This article focuses too much on specific examples without explaining their importance to its main subject. (March 2016)
A superpower is a state with a dominant position characterised by its extensive ability to exert influence or project power on a global scale. This is done through the combined-means of economic, military, technological, and cultural strength, as well as diplomatic and soft power influence. Traditionally, superpowers are preeminent among the great powers.
In international law, a sovereign state, sovereign country, or simply state, is a nonphysical juridical entity that is represented by one centralized government that has sovereignty over a geographic area. International law defines sovereign states as having a permanent population, defined territory, one government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood that a sovereign state is neither dependent on nor subjected to any other power or state.
In the field of international relations, a sphere of influence (SOI) is a spatial region or concept division over which a state or organization has a level of cultural, economic, military, or political exclusivity, accommodating to the interests of powers outside the borders of the state that controls it.
Power projection is a term used in military and political science to refer to the capacity of a state "to apply all or some of its elements of national power — political, economic, informational, or military — to rapidly and effectively deploy and sustain forces in and from multiple dispersed locations to respond to crises, to contribute to deterrence, and to enhance regional stability."
The term was first applied post World War II to the United States and the Soviet Union. For the duration of the Cold War the United States and the Soviet Union came to be generally regarded as the two remaining superpowers, dominating world affairs. At the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, only the United States appeared to be the world's superpower.
The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.
The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 30 December 1922 to 26 December 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.
The Cold War was a period of geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union with its satellite states, and the United States with its allies after World War II. A common historiography of the conflict begins between 1946, the year U.S. diplomat George F. Kennan's "Long Telegram" from Moscow cemented a U.S. foreign policy of containment of Soviet expansionism threatening strategically vital regions, and the Truman Doctrine of 1947, and ending between the Revolutions of 1989 and the 1991 collapse of the USSR, which ended communism in Eastern Europe. The term "cold" is used because there was no large-scale fighting directly between the two sides, but they each supported major regional conflicts known as proxy wars.
Recently in 2018, there has been growing consensus among academics that China has reached superpower status, with some arguing that China's growing influence in Africa, Southeast Asia, Central Asia and Latin America along with China-led multilateral organizations such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Belt and Road Initiative, BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, is now being seen as a direct counter against US influence. The competition of global influence has led some to believe that the world is reverting back to the bipolarity seen during the Cold War. Although such bipolar divisions is less overt and confrontational than the division seen during the original Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States; it is important to realize that the competition between the two superpowers along with Russia's growing involvement in international affairs is changing the geopolitical landscape in the 21st century to what some may call as the Second Cold War.
China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia and the world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.404 billion. Covering approximately 9,600,000 square kilometers (3,700,000 sq mi), it is the third- or fourth-largest country by total area. Governed by the Communist Party of China, the state exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities, and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.
Africa is the world's second largest and second most-populous continent, being behind Asia in both categories. At about 30.3 million km2 including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth's total surface area and 20% of its land area. With 1.2 billion people as of 2016, it accounts for about 16% of the world's human population. The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The continent includes Madagascar and various archipelagos. It contains 54 fully recognised sovereign states (countries), nine territories and two de facto independent states with limited or no recognition. The majority of the continent and its countries are in the Northern Hemisphere, with a substantial portion and number of countries in the Southern Hemisphere.
Southeast Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China and Japan, east of India, west of Papua New Guinea, and north of Australia. Southeast Asia is bordered to the north by East Asia, to the west by South Asia and the Bay of Bengal, to the east by Oceania and the Pacific Ocean, and to the south by Australia and the Indian Ocean. The region is the only part of Asia that lies partly within the Southern Hemisphere, although the majority of it is in the Northern Hemisphere. In contemporary definition, Southeast Asia consists of two geographic regions:
Alice Lyman Miller defines a superpower as "a country that has the capacity to project dominating power and influence anywhere in the world, and sometimes, in more than one region of the globe at a time, and so may plausibly attain the status of global hegemony."
Dr. Alice Lyman Miller is a researcher, writer, and professor known for her analysis of Chinese history, politics, and foreign policy. Miller worked as an intelligence analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency, taught at Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University and the Naval Postgraduate School, and is researcher and visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Born Harold Lyman Miller, and published under the name H. Lyman Miller, she completed gender transition in 2006.
