What makes a country powerful? Is it military might, economic production, or foreign policy influence? Since each of these three metrics is important in their own right, we’re going to factor all of these into our assessment, economic power will be more heavily weighted as it does affect the ability to finance the other two ventures.
The 10 Most Powerful Countries In the World
Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the most powerful nations in the world.
10. The United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is wedged between Saudi Arabia and Oman. Known for their rocky deserts and coastlines, they are one of the gulf’s most liberal nations. Since oil exports began in the 1960s, their economy has grown rapidly. Nowadays, their gross domestic product (GDP) is on par with many Western European countries.
Not only that, but they also have a massive military budget despite only having a standing army of 65,000 soldiers. In fact, their army is considered to be one of the most technological advances forces in the area. They’ve also fought alongside the United States more than any other Arab nation.
9. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is a member of the G20, which means it has one of the strongest economies in the world. The world’s largest oil-exporting country, they provide more than 16% of all exports, totalling $182.5 billion. That’s not all—they’re also the birthplace of Islam. Every day, 1.8 billion Muslims pray in their direction.
The Royal Saudi Armed Forces also have one of the world’s largest defense budget, making it one of the best-funded in the world. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, they have approximately 127,000 personnel.
8. South Korea
South Korea has a high-tech, service-based economy. Since the 1960s, they’ve seen steady growth and have become one of the largest exporters in the world. The country’s capital, Seoul, is also the home to many big-name brands including Hyundai, Samsung, and Kia.
Not only that, but they also have the world’s largest gross national savings. The average household income has also gone up in recent years.
France is the world’s sixth largest economy and has the largest business district in Europe, La Defense.
The French economy is the 3rd largest in Europe and it is also the wealthiest European country in terms of the number of wealthy individuals, with 2.6 millionaires residing within its borders. Machinery, chemicals, cars, aircraft, electronics, textiles, and tourism are the biggest industries in France. France is a huge destination for tourists as it is the world’s most visited location, people visit France to soak up its rich history and experience the fine dining, fine arts, ski in the mountains, or drive along the French Riviera.
France recovered much better than other industrial nations following the economic crises of 2008-2009, and it entered the recession much later than other countries. France is also the world leader in developing Nuclear energy, 78.1% of all of the country’s electricity is provided by nuclear sources, followed by hydroelectric power at 11.1% and Fossil fuel at 9.5%.
Japan has been a major world power since they switched to the market economy back in the mid-1800s during the Edo period. Japan has fallen on some hard times lately due to the economic recession of 2008 as well as Japan’s massive public debts, over 200% of GDP at one point. Still, Japan is the world’s third-largest economy after China and the United States. Three-quarters of the nation’s gross domestic product comes from the service sector. Japan is also the second largest producer of automobiles in the world. Along with automobiles, they are also leading producers of electronics, machine tools, chemical substances, textiles, and processed foods.
5. The United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is Europe’s second-largest economy and it holds considerable influence both in its region and globally.
The UK has been a historical powerhouse since the industrial revolution, and it still holds some influence over its former territories from its empire days. These days the UK is still a major power but more in terms of “soft power” as opposed to “hard power” or direct force. Soft power means the U.K. holds considerable diplomatic influence.
Still, don’t count out their military power, the UK spends more on its military budget than any other European nation, although it does plan on reducing its military budget considerably between 2010 and 2020. Because of its strong mix of military, diplomatic, and industrial strength, the UK remains Europe’s strongest country, for now.
Germany is the largest economy in the European Union with the largest population and it is undoubtedly the leader of Europe after the financial recession from 2008-2012. Germany stood tall after the Euro crises and leaders from around Europe looked towards Germany as an example of solid financial responsibility and regulation setting.
Under the guidance of Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Germans have exerted considerable influence in their region and they are poised to overtake the U.K., if they haven’t already, in terms of global positioning.
Russia is the world’s largest country by area and has more natural resources than any other country. Natural resources account for 30% of overall revenue. Of these, oil, natural gas, and precious metals make up a large portion. Russia is also a highly capable arms dealer, exporting 15-20 billion dollars worth of arms every year, second only to the United States.
Russia is dealing with many issues currently that could affect its standing in the world. First, lowered oil prices have hit the Russian economy especially hard as oil constitutes 15% of their overall GDP and 57% of their federal budget.
Besides that, they are facing several war fronts in Syria, Ukraine, and to a lesser degree in other former Soviet states. Also, due to Russia’s large mass, there have been governance issues that have led to illicit funds leaving the country, over 800 billion dollars in the last few years have left the country via hidden channels. Analysts predict that Russia’s economy will shrink over the next few years due to these pressures.
The Chinese have been on a sharp rise on the world stage in the past 20 years. Their country has seen average economic growth exceeding 10% for decades, far exceeding many other industrial nations. This rapid growth is fueled largely by the intervention of the Chinese government and their focus on ensuring that their country is ideal for companies who wish to manufacture goods. Besides manufacturing, China is also a large agricultural exporter. In the Far East China is the newest and strongest superpower, holding considerable influence in geopolitical events as well as economic trends.
The Chinese economy is second only to the United States, and their military spending is one of the largest budgets in the world. Although China’s growth is expected to slow down over the coming years, there is little sign of deflation in sight. China’s growth is only being further promulgated by the rise of its industrious and highly skilled middle class.
Unlike many other advanced economies, China has had great success in tapping resources on the African continents by working closely with government allies. The formerly largely agrarian society is seeing more and more people migrate to its large cities, adding to the skilled workforce and solidifying China’s place as the second most powerful country in the world.
1. The United States
There are no surprises here, the USA remains the number one superpower in the world. Although citizens and residents of the United States account for only 5% of the world’s population, the United States accounts for nearly 20% of the world’s GDP, 18 trillion dollars per year.
The U.S. is the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas, it is the second largest trading nation in the world, the second largest manufacturer, the largest and most influential financial market, and the highest trained and most skilled labor market in the world. In essence, the U.S. dominates economically over any other country. The U.S. dollar is one of the strongest currencies in the world and it is the most used currency.
Not only is the U.S. the largest economy by a long stretch, but it also has the most powerful military by an even wider margin. The U.S. military has more funding each year than the next 10 most funded countries combined! The U.S. isn’t afraid to flex its military and diplomatic muscle whenever it feels its interest has been threatened, something that has been both applauded and denounced by the international community.