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The present day governments that have been claimed to become (or to remain) a superpower within the 21st century.

A number of states have been speculated to be, or to be in the process of turning into, a superpower at some point of the 21st century. Presently, it is widely considered that only the United States currently fulfills the criteria to be considered a superpower.[3][4] Among the most commonly mentioned as being potential superpowers are Brazil,[5][6][7] China,[8][9][10] the European Union,[11] India,[12] and Russia.[13][14][15][16] However, the record of such predictions has not been perfect. For example, in the 1980s, many political and economic analysts predicted that Japan would eventually accede to superpower status, due to its large population, huge GDP and high economic growth at that time.[17]



Federative Republic of Brazil
Flag of Brazil.svg
Brazil (orthographic projection).svg

The Federative Republic of Brazil is considered by a number of analysts and academics a potential superpower of the 21st Century.[5][6][7]

In a lecture entitled Brazil as an Emerging World Power,[18] presented at the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Leslie Elliot Armijo has said that "Brazil will soon rise as Latin America’s first superpower". Armijo states that "Brazil keeps solidifying itself as leader of its region by launching a series of integration projects", adding also that "as an international actor, Brazil has also taken a larger share of world politics by incrementing its already strong presence in economic initiatives, such as the International Finance Facility and the G20", asserting that "Brazil’s rising prominence derives from its solid democratic rule and its strong economy" and concluding that "Soon, we’ll have two superpowers in the Western Hemisphere"[5][19]

Marek Swierczynski, a journalist and defense analyst, in his Atlantic Community article[20] calls Brazil the "potential superpower of the South" and argues that it "may be on its way out of the western camp and can speed up the creation of the world’s new order". Elizabeth Reavey, a research associate from the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, claims in the title of her article that While the US Looks Eastward Brazil Is Emerging as a Nuclear Superpower[6]. Describing the importance of the ongoing development of nuclear technology in the country, she calls Brazil an emerging superpower, with a "potential to have a China-like, booming economy, increased nuclear capabilities, a growing self-confidence in its own power and an ability to make its own way".

Brazil is often called an economic superpower,[21][22] either present[23] or future, and many experts and journalists compare Brazil with the other potential superpowers of BRIC group. Jonathan Power from Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research claims in his article Brazil is becoming an economic and political superpower that "Brazil has a head start on India and China", saying that it has been positively developing for over 100 years and adding that "between 1960 and 1980 Brazil doubled its per capita income".[7] Power also speculates that Brazil "has a good chance of emerging as the world’s first economic superpower without nuclear weapons".

There are, however, numerous obstacles to Brazil reaching superpower status. As Nobel Prize- winning economist Paul Krugman puts it, that while Brazil's economy is doing well, “It’s not the same as to say it will become the economic superpower [anytime soon].”[24] Similarily, energy analyst Mark Burger writes that Brazil, in general, will improve its energy situation, but not to the point of being a "superpower" (or energy superpower)[25].


People's Republic of China
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg
People's Republic of China (orthographic projection).svg

The People's Republic of China receives continual coverage in the popular press of its potential superpower status,[26] and has been identified as a rising or emerging economic and military superpower by academics and other experts.[27][28][29][30] According to the Global Language Monitor, the rise of China as a superpower was the most read news story of the 2000s.[31][32] Barry Buzan asserts that "China certainly presents the most promising all-round profile" of a potential superpower.[33] Buzan claims that "China is currently the most fashionable potential superpower and the one whose degree of alienation from the dominant international society makes it the most obvious political challenger." However, he notes this challenge is constrained by the major challenges of development and by the fact that its rise could trigger a counter coalition of states in Asia.

Shujie Yao of Nottingham University has said that the London G-20 Summit helped to "further cement [China's] position as the world's emerging superpower by allowing it to stake out a clear leading role". He believes that "China will overtake the United States to become the world's largest economy by 2038 if current growth rates continue," and that China's nominal GDP will likely overtake that of Japan by 2009 or 2010. David Ignatius, however, has cautioned against this brand of statistical extrapolation, instead noting that China's current export-driven, high-growth economic model may be unsustainable.[34] Yao goes on to argue that the credit crisis has provided China a rare chance to secure superpower status.[35] Paul Krugman and Daniel Drezner, however, have disputed China's success with this opportunity. They doubt China's relative leverage as a global financial power, and point in particular to its complex, and perhaps widely misunderstood, relationship with the United States on issues of trade, debt, and currency exchange rates[36][37].