Hegemony is the political, economic, or military predominance or control of one state over others. In ancient Greece, hegemony denoted the politico-military dominance of a city-state over other city-states. The dominant state is known as the hegemon.
No agreed definition of what is a 'superpower' exists, and may differ between sources.However, a fundamental characteristic that is consistent with all definitions of a superpower is a nation or state that has mastered the seven dimensions of state power: geography, population, economy, resources, military, diplomacy and national identity.
Diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of states. It usually refers to international diplomacy, the conduct of international relations through the intercession of professional diplomats with regard to a full range of topical issues. International treaties are usually negotiated by diplomats prior to endorsement by national politicians. David Stevenson reports that by 1900 the term "diplomats" also covered diplomatic services, consular services and foreign ministry officials.
National identity is a person's identity or sense of belonging to one state or to one nation. It is the sense of a nation as a cohesive whole, as represented by distinctive traditions, culture, language and politics. National identity may refer to the subjective feeling one shares with a group of people about a nation, regardless of one's legal citizenship status. National identity is viewed in psychological terms as "an awareness of difference", a "feeling and recognition of 'we' and 'they'".
The term was first used to describe nations with greater than great power status as early as 1944, but only gained its specific meaning with regard to the United States and the Soviet Union after World War II. This was because the United States and the Soviet Union had proved themselves to be capable of casting great influence in global politics and military dominance. The term in its current political meaning was coined by Dutch-American geostrategist Nicholas Spykman in a series of lectures in 1943 about the potential shape of a new post-war world order. This formed the foundation for the book The Geography of the Peace, which referred primarily to the unmatched maritime global supremacy of the British Empire and United States as essential for peace and prosperity in the world.
A great power is a sovereign state that is recognized as having the ability and expertise to exert its influence on a global scale. Great powers characteristically possess military and economic strength, as well as diplomatic and soft power influence, which may cause middle or small powers to consider the great powers' opinions before taking actions of their own. International relations theorists have posited that great power status can be characterized into power capabilities, spatial aspects, and status dimensions.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
A year later, in 1944, William T. R. Fox, an American foreign policy professor, elaborated on the concept in the book The Superpowers: The United States, Britain and the Soviet Union — Their Responsibility for Peace, which spoke of the global reach of a super-empowered nation.Fox used the word Superpower to identify a new category of power able to occupy the highest status in a world in which, as the war then raging demonstrated, states could challenge and fight each other on a global scale. According to him, there were (at that moment) three states that were superpowers: the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union. The British Empire was the most extensive empire in world history and considered the foremost great power, holding sway over 25% of the world's population and controlling about 25% of the Earth's total land area, while the United States and the Soviet Union grew in power before and during World War II.
According to Lyman Miller, "The basic components of superpower stature may be measured along four axes of power: military, economic, political, and cultural (or what political scientist Joseph Nye has termed “soft power”)".
In the opinion of Kim Richard Nossal of Queen's University in Canada, "generally this term was used to signify a political community that occupied a continental-sized landmass, had a sizable population (relative at least to other major powers); a superordinate economic capacity, including ample indigenous supplies of food and natural resources; enjoyed a high degree of non-dependence on international intercourse; and, most importantly, had a well-developed nuclear capacity (eventually normally defined as second strike capability)."
In the opinion of Professor Paul Dukes, "a superpower must be able to conduct a global strategy including the possibility of destroying the world; to command vast economic potential and influence; and to present a universal ideology". Although, "many modifications may be made to this basic definition".According to Professor June Teufel Dreyer, "A superpower must be able to project its power, soft and hard, globally." In his book, Superpower: Three Choices for America's Role in the World , Dr. Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, argues that a superpower is "a country that can exert enough military, political, and economic power to persuade nations in every region of the world to take important actions they would not otherwise take."
