The world's superpowers hold the most influence when it comes to economic and political decisions. Well-known superpowers like the US, China, Japan and the UK can effectively change the course of history with a single decision since their influence reaches beyond their territories. However, what exactly makes a country a superpower? Experts say it is a mix of a number of factors including economic might, military resources, human resources, and political influence. Military might is often one of the first considerations when looking at the world's superpowers. Countries like China, the US, the UK and Japan are known for their military prowess and enjoy a distinct advantage over most of the world's countries in times of war.
Economic wealth is also a factor. Money allows these countries to stock their arsenals and train their people, to improve their industries and strengthen their economies. The world's wealthiest nations have the advantage of being able to influence other world leaders since they can use their economic advantage to affect the global economy. Natural resources can also be a factor especially if these contribute to the wealth of the country. Oil-rich countries are naturally wealthy and they can use their resources to control the actions of other countries that rely on their resources. Human resources drive the economy. The world's superpowers often have the best workforces that fuel the economy and give the country its economic advantage.
It is important to note that most countries in the world have one or two of these factors, but only those who have most or all of these factors can be considered to be superpowers in the correct sense of the world. For example, oil rich countries in the Middle East may be rich and possess one of the most sought-after resource that is needed in all industrialized countries, but their lack of a good workforce prevents them from attaining superpower status.
10 Brazil: Exceptional Military
Although not a full-pledged superpower, Brazil is slated to assume that status in a few years. This South American country has an exceptional military and was actually the first country in the region to accept women in the arm, navy and air force. It's defense budget is ranked 13th in the world. The country was also ranked as the world's 8th largest economy by nominal GDP. Significant economic improvements also translated to improvements in other areas of government such as education, medical services, and science and technology and research. The country is also home to half of the world's rain forest making it one of the most naturally diverse countries in the world.
9 France: Economic Diversity and Political Influence
As a member of the G8, France is considered a world superpower because of its economic diversity, a capable workforce, advanced military and its political influence among other superpowers in the world like the US which considers France as an ally. France is the largest country in the EU and the second largest economy after Germany. It is also one of the seven nuclear powers in the world. Although known for industries such as textile, tourism and fashion, France is also the third biggest exporter of agricultural products in the world.
8 South Africa: Educated Work Force
South Africa is by far the most advanced country in the African continent. The relative absence of political violence in the country makes it a good option for investors. The country boasts of an educated work force and is the largest economy in the continent with a GDP of $467 billion in 2007. The country has transformed its economy from one predominantly dominated by mining to one composed of fruit, metal and wine exports as well as a strong manufacturing and service industry. South Africa has been formally inducted into the BRIC group composed of Brazil, Russia, India and China.
7 Germany: Highly Skilled Service Sector
Germany is the biggest economy in the EU and its most populous member. The country is ranked fourth in the world's largest economies by nominal GDP and is one of the leading countries in various industrial and technological field. Germany is one of the leading exporters of textiles and electronics among other goods. The country is the largest contributor to the EU budget and the fourth budget contributor in the UN. It ranks 9th in the area of military spending out of all the countries in the world, although there are plans to reduce the number of professional soldiers and reservists in the coming years. A main component of Germany's economy is its highly skilled service sector which contributes to 71% of its GDP.
6 Japan: Technologically Advanced Exporter
Despite its small size, Japan is the world's third largest economy by nominal GDP. It also ranks fourth in export and import. Japan also has an impressive military sector and ranks 5th in the world in terms of the size of its military budget. The country boasts of the highest life expectancy for women in the world and it also has the third lowest infant mortality rate. Japan is one of the world's most technologically advanced exporter of electronics and automobiles. It's main export markets are the US, China and South Korea. It is also one of the leading nations in the areas of science and research, biomedical study and space exploration.
5 United Kingdom: Politically Influential
No doubt one of the most politically influential states in the world, the UK is one of the primary members of the UN, NATO and the G8. It has the fourth largest military budget in the world amounting to 2.6% of its GDP. The UK is the sixth largest economy in the world, with the service sector making up a majority 73% of the GDP. The UK was the world's first industrial country and today is one of the countries with the highest military, economic and political influence in the world.
4 Russia: Producer of Global Gas and Oil
Russia's economy ranks 8th in world by nominal GDP. The country has abundant mineral and energy resources making it among the largest producers of oil and gas globally. Russia is also a recognized nuclear weapons country and a member of the UN, the Council of Europe, the WTO and other international organizations. The country currently has the largest stockpile of nuclear arms in the world and boasts of a sophisticated military bomber force that rivals that of the U.S. It is the third largest in the world in terms of military expenditure although it produces the majority of its weapons within its borders. Russia has recently launched new campaigns to modernize schools and improve its science and research industries.
3 China: Fastest Growing Economy
China is the second largest country in the world by land area and is home to 1.35 billion inhabitants. It is also the fastest growing economy in the world and currently ranks 2nd in nominal GDP and purchasing power parity. It is a recognized nuclear weapons state and has the second largest defense budget in the world. The country is the leading investor in the commercialization of renewable energy and is the leading manufacturer of renewable energy technologies.
2 Canada: Culturally Diverse
Canada is ranked 8th in the world in terms of highest per capita income. It also ranks highest in terms of levels of education services, health, transparency, quality of life, and is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. Canada ranks 4th in the world for scientific research quality and is the largest trading partner of the U.S. Its military expenditures amounted to $24.5 billion in 2011.
1 United States: The "only real" Superpower
Commonly referred to as the only real superpower, the U.S. enjoys an unprecedented advantage over other countries in terms of economic resources, military power and political influence. The U.S. ranks 1st in nominal GDP even after suffering through the global economic downturn that plunged the entire country into a jobless recession. The U.S. leads the world in scientific research and innovation with 64% of funding coming from the private sector. It was the first country to develop nuclear weapons and accounts for 39% of worldwide military spending. The U.S. is one of the world's leading manufacturers and is considerably the most influential country in terms of economic, military and foreign policy.