Parag Khanna states that by making massive trade and investment deals with Latin America and Africa, China has established its presence as a superpower along with the European Union and the United States. He states that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization founded with Russia and the Central Asian countries may eventually be the "NATO of the East".[38] Another factor favoring China's rise is its government: Fareed Zakaria and other academics {who?} have argued that China's government can perform tasks such as development or crisis management more efficiently and rapidly than democracies in Europe or India.[39] Yang Yao and Minxin Pei, however, have highlighted potential shortcomings within China's authoritarian political model. Yao argues that the Chinese government's infringement on the rights of citizens and private businesses has fostered political instability, as well as an unsustainable, state-driven economy that relies too heavily on external demand. [40] Pei believes China's government is unresponsive to its citizens and its domestic issues in Tibet and Xinjiang, as as such may have trouble exerting control even within its own borders.[41]

George Friedman however does not believe that China will be a superpower, stating that China's geographic position is isolated due to Siberia in the north, the Himalayas as well as jungles to the south, and the majority of China's population is in the east and thus China cannot easily expand. He also states that China has not been a major naval power for centuries, and building a navy will take a very long time.[42] Geoffrey Murphay's China: The Next Superpower argues that while the potential for China is high, this is fairly perceived only by looking at the risks and obstacles China faces in managing its population and resources. The political situation in China may become too fragile to survive into superpower status according to Susan Shirk in China: Fragile Superpower.[43] Other factors that could constrain China's ability to become a superpower in the future include: limited supplies of energy and raw materials, questions over its innovation capability, inequality and corruption, and risks to social stability and the environment. Amy Chua states that whether a country has enough pull to bring immigrants is an important quality for a superpower. She also writes that China lacks the pull to bring scientists, thinkers, and innovators from other countries as immigrants. However, she believes that China has made up for this with its own diaspora, saying that size and resources for them are unparalleled.[44] Gordon G. Chang has highlighted other problems on China's course to superpower status, including: low domestic consumer demand, a declining export market, a rapidly aging population, below-average educational institutions, and ongoing political unrest[45][46][47]

European Union

European Union
Flag of Europe.svg
Global European Union.svg

The European Union (EU) has been called an emerging superpower by academics.[11][48] Many scholars and academics like T.R. Reid,[49] Andrew Reding,[50], Andrew Moravcsik,[51] Mark Leonard,[52] Jeremy Rifkin,[53] John McCormick,[54] and some politicians like Romano Prodi[55] and Tony Blair[56][57] either believe that the EU is, or will become, a superpower in the 21st century.

Mark Leonard cites several factors: the EU's large population, large economy (the EU has the largest economy in the world; the economy of the EU is slightly larger than that of the U.S. in terms of GDP purchasing (PPP) and ~24% larger in terms of nominal GDP, as of 2008 [58]), low inflation rates, the unpopularity and perceived failure of US foreign policy in recent years, and certain EU members states' high quality of life (when measured in terms such as hours worked per week, health care, social services).[59] John McCormick believes that the EU has already achieved superpower status, based on the size and global reach of its economy and on its global political influence. He argues that the nature of power has changed since the Cold War-driven definition of superpower was developed, and that military power is no longer essential to great power; he argues that control of the means of production is more important than control of the means of destruction, and contrasts the threatening hard power of the United States with the opportunities offered by the soft power wielded by the European Union.[60]

Parag Khanna believes that the EU, together with China, has already achieved superpower status and rivals the US for influence around the world.[61][62] He also mentions the large economy of the EU, that European technologies more and more set the global standards and that European countries give the most development assistance. He agrees with McCormick that the EU does not need a common army to be a superpower. The EU uses intelligence and the police to apprehend radical Islamists, social policy to try to integrate restive Muslim populations and economic strength to incorporate the former Soviet Union and gradually subdue Russia.[61] Khanna also writes that South America, East Asia, and other regions prefer to emulate the "European Dream" than the American variant.[63] This could possibly be seen in the South American Union and the African Union. Notably, the EU as a whole is among the most culturally diverse "entities" on the planet[64], with some of the world's largest and most influential languages being official within its borders [65].