There have been many attempts by historians to apply the term superpower retrospectively, and sometimes very loosely, to a variety of entities in the past. Recognition by historians of these older states as superpowers may focus on various superlative traits exhibited by them. Examples of these ancient or historical superpowers include the British Empire, [ dubious ] Ancient Egypt, the Hittite Empire, the Median Empire, the Achaemenid Empire, the Parthian Empire, the Sassanian Empire, the Safavid Empire, the Afsharid Empire, the Hellenistic Empire of Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire, the Maurya Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Russian Empire, the Han Empire, the Tang Empire, the Rashidun Caliphate, the Umayyad Caliphate, the Abbasid Caliphate, the Mongol Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Spanish Empire, and the First French Empire of Napoleon. , Song dynasty, Ming dynasty, Qing dynasty, Gupta Empire, Chola dynasty, Delhi Sultanate, Rashtrakuta dynasty, Mughal Empire, Srivijaya empire and the Portuguese Empire.
According to historical statistics and research from the OECD, until the early modern period, Western Europe, China, and India accounted for roughly 2⁄3 of the world's GDP.
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The 1956 Suez Crisis suggested that Britain, financially weakened by two world wars, could not then pursue its foreign policy objectives on an equal footing with the new superpowers without sacrificing convertibility of its reserve currency as a central goal of policy.As the majority of World War II had been fought far from its national boundaries, the United States had not suffered the industrial destruction nor massive civilian casualties that marked the wartime situation of the countries in Europe or Asia. The war had reinforced the position of the United States as the world's largest long-term creditor nation and its principal supplier of goods; moreover it had built up a strong industrial and technological infrastructure that had greatly advanced its military strength into a primary position on the global stage. Despite attempts to create multinational coalitions or legislative bodies (such as the United Nations), it became increasingly clear that the superpowers had very different visions about what the post-war world ought to look like, and after the withdrawal of British aid to Greece in 1947, the United States took the lead in containing Soviet expansion in the Cold War.
The two countries opposed each other ideologically, politically, militarily, and economically. The Soviet Union promoted the ideology of communism: planned economy and a one-party state, whilst the United States promoted the ideologies of liberal democracy and the free market. This was reflected in the Warsaw Pact and NATO military alliances, respectively, as most of Europe became aligned with either the United States or the Soviet Union. These alliances implied that these two nations were part of an emerging bipolar world, in contrast with a previously multipolar world. [ citation needed ]
The idea that the Cold War period revolved around only two blocs, or even only two nations, has been challenged by some scholars in the post–Cold War era, who have noted that the bipolar world only exists if one ignores all of the various movements and conflicts that occurred without influence from either of the two superpowers.Additionally, much of the conflict between the superpowers was fought in "proxy wars", which more often than not involved issues more complex than the standard Cold War oppositions.
After the Soviet Union disintegrated in the early 1990s, the term hyperpower began to be applied to the United States, as the sole remaining superpower of the Cold War era.This term, popularized by French foreign minister Hubert Védrine in the late 1990s, is controversial and the validity of classifying the United States in this way is disputed. One notable opponent to this theory, Samuel P. Huntington, rejects this theory in favor of a multipolar balance of power. Other international relations theorists, such as Henry Kissinger, theorize that because the threat of the Soviet Union no longer exists to formerly American-dominated regions such as Western Europe and Japan, American influence is only declining since the end of the Cold War, because such regions no longer need protection or have necessarily similar foreign policies as the United States.
