In 2015, the United States is still the most powerful country in the G20, but is has also lost the greatest amount of power since 2005. The next strongest member states of the G20 in 2015 are China, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan. Among them, only China gained weight since 2005. The Asian riser has increased its power score by more than two thirds over the period from 2005 to 2015 alone. Even though, Beijing has already been second behind Washington by aggregated power in 2005, the distance between the two powerhouses has significantly decreased.
Behind the two powerhouses of the East and the West, there is a strong chasing pack in the secondary row. In a 2005-2015 comparison, this chasing pack shows a significant approximation of power as the distance between the power levels of the states has decreased. The distribution of power between the countries has particularly decreased due to the approximation of the two “great powers” at the top, but the trend remains visible even
without the two main powers. Due to this convergence of power, the political assertiveness of the global leader has decreased as other states have gained more leverage due to the shift in power distribution. On the other hand, this shifts provides greater political opportunities for the states in the second row as they have become more significant to enforce international agendas.
Taking a closer look at the chasing pack, there have been great shifts in the level and ranking of power. Germany and the United Kingdom moved up one rank due to the power loss of Japan that has declined two ranks. India has replaced France on position six in 2011. Two adverse trends are particularly noteworthy: South Korea has gained so much power that it moved up four ranks from position 12 to 8. By doing so, it surpassed Russia, Italy, Australia and Canada. In turn, Italy has lost three ranks, so that it slipped down from position 8 to 11.
At the bottom of the BPSM power score ranking are Argentina and South Africa. Even though, they present positive power shifts, the two states remain the weakest of all members and have been unable to pave their way up the ranking. The distance to next higher ranked Indonesia has even increased from 2005 to 2015.
Turning to the geographical distribution of power of the G20 individual states, the first thing to notice are three centers of gravity in 2015: The North American center headed by the United States of America, a European quartet center of the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy, and an East Asian center with China as the main regional power. The rise of India, however, seems to shift power increasingly towards another center of gravity.
The map further illustrates that the traditional high-developed countries on the rating list are, with the exception of South Korea, among the power losers of the period from 2005 to 2015. Referring to the United Nations Human Development Index at the turn of the millennium, the BPSM finds that the USA (-3,84), Japan (-1,76) and France (-0,94) have surrendered the largest shares of power expressed by the Power Shifts Rates (PSR) applied.
In contrast to this, the distribution and shifts of power in Africa and South America stay behind the other regions. While this is attributed to a certain “Western” bias in the G20 composition, the power development of these countries does not show a similar upward thrust as for example that of South Korea or India.
This also hints at the changes in power distribution on a regional level: The Asian members have gained the most shares since 2005. With this, they have surpassed the Americas in their power sum. The European conglomerate of Germany, France, Italy, Great Britain and Russia again present greater persistence in their power level as they make up one fourth of the G20 states power in 2015 suffering a decline of only three percentage points. Interestingly, the difference in power distribution between the regions (as expressed by the standard deviation) has increased, whereas it has decreased in a cross-country comparison. Ultimately, the Asian rise underscores a geographic shift of power bringing different sets of norms and ideas on the traditionally Western table of global governance.
The loss of relative state power cannot be equated to stagnation or decline within the countries. Quite the contrary, without exception, each reviewed state has improved its internal capacities in absolute terms as expressed by the average of all categories. The correspondent Rate of Country Change (CC) is a longitudinal measure for each state’s performance – the higher, the better. As the CC-score is based on a country’s internal development, it reflects better the magnitude of change as it is not downgraded by the size of others. This is particularly visible by the example of Indonesia. The island state presents the steepest domestic increase, even though it remains small in international comparison. Its internal trend is even better than that of China which is the greatest power winner in the 2005 to 2015 review.
Only Italy with a CC-Rate of only +0.79 and Japan with +3.05 tend more to domestic stagnation than progress on an aggregated level. The United States as the world’s biggest loser of relative power shares boasts the second highest Rate of Country Change among the power losers after Australia. Yet these absolute changes are well below the domestic rates of the risers. As reflected by the “Going on Strong”-graphic, the threshold of domestic progress that translates into a relative power growth is located between Australia and Turkey. Turkey is the riser with the slowest pace of 48.26 that is significantly higher than Australia’s respective result of 32.42 as the most vital relative power loser. This power win-threshold corresponds to the world average CC-score of around +36.
All in all, the contrast of relative and absolute country trends highlights a central element of the power shift debate: The relative loss of global shares is not to be equated with a state’s decay, but oftentimes an expression of smaller growth.
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