Andrew Reding also takes the future EU enlargement into account. An eventual future accession of the rest of Europe would not only boost the economy of the EU, but it would also increase the EU's population to a level almost equal to that of India and China. The EU is qualitatively different from India and China since it is enormously more prosperous and technologically advanced.[50] Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the Journal of Turkish Weekly in 2005 that: "In 10 or 15 years, the EU will be a place where civilizations meet. It will be a superpower with the inclusion of Turkey." [66]

Robert J. Guttman remarks that the very definition of the term superpower has changed and that in the new 21st century, it does not only refer to states with military power, but also to groups such as the European Union, which has strong market economics, young, highly educated workers who are savvy in high technology, and a global vision.[67] Friis Arne Petersen, the Danish ambassador to the U.S. has expressed similar views. He conceded that the EU is a “special kind of superpower,” one that has yet to establish a unified military force that exerts itself even close to the same level as many of its individual members.[68]

A study of 57,000 people across 52 countries by the European Council on Foreign Relations indicates that the EU is the most "popular" superpower in that people across the world like to see the European Union become more influential. The study found that the EU was "unique among the four big powers (China, the EU, Russia and the United States) in that no one wants to balance its rise." It concluded that 35 percent of people in the world want the 27-member bloc to grow in power.[69] Britons were revealed to be the most ambivalent towards the EU's growing influence with a positive balance of just eight per cent.[70]

Additionally, it is argued by commentators that full political integration is not required for the European Union to wield international influence: that its apparent weaknesses constitute its real strengths (as of its low profile diplomacy and the obsession with the rule of law)[60] and that the EU represents a new and potentially more successful type of international actor than traditional ones;[71] however, it is uncertain if the effectiveness of such an influence would be equal to that of a politically integrated superpower such as the United States.[72]

Barry Buzan notes that the EU's potential superpower status depends on its "stateness". It is unclear though how much state-like quality is needed for the EU to be described as a superpower. Buzan states that the EU is likely to remain a potential superpower for a long time because although it has material wealth, its "political weakness and its erratic and difficult course of internal political development, particularly as regards a common foreign and defence policy" constrains it from being a superpower.[33]

Alexander Stubb, the Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs, has said that he thinks the EU is and is not a superpower. While the EU is a superpower in the sense that it is the largest political union, single market and aid donor in the world, it is not a superpower in the defense or foreign policy spheres. Just like Barry Buzan, Alexander Stubb thinks that the most major factor constraining the EU’s rise to superpower status is its lack of statehood in the international system, other factors are its lack of internal drive to project power worldwide, and nostalgia for the nation-states amongst some Europeans. To counter-balance these he urged the EU leaders to approve and ratify the Lisbon Treaty (which they did in 2009), create an EU foreign ministry (EEAS, led by High Representative Catherine Ashton, will be finished in 2012) , develop a common EU defense, hold one collective seat at the UN Security Council and G8, and address what he described as the “sour mood” toward the EU prevalent in some European countries today.[73]

However, some politicians and writers do not believe that the EU will achieve superpower status. "The EU is not and never will be a superpower" according to UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs David Miliband.[74] Lacking a unified foreign policy and with an inability to project military power worldwide, the EU lacks "the substance of superpowers," who by definition have "first of all military reach [and] possess the capacity to arrive quickly anywhere with troops that can impose their government's will." [75]. EU parliamentarian Ilka Schroeder argues that conflicts such as the Israeli-Palestinian dispute see close EU involvement largely to compensate for European inability to project military power internationally.[76]

The Economist editor Robert Lane Greene notes that the lack of a strong European military only exasperates the lack of unified EU foreign policy and discounts any EU arguments towards superpower status, noting especially that the EU's creation of a global response force rivaling the superpower's (America) is "unthinkable."[77] The biggest barrier to European superpowerdom is that European elites refuse to bring their postmodern fantasies about the illegitimacy of military "hard power" into line with the way the rest of the world interprets reality" according to Soren Kern of Strategic Studies Group.[78] Britain's Michael Howard has warned against the "worry" that many Europeans are pushing for greater EU integration to counter-balance the United States,[79] while Europe's total reliance on soft (non-military) power is in part because of its lack of a "shared identity." [80] While to some the European Union should be a "model power" unafraid of using military force and backing free trade, its military shortcomings argue against superpower status.[81]