The Soviet Union and the United States fulfilled the superpower criteria in the following ways:
|Demography||Had a population of 286.7 million in 1989, the third largest on Earth behind China and India.||Had a population of 248.7 million in 1990, at that time the fourth largest on Earth behind China, India and the Soviet Union.|
|Geography||Largest state in the world (actually a federal superstate), with a surface area of 22,270,000 km2 (8,600,000 sq mi).||Fourth largest country in the world, with an area of 9,147,593 km2 (3,531,905 sq mi).|
|Economy||GNP of $2.7 trillion in 1990 (equivalent to $5.2 trillion in 2018). Second largest economy in the world. Enormous mineral energy resources and fuel supply. Generally self-sufficient using a minimal amount of imports, though suffered resource inadequacies such as in agriculture. Marxist economic theory based primarily on production: Large-scale industrial production directed by centralised state organs leading to a high degree of inefficiency. Five-year plans frequently used to accomplish economic goals. Economic benefits such as guaranteed employment, free healthcare, free education provided to all levels of society, though were frequently below Western standards such as in health care. Economy tied to Central and Eastern-European satellite states.||GNP of $5.2 trillion in 1990 (equivalent to $10.0 trillion in 2018). Largest economy in the world. Capitalist free market economic theory based on supply and demand: production determined by customers' demands, though it also included rising income inequality since 1979. Enormous industrial base and a large and modernized farming industry. Large volume of imports and exports. Large resources of minerals, energy resources, metals, and timber. High standard of living with accessibility to many manufactured goods. Home to a multitude of the largest global corporations. U.S. Dollar served as the dominant world reserve currency under Bretton Woods Conference. Allied with G7 major economies. Supported allied countries' economies via such programmes as the Marshall Plan.|
|Politics||Strong Communist state with extensive secret police apparatus, organized under a quasi-parliamentary system with strong Fusion of Powers, with checks and balances for both the executive and (unusually) the judiciary primarily based on commanding the legislature's confidence. The Supreme Soviet enjoyed de facto parliamentary sovereignty, despite a written constitution and nominal federalism, as no court was vested with Judicial review. No formal office of President has existed; the standing legislature also served as a collective Head of State. The only national-level popular elections were the quinquennial elections to the Supreme Soviet, which were yes-or-no votes on candidates handpicked beforehand. However, radical government reforms in 1989 introduced competitive elections, a directly-elected executive President and a Constitutional Court, both having rudimentary Separation of Powers from the existing components of the system. One-party system with the Far-left Communist Party having an institutionalized monopoly of power. Permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.||Strong capitalist constitutional republic, organized under a presidential system with strong separation of powers, with a complicated system of checks and balances exercised between the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. The legislative powers of the United States Congress were limited both by the written constitution and by the federal nature of the national government. Despite the lack of a dedicated Constitutional Court, judicial review of laws has been vested in the Supreme Court by judicial precedent. The President was not only Head of State, but also Head of Government, and his Cabinet was not required to command congressional confidence. The only national popular elections were the biennial congressional elections; however the quadrennial presidential election has de facto changed from an indirect election by an Electoral College into a direct, though weighted, popular election. Two-party system between Left-wing Democrats and Right-wing Republicans. Permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council plus two allies (France and the UK) with permanent seats.|
|Foreign relations||Strong ties with Central and Eastern Europe, countries in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Africa. Also had an alliance with China up until 1961. Supported Communist and socialist countries around the world.||Strong ties with Western Europe, some countries in Latin America, the Commonwealth of Nations, and several East Asian countries. Supported democracies and anti-Communist dictatorships around the world.|
|Military||Possessed largest armed forces and air force in the world, and the second of the world's largest navies. Possessed bases around the world. Held the world's largest stockpile of nuclear weapons for the second half of the Cold War. Founder of Warsaw Pact with satellite states in Central and Eastern Europe. Global intelligence network with the GRU and the First Chief Directorate of the KGB. Ties with paramilitary and guerrilla groups in the developing world. Large arms industry production with global distribution.||Highest military expenditure in the world, with the world's largest navy surpassing the next 13 largest navies combined, and an army and air force rivaled only by that of the Soviet Union. Possessed bases around the world, particularly in an incomplete "ring" bordering the Warsaw Pact to the West, South and East. Largest nuclear arsenal in the world during the first half of the Cold War. Powerful military allies in Western Europe (NATO) with their own nuclear capabilities. Global intelligence networks with the United States Intelligence Community (IC). Ties with paramilitary and guerrilla groups in the developing world. Large armament production through defense contractors along with its developed allies for the global market.|
|Media||Constitutional guarantees for freedom of speech and freedom of the press were made conditional both for fulfilling one's citizen's duties and for conformity with the interests of the government, thereby turning them into effective dead letters. Press explicitly controlled and censored. Promoted, through the use of propaganda, its Communist and Socialist ideal that workers of all countries should unite to overthrow capitalist society and what they called the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and replace it with a socialist society where all means of production are publicly owned.||Maintained constitutional guarantees for freedom of speech and freedom of the press, though the ongoing Cold War did lead to a degree of censorship, particularly during the Vietnam War and the Second Red Scare when censorship was the heaviest.|
|Culture||Rich tradition in literature, film, classical music, and ballet.||Rich tradition and worldwide cultural influence in music, literature, film, television, cuisine, art, and fashion.|
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 which ended the Cold War, the post–Cold War world has in the past been considered by some to be a unipolar world,with the United States as the world's sole remaining superpower. In 1999, Samuel P. Huntington wrote, "The United States, of course, is the sole state with preeminence in every domain of power – economic, military, diplomatic, ideological, technological, and cultural – with the reach and capabilities to promote its interests in virtually every part of the world." However, he rejected the claim that the world was unipolar: "There is now only one superpower. But that does not mean that the world is unipolar," describing it instead as "a strange hybrid, a uni-multipolar system with one superpower and several major powers." He further wrote that "Washington is blind to the fact that it no longer enjoys the dominance it had at the end of the Cold War. It must relearn the game of international politics as a major power, not a superpower, and make compromises."
