Which countries are the biggest global influencers in world politics today? And what are the factors that influence policy decisions by these nations?
Who are the Global Influencers in World Politics of the Day? After the end of World War II in 1945 the two power blocs, the USA and the USSR, represented and influenced policies of the entire globe. But after the cold war détente, the scenario changed, and a significant shift was observed towards the US.
The United States emerged as the sole authority in world politics. It not only influenced globe policies but also bilateral relations and trade between other different countries.
As the world gradually stabilized, it became essential in this contemporary era for every country to show its potential.
Thus, emerged a number of challengers to the United States’ already built hegemony across the globe. Today the definition of globalization is better understood through the trade practices of every country following. The current global geopolitical landscape has a number of new influencers trying to deepen their power in world politics. And then there are regional influencers that are helping the agenda of new hegemony aspirants.
Economic Influence Approach #1: Free Trade Agreements
Major economies find potential markets for their products and services through strategic trade agreements. The desire of domestic corporations to acquire and monopolize markets influences foreign diplomacy for nations. Trade has become the ruling policy factor of the day, enabling fresh forging of relationships and the death of old ties and rivalries.
For trade, regional safety, prosperity, and development, countries in Europe forgot centuries of rivalry and joined hands as the European Union (EU). Similarly, ASEAN and SAARC countries emerged in different regions.
Apart from the making unions, many countries form trade agreements, especially MFN (Most Favored Nation) and FTAs (Free Trade Agreements). FTA involves bilateral and multilateral cooperation. Countries agree to reduce the tariff and non-tariff barriers, import duties and in some cases opening their market for foreign investments.
This boosts the economic integration and makes the trading blocs more puissant. Major FTAs in the world are NAFTA, ASEAN, European Free Trade Association, EU-Canada FTA, EU-Japan FTA, US-South Korea FTA, and many more.
Economic Influence Approach #2: Protectionism Policies
On the other hand, some countries following a protectionist economic policy which is a politically motivated defense measure to protect domestic industries. Such nations restrict unfair foreign competition by imposing tariffs, and also providing subsidies to local products, import quotas, and currency manipulation.
Albeit, in the long run, it makes the economy less competitive compared to international trade. Protectionism proves destructive for India leading to economic liberalization for foreign investment in the 1990s.
Wars, economic depression, and recession force governments to increase protectionism and discourage free trade. Modi Government raised import duties on goods such as fruit juice, sunglasses, and cigarette lighters to discourage Chinese imports.
Moreover, the US objected to the steps taken by the Modi government citing them as unfair as per the WTO rules. At the same time, India is subsidizing local farmers so that they can provide low-cost food products which can stimulate India’s food security program that is a multibillion-dollar scheme.
Oil Producing Countries capable of halting World Economy
Energy availability is a serious concern for any country in the world. This gives major oil-producing countries leverage in talks. OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) is an intergovernmental organization or bloc of 14 oil-rich nations in Asia, Africa, and South America, controlling 40% of the world’s oil production. OPEC member countries coordinate and formulate policies on oil prices and their production at a regular interval.
In 1973, OPEC imposed an embargo against the US and the allies who supported Israel in the Arab-Israel War. The embargo turned the tables against the US. From 1972 to 77, OPEC petroleum earning grew from $23 billion to $140 billion. This simultaneously caused a recession in the West due to higher oil prices. Consequently, the US GDP fell down by 6% and unemployment rose. Thus, the incident is proof of the overwhelming power OPEC members enjoy or used to enjoy.
Diminishing Influence of OPEC Nations today
However, the US’ Presidents, from Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter to Donald Trump have railed against the OPEC, calling it a cartel that threatens the US economy. Over time, the US emerged as the world’s largest oil producer and also a prominent competitor in oil markets.
Furthermore, sanctions on Venezuela and Iran, the two leading oil producer countries and also the founding members of OPEC by the US were another tactic directed towards reducing OPEC influence.
Moreover, OPEC has changed its policy considering climate change. The reduction in the production of oil is showing positive concern. However, on the other side, Trump rolled back fossil fuel regulation. POTUS also withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord to reduce carbon emissions. Without any significant pressure to force its hand, the US has been able to continue this hegemony.
