The word “superpower” is thrown around quite often politically, usually either in reference to the Cold War or to fears that the United States will be dethroned as the world’s primary superpower.
In the aftermath of the Cold War, the U.S. was the only country in the world that could be considered a superpower. Now, China is being considered as one, along with debates about which other countries might join it as potential rivals for the U.S., Russia being foremost among them.
But I hold that the word “superpower” as it relates to geopolitics is outdated. Rather than a world where great powers compete with rival ideological systems, we have entered a period of regionalization.
By this, I mean that, especially as globalization falls out of favor with countries for various reasons, different regions will form different power structures, each based in culture, history, and politics.
Each region will have a hegemon, a country that serves as the dominant power in that particular region. It won’t rule over that region, but it will have significant influence in the politics of the countries in its sphere of influence.
The Americas, especially North America, and Western Europe will be dominated by the United States, while East Asia will be dominated by China. Russia is currently trying to create a similar situation in Eastern Europe.
Other regions, such as the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, don’t have hegemons yet, but it is likely that they eventually will. What this post-superpower world will look like is unclear, but it will bring with it unique risks.