Experts argue that this older assessment of global politics is too simplified, in part because of the difficulty in classifying the European Union at its current stage of development. Others argue that the notion of a superpower is outdated, considering complex global economic interdependencies, and propose that the world is multipolar.
A 2012 report by the National Intelligence Council said that America's superpower status will have eroded to merely being first among equals by 2030, but that the US would remain highest among the world's most powerful countries because of its influence in many different fields and global connections that the great regional powers of the time would not match.Additionally, some experts have suggested the possibility of the United States losing its superpower status completely in the future. Citing speculation of the United States relative decline in power to the rest of the world, economic hardships, a declining dollar, Cold War allies becoming less dependent on the United States and the emergence of future powers around the world.
Some people doubt the existence of superpowers in the post–Cold War era altogether, stating that today's complex global marketplace and the rising interdependency between the world's nations has made the concept of a superpower an idea of the past and that the world is now multipolar. However, while the military dominance of the United States remains unquestioned for now and its international influence has made it an eminent world power, countries such as China, India, Brazil and Russia are inventing new ways to counter US military supremacy (namely space) and are making great strides in science, literature, soft power, and diplomacy.
The term 'potential superpowers' has been applied by scholars and other qualified commentators to the possibility of several states achieving superpower status in the 21st century. Due to their large markets, growing military strength, economic potential, and influence in international affairs, China,the European Union, India, and Russia are among the political entities most cited as having the potential of achieving superpower status in the 21st century. Many historians, writers, and critics have expressed doubts, however, whether any of these countries would ever emerge as a new superpower. Some political scientists and other commentators have even suggested that such countries might simply be emerging powers, as opposed to potential superpowers.
Besides those mentioned above, a limited number of observers have also discussed, though ultimately dismissed, Brazil having the potential to emerge as a superpower.
The record of such predictions has admittedly not been perfect. For example, in the 1980s, some commentators thought Japan would become a superpower, due to its large GDP and high economic growth at the time.However, Japan's economy crashed in 1991, creating a long period of economic slump in the country which has become known as The Lost Years . As of August 2012, Japan had yet to fully recover from the 1991 crash.
Pax Americana is a term applied to the concept of relative peace in the Western Hemisphere and later the world beginning around the middle of the 20th century, thought to be caused by the preponderance of power enjoyed by the United States. Although the term finds its primary utility in the latter half of the 20th century, it has been used with different meanings and eras, such as the post-Civil War era in North America, and regionally in the Americas at the start of the 20th century.
Superpower collapse is the political collapse of a superpower nation state; the term is most often used to describe the dissolution of the Soviet Union but also can be applied to the loss of the British Empire's superpower status.
A hyperpower is a state that dominates all other states in every domain and is considered to be a step higher than a superpower. The term often refers to the United States of America due to its status as the world's only current superpower; however, its possible status above that remains a topic of dispute.
The informal term "Soviet Empire" has two meanings. In the narrow sense, it expresses a view in Western Sovietology that the Soviet Union as a state was a colonial empire. The onset of this interpretation is traditionally attributed to Richard Pipes's book The Formation of the Soviet Union (1954). In the wider sense, it refers to the country's perceived imperialist foreign policy during the Cold War. The nations said to be part of the Soviet Empire were officially independent countries with separate governments that set their own policies, but those policies had to remain within certain limits decided by the Soviet Union and enforced by threat of intervention by the Warsaw Pact. Countries in this situation are often called satellite states.