The Stick and Carrot Policy #1: Hard Power
Hard power and soft power, also known as “stick and carrot” policy are two terms often used in international relations and foreign policymaking. It (command power) refers to the use of threat and coercion such as military action, military alliance for deterrence, coercive diplomacy and economic sanctions on weaker countries.
Therefore, Hard Power is an effective way for powerful nations to establish hegemony, i.e. “ordering others to do what it wants”.
Hard power has been used for ages and is still being continued. From Regional Wars to the World Wars and recent demonstrations by the US such as the Iraq War and Afghanistan War. Also, countering the Taliban as a “war on terrorism”, economic sanctions on Iran and Venezuela and compelling other countries to follow or face the repercussions is the kind of hard power tactic the US follows.
The Stick and Carrot Policy #2: Soft Power
Soft power, on the other hand, is the competency to use congenial measures. Measures such as establishing cultural relations, providing infrastructure, education, and health facilities, relief measures on trades and natural disasters. The approach also indirectly helps global influencers attract, appeal and persuade other countries “to want what it wants”.
According to the Soft Power 30 index of 2018, the UK is the leading nation in soft power. According to the Monocle Soft Power Survey of 2016-17, the US was the leading country in soft power.
Take cognizance of the US investment projects across the globe through increasing bilateral ties vis-à-vis trade and religious toleration for immigrants. Especially, its “Bill of Rights” became a ground for accepting democracy in different parts of the world, and made the US a soft power stalwart.
However, today China is rapidly increasing soft power around the globe. It is doing so through its economic expansion and engagement with many African-Asian countries. China’s investment, aids, and development in South Asia and Africa range from health, humanitarian abetment, academic, infrastructure development, cultural exchanges.
Tax Havens: Secretive Nations that turn the tables
A tax haven is an offshore country that provides foreign businesses and individuals an environment with little or no tax. In short, they provide an “unprecedented tax shelter”, allowing corporates to escape heavy national tax systems in the world’s bigger markets. These corporates evade taxes through such channels saving billions.
Tax havens have leverage through such client information which is a persistent bane for foreign tax authorities. Countries keep tax havens at bay to ensure cooperation when needed.
However, international organizations such as OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) and G20 have been mounting pressure on tax havens.
Moreover, an increasing number of tax information agreements and mutual assistance treaties are being signed between tax havens and other countries. Such agreements are a deterrent to the competitive advantage that tax havens relish and ensure they keep by overlooking foreign money laundered to their coffers.
Technology: The New Weapon in World Politics
Technology and innovation have become the most important hallmarks any nation can possess. Technology is a major weapon and dominating the world through its technological skills is creating a new order in the world’s hegemony. At the top of this pyramid is Japan whose potential in developing new technology cannot be undermined.
Japan amazed the world with sustainable development techniques in limited resources. From home appliances to robotics and artificial intelligence Japan has a formidable say in the technology world.
Similarly, the US, Russia, China, India, Israel, and other major economies are also proving their potential. Most in-demand technologies today are in the agriculture industry, advancement in exploring outer space and new-age defense technology.
Terrorism: The Other Side of the Coin
On the other side of the coin is terrorism. The globe has seen a consistent trajectory of intentional use of violence by countries against citizens of rival nations that do not align in ideology and political demands. Middle East Asia and Africa have become a breeding ground for terrorism and coercion against the people.
There are around 210 recognized terrorist organizations across the globe.
Terrorism also leads to direct economic destruction. It increases uncertainty in financial markets, affects trade, tourism, and foreign investments.
Religious terrorism and radicalization are one of the global influencers in world politics. It is threatening the world through there terror attacks such as 9/11, 26/11, Paris attack. There are many suicide bombings squads which are also be called the sleeping cells.
Many world powers also influence people and countries to take up arms and simultaneously fund them. The most significant was “Operation Cyclone”. United States CIA funded the Taliban and trained Mujahideen during the cold war era to root out USSR from Afghanistan.
And when the US succeeded and entered Afghanistan, it declared the Taliban a terrorist organization. Moreover, Pakistan PM Imran Khan recently accepted the same in an interview in Russia.