Republic of India
Flag of India.svg
India (orthographic projection).svg

Several media publications and academics have discussed India's potential of becoming a great power or eventually a superpower.[12][82]

Fareed Zakaria also believes that India has a chance at becoming a superpower, pointing out that India's young population coupled with the second largest English-speaking population in the world could give India an advantage over China, and noting that while other industrial countries will face a youth gap, India will have a large, young workforce. Zakaria says another strength that India has is that its democratic government has lasted for 60 years, stating that a democracy can provide for long-term stability.[39]

Parag Khanna believes that India is not, and will not become a superpower for the foreseeable future, lagging decades behind China in both development and strategic appetite.[83] Instead, he believes India will be a key swing state along with Russia.[84] He says that India is "big but not important," has a highly successful professional class, while hundreds of millions of its citizens still live in extreme poverty. It is "almost completely third world".[85] He also writes that it matters that China borders a dozen more countries than India and is not hemmed in by a vast ocean and the world's tallest mountains. China has a loyal diaspora twice the size of India's and enjoys a head start in Asian and African marketplaces.[86]

Daniel Lak describes India as the underdog, facing more challenges than advantages, yet it is approaching superpower status. He also mentions that despite the hardships of significant poverty, and social inequality, India is overcoming all of this.[87] Buzan notes that despite its nuclear test, India "is not talked about or treated as a potential superpower".[33]

Robyn Meredith claims that both India and China will be superpowers. However, she points out that China is decades ahead of India, and that the average Chinese person is better off than the average Indian person.[88] Amy Chua also adds to this, stating that while India's potential for superpower is great, it still faces many problems such as "pervasive rural poverty, disease-filled urban slums, entrenched corruption, and egregious maternal mortality rates just to name a few". Also like China, India lacks the "pull" for immigrants, and Indians still continue to emigrate in large numbers. However, she notes that India has made tremendous strides to fix this, stating that some of India's achievements, such as working to dismantle the centuries old caste system and maintaining the world's largest diverse democracy is historically unprecedented.[44]


Russian Federation
Flag of Russia.svg
Russian Federation (orthographic projection).svg

The Russian Federation has been suggested by some as a potential candidate for resuming superpower status in the 21st century.[89][90][13][14][15][91][92].

According to economist Steven Rosefielde of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Russia intends to "reemerge as a full-fledged superpower," and "contrary to conventional wisdom, this goal is easily within the Kremlin's grasp, but the cost to the Russian people and global security would be immense."[93] Rosefielde further argues that Russia "has an intact military-industrial complex...and the mineral wealth to reactivate its dormant structurally militarized potential," and that "supply-side constraints don't preclude a return to prodigal superpowerdom"[93][94].

Military analyst Alexander Golts of the The St. Petersburg Times argues that Putin's confrontations with the U.S. on nuclear issues are in pursuit of regaining superpower status for Russia.[95] It has been argued that Russia's foreign policy toward bordering countries is designed with the ultimate goal of regaining superpower status.[96] Mike Ritchie of industry analysts Energy Intelligence says "Russia was always a superpower that used its energy to win friends and influence among its former Soviet satellites. Nothing has really changed much. They are back in the same game, winning friends and influencing people and using their power to do so."[97]

According to Francis Matthew, Editor at Large of the Gulfnews, facts constraining Russia's rise to superpower-status, includes a lack of important allies, relatively small and failing economy and, again, a relatively small, and shrinking, population. He also claims that if Russia wants to return to playing a strong international role, it will need to go through a round of profound internal reform; "Without the necessary economic transparency that an economy needs today to flourish, Russia will remain in trouble. The government might be rescued for a while by a rise in the oil price, but that it no substitute for long-term development."[98]

