This Ain’t Your Grandad’s Superpower

This Ain’t Your Grandad’s Superpower

If there's one thing the Brits, the Russkies and the Yanks have all learned over the years, it's this: Being a superpower is hard. After all, it means not only projecting military, economic and cultural influence well beyond your borders, but also doing it in different parts of the world at the same time. Very few countries have been able to pull that off throughout history. And right now, the US is the only one that fits the bill in every category.

Still, being a superpower ain't what it used to be.


It was once all about armies, alliances and soft power, from diplomatic pirouettes to the strategic use of foreign aid. Those things still matter, sure, but world powers now require an extra set of tools that are both very different and accessible to a far wider range of people. When the term was first coined by a Yale Professor in the 1940s, few were pondering the ways big data, artificial intelligence, cyberwarfare, social media, and machine learning would affect the global balance of power.

Today, it's a different game.

And if there's one country with the means to play, it's China. Beijing has staked its own claim to global power in large part on dominating artificial intelligence by 2030, the year its economy is set to become the world's largest. Its mounting array of cyber tools and its lead on the 5G race could give it the edge it needs. What's more, with a $1.3 trillion dollar plan to build infrastructure across the globe, and massive investments in naval expansion, China certainly looks like it's getting ready to stake a fresh claim to global superpowerdom.

Still, if this is to be the "Chinese century," as The Economist predicts, a looming unknown remains: What kind of power does Beijing actually want? And what will it mean for the world if, for the first time in modern history, a superpower with the largest economy on earth is an authoritarian one-party surveillance state?

For now, China is still in many ways a regional power of Asia – but as President Xi Jinping eyes the prize of putting his country "at the center of the world stage," the answers to these questions will be a driving force behind how much of the world's future societies function.

And they are also precisely the focus of this week's show on GZERO World with Ian Bremmer.

Microsoft announced earlier this year the launch of a new United Nations representation office to deepen their support for the UN's mission and work. Many of the big challenges facing society can only be addressed effectively through multi-stakeholder action. Whether it's public health, environmental sustainability, cybersecurity, terrorist content online or the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, Microsoft has found that progress requires two elements - international cooperation among governments and inclusive initiatives that bring in civil society and private sector organizations to collaborate on solutions. Microsoft provided an update on their mission, activities for the 75th UN General Assembly, and the team. To read the announcement from Microsoft's Vice President of UN Affairs, John Frank, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

The coronavirus pandemic has radically accelerated the adoption of digital technology in the global economy, creating an opportunity for millions of new businesses and jobs. However, it has also left millions jobless and exposed yet another vulnerability: hundreds of millions of people lack access to this technology.

To be sure, this divide was already present before COVID-19 struck. But unequal access to the internet and technology is going to make the multiple impacts of the pandemic much worse for offline and unskilled communities, among others. In fact, there is not a single global digital gap, but rather several ones that the coronavirus will likely exacerbate.

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As the UN turns 75, the organization is revealing the results of a global survey of nearly a million people in 193 nations—what matters most to them, and how do they view the need for global cooperation at this time of unprecedented crisis? Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser Fabrizio Hochschild explains the purpose and findings of the report.

The world's largest multilateral organization was born out of the global crisis of World War II. Now, as another crisis rocks the world, the United Nations is facing a challenge of its own—to remain relevant in an increasingly nationalistic geopolitical environment. On the eve of the first virtual UN General Assembly, GZERO World host Ian Bremmer spoke to UN Secretary-General António Guterres about pandemic response, climate action, the US/China schism, and more.

News broke across the United States on Friday evening that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died, ending her long and distinguished career as a jurist. Tributes poured in quickly from men and women on both sides of the political spectrum. But just as quickly, her death has sharply raised the stakes for the upcoming US elections for president and the Senate, as well as the longer-term ideological balance of the nation's top court.

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