Power in international relations is defined in several different ways. Modern discourse generally speaks in terms of state power, indicating both economic and military power. Those states that have significant amounts of power within the international system are referred to as small powers, middle powers, regional powers, great powers, superpowers, or hegemons, although there is no commonly accepted standard for what defines a powerful state. NATO Quint, the G7, the BRICS nations and the G20 are seen by academics as forms of governments that exercise varying degrees of influence within the international system.
The term "new world order" has been used to refer to any new period of history evidencing a dramatic change in world political thought and the balance of power. Despite various interpretations of this term, it is primarily associated with the ideological notion of global governance only in the sense of new collective efforts to identify, understand, or address worldwide problems that go beyond the capacity of individual nation-states to solve.
Grand strategy or high strategy comprises the "purposeful employment of all instruments of power available to a security community". Issues of grand strategy typically include the choice of primary versus secondary theaters in war, distribution of resources among the various services, the general types of armaments manufacturing to favor, and which international alliances best suit national goals. With considerable overlap with foreign policy, grand strategy focuses primarily on the military implications of policy. A country's political leadership typically directs grand strategy with input from the most senior military officials. Development of a nation's grand strategy may extend across many years or even multiple generations.
The American Century is a characterization of the period since the middle of the 20th century as being largely dominated by the United States in political, economic, and cultural terms. It is comparable to the description of the period 1815–1914 as Britain's Imperial Century. The United States' influence grew throughout the 20th century, but became especially dominant after the end of World War II, when only two superpowers remained, the United States and the Soviet Union. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States remained the world's only superpower, and became the hegemon, or what some have termed a hyperpower.
Polarity in international relations is any of the various ways in which power is distributed within the international system. It describes the nature of the international system at any given period of time. One generally distinguishes three types of systems: unipolarity, bipolarity, and multipolarity for four or more centers of power. The type of system is completely dependent on the distribution of power and influence of states in a region or globally.
The Cold War (1962–1979) refers to the phase within the Cold War that spanned the period between the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis in late October 1962, through the détente period beginning in 1969, to the end of détente in the late 1970s.
The balance of power theory in international relations suggests that national security is enhanced when military capability is distributed so that no one state is strong enough to dominate all others. If one state becomes much stronger than others, the theory predicts that it will take advantage of its strength and attack weaker neighbors, thereby providing an incentive for those threatened to unite in a defensive coalition. Some realists maintain that this would be more stable as aggression would appear unattractive and would be averted if there was equilibrium of power between the rival coalitions.
The Chinese Century is a neologism suggesting that the 21st century will be geopolitically dominated by the People's Republic of China, similar to how "the American Century" refers to the 20th century and "Pax Britannica" refers to the 19th. The phrase is used particularly in the assertion that the economy of China could overtake the economy of the United States as the largest national economy in the world, a position it held from 1500 to 1830 A.D.
The European Union (EU) has been called an emerging superpower by scholars and academics like T. R. Reid, Andrew Reding, Andrew Moravcsik, Mark Leonard, Jeremy Rifkin, John McCormick, and some politicians such as Romano Prodi and Tony Blair. They believe that the EU is a superpower, or will become one, in the 21st century – while noting that the concept of "superpower" has changed to one of soft power rather than the hard (military) superpowers of the 20th century. Others have challenged their views.
A potential superpower is a state or a political and economic entity that is speculated to be – or to have the potential to soon become – a superpower.
A Maritime power is a nation with a very strong navy, which often is also a great power, or at least a regional power. A Maritime power is able to easily control their coast, and exert influence upon both nearby and far countries. A nation that dominates the world navally is known as a maritime superpower.
The post–Cold War era is the period in world history from the dissolution of the Soviet Union on 9:00 am, December 26, 1991 to the present. The term was criticized for its ambiguity: "Even though it has been ten years since the Berlin Wall came down," wrote Paul Wolfowitz in 2000, "we still have no better name for the period in which we live than the post-Cold War era." The name means that this new era “does not yet have a name.” It was suggested that Pax Americana or "clash of civilisations" would more reflect the reality of the era but the former term would be "offending for many." The same dilemma expressed Condoleezza Rice: “That we do not know how to think about what follows the US-Soviet confrontation is clear from the continued references to the "post-Cold War period.'" "We knew better where we had been than where we were going.”
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Under its great ruler and military leader Nader Shah (1736-1747), Persia was arguably the world's most powerful empire
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