See also


  1. ^ Country profile: United States of America, BBC News, Accessed July 22, 2008
  2. ^ "Analyzing American Power in the Post-Cold War Era". Retrieved 2007-02-28. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
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  6. ^ a b c While the US Looks Eastward Brazil Is Emerging as a Nuclear Superpower
  7. ^ a b c Brazil is becoming an economic and political superpower
  8. ^ The Global Language Monitor - Top News Stories of the Decade.
  9. ^ Lague, D (2007) China builds a superpower fighter, International Herald Tribune
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  11. ^ a b Guttman, R.J. (2001) Europe in the New Century, Lynne Rienner Publishers
  12. ^ a b India Rising | Newsweek International |
  13. ^ a b Rosefielde, S (2004) Russia in the 21st Century, Cambridge University Press
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  15. ^ a b New York Times by Ronald Steel professor of international relations August 24, 2008 (Superpower Reborn)[2]
  16. ^ Voice of America News editor by Robert Berger Feb. 15, 2010 cite Netanyahu calls Russia an important Superpower[3]
  17. ^ Japan From Superrich To Superpower, TIME 4 July 1988
  18. ^ Brazil as an Emerging World Power
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  20. ^ Watch out for Brazil, Russia's New Buddy
  21. ^ Brookings Institution Press: Brazil as an Economic Superpower?
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  26. ^ Visions of China, CNN Specials, Accessed March 11, 2007
  27. ^ Does China Want to Be Top Superpower?
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  31. ^ Rise of China tops 9/11 as most-read story of decade.
  32. ^ China's rise most read story of the decade.
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  38. ^ Waving Goodbye to Hegemony (PARAG KHANNA)
  39. ^ a b Zakaria, F (2008) The Post-American World, “W. W. Norton and Company” ISBN 9780393062359
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  42. ^ Friedman, G (2009)The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century, "Doubleday" ISBN 9780385517058
  43. ^ Shirk, S (2008) China:Fragile Superpower, "Oxford University Press, USA ISBN 9780195373196
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  48. ^ Wilson Center The EU Future: Global Power or European Governance?, Wilson Center
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  53. ^ Rifkin, J. (2004) The European Dream ISBN 1-58542-345-9The European Dream ISBN 1-58542-345-9
  54. ^ The European Superpower
  55. ^ The Atlantic
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  59. ^ Mark Leonard (2005) Europe: the new superpower, Irish Times
  60. ^ a b John McCormickThe European Superpower
  61. ^ a b Khanna P.Waving Goodbye to Hegemony, New York Times Magazine
  62. ^ Khanna P.Guess Who's Coming to Power
  63. ^ Khanna P
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  66. ^ Journal of Turkish Weekly
  67. ^ Europe in the New Century: Visions of an Emerging Superpower
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  69. ^ Ivan Krastev; Mark Leonard (2007-10-24). "New World Order: The Balance of Soft Power and the Rise of Herbivorous Powers" (pdf). Voice of the Peoples survey by Gallup International Association in co-operation with ECFR. European Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 2009-08-17. 
  70. ^ inthenews
  71. ^ Hyde-Price A (2004) The EU, Power and Coercion: From 'Civilian' to 'Civilising' Power Arena
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  82. ^ India welcomed as new sort of superpower, IHT, Accessed March 11, 2007
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  84. ^ Khanna, P (2008) The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order, “Random House” ISBN 978140065080
  85. ^ We’re #1? Tell China
  86. ^ The Rise of Non-Americanism
  87. ^ Lak, D (2008) India Express: The Future of the New Superpower, "Palgrave Macmillan" ISBN 9780230607837
  88. ^ Meredith, R (2008) The Elephant and the Dragon: The Rise of India and China and What it Means for All of Us, "W.W Norton and Company" ISBN 9780393331936
  89. ^; Feb. 16, 2010; cite "Netanyahu: Russia is an important "superpower" [9]
  90. ^ Los Angeles Times by Megan K. Stack Sept 11, 2009: “Venezuela's Hugo Chavez recognizes Russia as superpower”[10]
  91. ^ - Feb. 16, 2010 cite Transcript: Russia a Superpower in every Aspect[11]
  92. ^ Gulf News Aug 30, 2008 cite transcript: “Russia indeed a superpower says diplomat”[12]
  93. ^ a b Rosefielde, Steven (2004). Russia in the 21st Century: The Prodigal Superpower. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–9. ISBN 978-0521545297. 
  94. ^ University of North Carolina Dec. 2004 by Steven Rosefielde “Russia in the 21st Century The Prodigal Superpower”[13]
  95. ^ St. Petersburg Times: "Dreaming of New Conflicts"
  96. ^ Rywkin, Michael (January 2008). "Russia: In Quest of Superpower Status". American Foreign Policy Interests 30 (1): 13–21. doi:10.1080/10803920701854272. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  97. ^ Russia: A superpower rises again[December 13, 2006]
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