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Thesis & Antithesis

A critical perspective on energy, international politics & current affairs

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Location: Washington, D.C.

greekdefaultwatch@gmail.com Natural gas consultant by day, blogger on the Greek economy by night. Trained as an economist and political scientist. I believe in common sense and in data, and my aim is to offer insight written in language that is clear and convincing.

11 June 2006

World Powers survey

Recently released is a survey by the Bertelsmann Stiftung on popular attitudes on world powers (link). The survey polled samples in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, Japan, Brazil, India, and Germany; the purpose was “to investigate public perceptions of the qualities, resources and objectives of world powers.” The report makes for interesting read—hidden between the lines are valuable insights into world politics and popular attitudes. Here are a few of my observations:

- In the question, “what qualities must a country possess to be considered a world power?” only 21% responded military power, in itself an interesting find. Striking is that the highest percentages came in China (36%) and America (33%), followed by Russia (29%), France (28%) and the UK (24%)—all five members of the Security Council. From the aspiring members of the Council, military power was not highly regarded: Germany (7%), Brazil (11%), and Japan (16%), with no number given in India.

- In the question, “Which of the following countries or organizations are world powers today?” America had a commanding lead with 81%, which means that 19% did not regard America as a world power, a curious read of the current distribution of power in the world (oddly, America’s country-response was also 81%). Next was China with 45%, though its neighbors were unwilling to accord it world power status—only 26% of Russians, 31% of Japanese and 34% of Indians responded that China is a world power. The European Union got a feeble 32% driven by high rates in Germany (75%), France (49%), and the UK (53%).

- In the question, “Which of the following countries or organizations will be world powers in the year 2020?” America and China were nearly equals—57% for the United States, 55% for China. What is very interesting is that the percentage for the European Union dropped—from 32% who regard it as a world power now to 30% who think it will remain so in the future. Although the European numbers were pretty equal, there was a drop in the collective responses—signaling both a general pessimism about Europe’s futures and also a gap between how Europe sees itself and its future and how the rest of the world does.

- In the question, “What are the main objectives that a world power should pursue?” the issue that topped the list was poverty reduction (44%) followed closely by combating international terrorism (35%), environmental conservation (33%) and democracy and human rights (32%). Curious that of the top four only one is essentially an international act—combating terrorism; the other three are essentially policies entrusted (and best done) by states, yet there seems to be some consensus that leadership in these issues is important.

- In the question, “In the future, what country or organization should play a more important international role in maintaining peace and stability in the world?” America tops the list with 51%, followed by the United Nations (38%), China (36%), and the European Union (33%). Large remains the gap between European and world perceptions of the EU’s contribution; curious too is the French ambivalence—48% for America, 45% for the United Nations, and 51% for the European Union. Interesting too is that China is warmly regarded only in China (71%), followed by Germany and the UK with 50%.

- In the last question, “What is the best framework for ensuring peace and stability?” striking is the overall ambivalence in answers. Large percentages (60-80%) think the world is better off lead by the United Nations or a system of balance of regional powers; unipolarity is highly regarded in Russia and India, while 35% of Japanese have no view on the issue, an excessively high percentage.

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