war and conflict.
Taking action in terms of crisis response.
Responding to terrorism.
Responding to longer term threats.


Global action examples

2014 Ebola epidemic- USA, UK and France led the crisis response in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, deploying military and medical assets.
2011 Libya Crisis- the EU, led by France and the UK took military action against the Gaddafi regime, while the help of US military intelligence.
War on terror- since 2001, the USA has led a global effort against Islamic terrorism.
2010 Haiti earthquake- the USA used its vast naval and air force assets to respond to this disaster, with medical, food and infrastructure aid.



Even hyperpowers seek allies.
These increase strength:
Allies can be eyes and ears in distant parts of the world.
The can increase the network of military assets.
Political and economic allies can form a large bloc.
The USA has a broad global military alliance, which its emerging power challengers cannot match.


The UN

Set up in 1945. It attempted to create a new world order of peace, prosperity and stability and avoid future world wars.
It can:
Take military action against countries.
Apply economic or diplomatic sanctions.
The international court of justice upholds international law.
Peacekeeping missions can be set up by the UN, sourcing armed forces from member states.
Inter-governmental panel on climate change are important in informing in debate on global warming.


Resource demand

Global environmental governance is disproportionately influenced by superpowers.
The USA/China have been reluctant to set emissions reduction targets.
EU/USA emissions are static or falling.
In India, demand for food and water as a country reduces poverty, looks unsustainable by 2030.
China's rising demand could lead to rising resource prices and potentially shortages.


Environmental governance

Some countries show leadership on environmental issues, such as carbon emissions.
China is largely focused on economic development.
The USA is largely unconcerned.
Europeans are most concerned. Most willing to act to try and reduce emissions.
Positive environmental governance:
Brazil has slowed forest loss.
China has become the world's biggest investor in renewable wind power.
Paris 2015, all countries did agree on emissions reductions.


Emerging demands

Pressure on resources is due to a number of reasons:
Increasing population
Increased wealth.
Rare earth materials- 80-90% of this production is in China, which raise possibility of shortages due to resource nationalism.
Oil- in 2015 the USA used 19 million barrels of oil per day, China 12 million and India 4 million.
Food- as China and India develop, there will be increased demand for staple grains.
Water- increased water use in developed countries.


Physical resources

Superpowers and emerging powers need physical resources.
International trade can mean:
Buying resources at a high price.
Trading with unfriendly /politically unstable regimes.
During conflict, trade routes and supply is blocked.
Disputed territory:
Invasion / conquest of another countries territory.
Claiming offshore, undersea resources by extending a countries EEZ.


Intellectual property

Human resources are an element of power. This is especially the case with new inventions and discoveries such as:
New military technology.
Inventions and new products that could bring riches.
Without IP:
TNCs would be reluctant to invest in R&D.
Countries would be reluctant to trade.
IP has economic value. Royalty feed amount to $150-200 billion annually.
Estimated that counterfeit goods sales account for 5-8% of China's GDP.


Political spheres

A sphere of influence can be useful in understanding the tensions between superpowers and emerging powers over territory and physical resources.
The South China sea is very tense. China's nine-dash line and the first and second island chain policies force it to try and control and large area of ocean.


Developing countries

Low income countries could have new relationships with emerging powers.
China is exploiting Africa's abundant and underdeveloped physical resources:
Cooper ore in Zambia.
Crude oil in Angola, Sudan and Chad.
Coltan from the DRC.


Opportunities (China in Africa)

Based on trade.
Brings jobs and raises incomes and GDP.
China has invested huge sums in HEP, railways, ports and roads, which can be used widely.
China-Africa trade was worth US$200 billion in 2016.


Challenges (China in Africa)

Countries without natural resources are left out.
Many jobs are done by Chinese Labour (over 1 million.)
Deforestation, oil spills and water pollution are risks.
Cheap Chinese imports have undercut some local producers.
Africa's economic model is cheap, raw materials and expensive manufactured imports.


Asian tensions

China and India represent 36% of the world's population, 18% of its GDP and 32% of its global CO2 emissions.
Both are members of G20.
Interesting relationship:
They are ideological rivals.
They share a border but parts of it are disputed.
China has the upper hand in terms of economics.
China has created a strong relationship with Pakistan, focused on the $54 billion Chinese investment in CPEC but Pakistan and India have tense relations.


Middle East tensions

Contains 60% of proven oil reserves.
Area of tension due to:
Muslim countries being hostile to the Jewish state of Israel (also an ally of the USA.)
Religious differences between Sunni and Shia branches of Muslims.
The rise of ISIS has created war, terrorism and a refugee crisis.
The Kurdish people are demanding their own state.
Since 2015. a civil war in Yemen has involved Saudi Arabia and the USA.
A complex web of alliances and geopolitical relations is a major ongoing challenge to stability.


Declining USA/EU?

Since the global financial crisis in 2007-08, the USE/EU have slowly rebuilt their damaged economy.
In 2016, debt levels had reached 90% of annual GDP in the UK, 75% in USA and 214% in Japan.
High debt levels may slow down future economic growth.


Social costs

Structural unemployment- loss of manufacturing jobs to emerging economies through globalisation. Many rely of social security payments from government.
Economic restructuring- deindustralisation in EU/USA. This has high costs, linked to regenerating former industrial areas. In addition, the workforce needs retraining.
Ageing and care- care home, nursing care and pension costs are all rising.


Superpower costs

USA spend 3.3% of its GDP on defence.
The UK spend 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid.
The UK/ France/ USA spend large sums of money on nuclear missile technology.
The USA could spend this money in other ways:
13% of Americans live in poverty.
About 60,000 road and rail bridges in USA need to be repaired.


Gobal power 2030-2050

Future outcomes are just best guesses, based on extrapolating past and current trends.
By 2030,
China's economy is similar size to the USA.
Income per capita will be lower in China than the USA.
China will still be in the process of becoming a fully developed country.
China is unlikely to be a global political leader by 2030.
By 2050:
China and India will both be powerful economically and militarily.
The USA could have similar levels of power and influence to India and China.