The Great Powers in 2030

The international scene is continuously changing. Shifting economic weight, demographic trends, climate change, new technologies and other factors are redistributing the global balance of power. So, which powers are set to lose and gain by 2030?

United States

America is today’s only superpower, and it is likely to retain its status by the end of the next decade. The US retains several fundamental advantages. Its geographic position remains excellent: it has access to the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and therefore to the huge Asian and European markets; and its two only neighbours, namely Canada and Mexico, are not a serious threat. America’s navigable rivers and its vast agricultural plains are important assets. It has a solid industrial base and it holds multiple innovation hubs. The “shale boom” started a few years ago has greatly reduced America’s dependency on energy imports and has had positive economic effects, even though the environmental impact should not be neglected. The US economy is the largest in the world and it has experienced a 3.2% GDP growth in the first quarter of 2019, which is a relatively high rate considering its immense size. In demographic terms, the American population is one of the world’s largest and it remains relatively young. The US military is a large, well-trained fighting force with the most advanced equipment at its disposal.

Yet, there are also some factors that may reduce America’s global influence. Its relative power is in decline due to the rise of other countries. Climate change, resulting in more frequent cases of extreme weather, is going to damage the agricultural output and cause other large-scale problems. The US is also engaged in virtually all areas of the world, and faces the risk of overstretching. Finally, some of the policies pursued by the current Administration risk to alienate America’s allies thus reducing its influence across the globe.

As such, the most likely scenario is that by 2030 the US will remain the first, and possibly only, superpower on Earth. Yet, its power will be greatly reduced in relative terms and the gap with the pursuing competitors will be greatly reduced.


The most serious challenger to America’s international hegemony is undoubtedly the PRC. The Chinese economy is still growing at a rapid pace in spite of a gradual slowdown, and several projections estimate that it will overtake the US by 2030. Under the “Made in China 2025” plan, China is trying to modernize its economy so to move from an export-based low added-value model to advanced manufacturing centred on domestic consumption. The “One Belt, One Road” initiative also aims at building infrastructures to connect Eurasia, allow Beijing to sustain its economy and access precious resources. Chinese progress in new technology such as AI, quantum computers and 5G telecommunications may also have a profound impact in geopolitical terms. Finally, the PRC is also modernizing its armed forces by acquiring more assets to project its power overseas.

Still, there are some major factors that could prevent China from actually becoming a superpower. Once a major advantage, its large population is gradually turning into problem due to ageing, which translates in higher costs for welfare and a smaller manpower basin. Its numerous ethnic minorities, notably the Uighurs and the Tibetans, could cause internal troubles and drain resources away from outward power projection; but strife among the Han majority living along the coast would be even more dangerous for the regime. The efforts to maintain a sustained economic growth could fail, preventing the PRC to surpass the US; and pollution is another major problem. Finally, Beijing’s geopolitical environment is more challenging than Washington’s. Close to the Chinese mainland there are countries that maintain close security ties with the US like Japan, South Korea or Taiwan; but Vietnam and Indonesia also appear concerned by China and are seeking a closer partnership with America and its allies. To the west, India is emerging as a great power and their rivalry could turn into open hostility; while instability in Central Asia could also have deleterious effects for China. Even the partnership with Russia, which seems now solid, could gradually deteriorate with time. The PRC depends also on vulnerable maritime routes for trade and energy supplies that the US could block in case of war.

Consequently, the rise of China to superpower status should not be given for granted, as it will be hard for it to project power all over the world in the same way the US does. Yet, it is very likely that by 2030 it will consolidate as a great power capable of exerting its influence across the Asia-Pacific and to significantly reduce America’s room for manoeuvre in the area.


India is another country with a considerable potential. It has a huge, young and growing population and its economy is rapidly expanding. It is the most suitable candidate to substitute China as the “world’s factory”, but counting many citizens with high instruction it can also compete in technological development. India is also gradually modernizing its military. However, it lags behind China at the moment, and large swathes of its population still live in poverty. Climate change is also a considerable threat: South Asia is one of the world’s macro-regions most exposed to its effects, which could severely damage India’s agricultural output and water supply, as well as causing floods and draughts alike. This could also spark conflicts over water or cultivable land. Geopolitically, India’s situation is mixed. To the south it has access to the Indian Ocean, which allows it to project its power and to export its goods towards both Europe and East Asia; but to the north it must cope with China and Pakistan. The massive Himalaya mountains are a formidable barrier separating India and the former and its overall military superiority on Pakistan is clear; but both powers represent a threat for India, also because of their increasingly close ties. Considering all the above, in 2030 India is expected to be a great power able to exert its influence in its surrounding; but it is unlikely that it will manage to turn into a superpower.


Brazil is another power to monitor. It has a pretty large population and its economy is growing steadily. It is already an agricultural powerhouse, it hosts considerable natural resources and it has access to the Atlantic Ocean; meaning it can reach the European and American markets as well as Africa’s resources. Brazil is also Latin’s America dominant power and it is improving its armed forces to extend its reach overseas. Because of this, some believe it could become a superpower; and under certain aspects – most notably the lack of immediate rivals along its borders – it is better poised than China or India. But its fundamentals are inferior to them, and it also needs to deal with important domestic problems; especially inequality, poverty, corruption and crime. As such, it will play a greater international role in 2030, but it will hardly reach the superpower status.


Russia is maybe the most debated case when examining which countries will be great powers in the coming decades. It has a powerful military, and its impressive nuclear arsenal allows it to operate abroad without having to fear an armed retaliation; but under many aspects its power is declining. Its population and its economy are smaller than other competitors; moreover, the former is ageing while the latter is largely dependent on hydrocarbon exports; a sector controlled by powerful oligarchs that also have great political influence. Geopolitically, it has limited access to the oceans, it must cope with NATO to the west, and the partnership with China may deteriorate in the long run. Also, there is great incertitude over what will happen once Putin – for one reason or another – will ultimately lose power; with some predicting the breakup of Russia as a unified state. Yet, there is one factor that could boost Russia’s power instead; namely global warming. This will operate in two ways. First, the melting of the Polar ice cap will make the Northern Sea Route viable for trade between Europe and Asia while also easing the access to the Arctic’s oil & gas deposits. Second, higher temperatures could facilitate the access to Siberia’s resources and transform Russia into an agricultural giant, something not to be neglected as the world’s population continues to grow. All in all, it is probable that Russia will remain one of world’s major powers by 2030.

Japan & South Korea

Japan was expected to overcome the US as the world’s largest economy, but the slowdown of the 90s made things unfold differently. Yet, Japan remains the third economy in nominal GDP terms and it has a great potential for innovation. Its military is powerful and it could also benefit from the opening of the Arctic Sea Route as well as from recent rare earths discoveries around Minamitorishima. However, its population is ageing and has already started shrinking; and its geopolitical environment remains challenging due to China’s rise, potential conflict in Korea, and dependency on maritime trade. Considering all factor, Japan will likely remain influent, but not to the point of being a superpower.

On its part, South Korea has a dynamic and innovative economy, but its population is relatively small and most importantly it is largely focused on dealing with its northern neighbour. As such, its reach will remain circumscribed to its immediate surroundings.


There are a few other countries that, due to high economic growth rates, are expected to become more powerful in the years to come: Mexico, Ethiopia, Egypt, Vietnam, Indonesia, and more. Yet, these have begun their rapid development only recently and have still much to catch up in terms of infrastructures and better living conditions. They often have governance problems and are threatened by the effects of climate change. Militarily, they have just started modernizing their forces and it will take decades to develop significant power projection capabilities. As such, they will hardly be great powers by 2030; but things may change in the longer term.

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