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In international relations since the late 20th century, a regional power is a term used for a state that has power within a geographic region. States which wield unrivaled power and influence within a region of the world possess regional hegemony.
Regional powers shape the polarity of a regional area. Typically, regional powers have capabilities which are important in the region but do not have capabilities at a global scale. Slightly contrasting definitions differ as to what makes a regional power. The European Consortium for Political Research defines a regional power as:
A state belonging to a geographically defined region, dominating this region in economic and military terms, able to exercise hegemonic influence in the region and considerable influence on the world scale, willing to make use of power resources and recognized or even accepted as the regional leader by its neighbors.
The German Institute of Global and Area Studies states that a regional power must:
- form part of a definable region with its own identity
- claim to be a regional power (self-image as a regional power)
- exert decisive influence on the geographic extension of the region as well as on its ideological construction
- dispose over comparatively high military, economic, demographic, political and ideological capabilities
- be well integrated into the region
- define the regional security agenda to a high degree
- be appreciated as a regional power by other powers in the region and beyond, especially by other regional powers
- be well connected with regional and global forums
This article may require copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone, or spelling. (September 2021)
Below are states that have been described as regional powers by international relations and political science academics, analysts, or other experts. These states to some extent meet the criteria to have regional power status, as described above. Different experts have differing views on exactly which states are regional powers. States are arranged by their region and in alphabetic order.
Even though the economic weight of Africa is relatively low comparing to other continents, and more than two-thirds of African countries are amongst the world's least developed, the rich natural resources and diverse cultures contribute to their full potential of possible development.
Traditionally, North Africa or Maghreb region is often considered to be a part of the Arab world or Greater Middle East due to its close connection to West Asia of both composition of demographic ethnicity and prominent Arab cultural influence, as distinct from the rest of African continent. Egypt, long known for its ancient civilization, is the most populous Arab country and has played a central role in Middle Eastern politics in modern times, which also holds a strategic choke point in Suez Canal and the vicinity of eastern Mediterranean. Algeria, on the other hand, is the largest country in both of African Union and Arab League, and the Algerian military force is the second largest military (next to Egypt) with the largest defence budget in Africa.
The increase in the level of South Africa's diplomatic engagement after the end of apartheid is illustrated by its successful reintegration into international affairs over the last 20 years. The country is recognized[by whom?] as the only newly industrialized country in African economy and takes a crucial role in BRICS and G20. Nigeria is also referred to as the "Giant of Africa" which possesses the largest population and economic size of Africa, along with its significant cultural influence over Sub-Saharan Africa such as movie industry and mass media, Nigeria is also the largest oil producer in Africa. Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, and Algeria as the four largest African economies, all reach the thresholds of over 150 billions of total GDP by nominal value and 500 billions by PPP measures as of 2020.
The United States is the primary geopolitical force in North America, and is considered a contemporary sole superpower globally. Its formidable projection of power is immense to that Canada and Mexico, both middle powers in the region, are generally not considered regional powers. Canada is not a regional power because it is militarily secured by U.S. hegemony and financially comfortable by its dependence on a robust U.S. economy. Mexico is an emerging power which could probably be viewed as a regional power if grouped with Latin America, or a definite regional power if considered in either Middle America or in Hispanic America due to its economic size and diverse cultural heritages. However, similar to Canada, Mexican economy is highly reliant on the U.S. with about 80% of its exports shipping to the U.S. alone. 
Since the Age of Discovery, Spain and Portugal mostly divided the continent to be the foremost colonial powers in South America, but following decolonization in the first half of the 19th century, the European powers withdrawed and new nations were established, whereas their cultural influence and languages still remain predominent in Latin America.
Argentina is the largest Spanish-speaking country and the second largest economic power in South America with vast natural resources in energy and agriculture. It is a global leading food producer with large-scale agricultural and livestock industries as well as a highly diversified industrial base in comparison to many countries in the region. Brazil, on the other hand, is long considered the most compelling geopolitical power in South America, the country is on top of both population and landmass as well as its economic size, which possesses enormous "strategic" natural resources, including valuable minerals, a tenth of the world's fresh water and Earth's largest remaining rainforest. Brazil emerges to gain an important role in international relations, especially in economic and global environmental issues. Argentina and Brazil are both members of G20 major economies.
Historically, Imperial China was the dominant power in East Asia. From the late 19th century, the Empire of Japan initiated a far-reaching Westernized reform, and rapidly industrialized itself to become a major power of Asia by the time of World War I as one of the Allied powers. With economic turmoil, Japan's expulsion from the League of Nations, and its interest in expansion on the mainland, Japan became one of the three main Axis powers in World War II.
Since the late 20th century, regional alliances, economic progress, and contrasting military power have changed the strategic and regional power balance in Asia. In recent years, a re-balancing of military and economic power among emerging powers such as China and India has resulted in significant changes in the geopolitics of Asia, Asia is now the fastest growing region in macroeconomics of world economy, benefit from its robust internal market as well as huge and fast growing population. China and Japan, being the second and third largest economic powers of the world respectively, have also gained greater influence over regions beyond Asia, with the former now contending with the United States for geopolitical clout in most major regions. With close economic and military ties to the United States, Japan was the key component for the US military operations of "containment" strategy against communist forces in Asia during the Cold War. In recent decades, South Korea has emerged as a significant economic and cultural force in East Asia, and Indonesia has solidified its place as the economic heavyweight of Southeast Asia. China in particular has grown rapidly in its ability to project its global influence and investment in profound infrastructuring project called "Belt and Road Initiative" throughout Afro-Eurasia, and is widely considered to be a potential superpower.
- South Korea[G20][MIKTA][OECD][N-11]
- Iran[N 11][G-15][OPEC]
- Saudi Arabia[G20][OPEC]
Russia – the dominant part of a former superpower, the Soviet Union, is now considered a potential superpower and has historically been the primary geopolitical force in Eastern Europe. France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom are seen as the Big Four of Western Europe, they play pivotal roles as part of the NATO Quint in the security of the Western Bloc. Most of the continent is now integrated as a consequence of the enlargement of the European Union, which is sometimes considered a great power as a whole despite it not being a sovereign state. Historically, dominant powers in this region created large global colonial empires (such as the British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, Russian, Belgian, and Dutch empires).
- United Kingdom[GP][P5][G7][G20][AUKUS]
Australia is considered to be a regional power due to its relative wealth within Oceania and Southeast Asia. For instance, despite having less than a tenth of Indonesia's population, Australia has a larger GDP in nominal terms. Despite not possessing a particularly large military in terms of manpower, Australia's military expenditure is the 11th highest in the world and is considerably higher than any other nation in the region. New Zealand is considered the other regional power in Oceania, having significant regional influence, representation of the region on the world stage, and a GDP that belies its mid-size population. Although ranks lower in population, GDP and military expenditure than Australia, New Zealand has always had a far greater influence in the Pacific islands than its larger rival. This is primarily because of New Zealand’s location in, and status as the largest country within, Polynesia. Furthermore, New Zealand has significant population of Pacific Islanders, and deep cultural bonds between indigenous Māori and other Polynesians, such as Samoans, Tongans and Hawaiians. The Hawaiian connection allows New Zealand to have some influence in the United States. Australia has often been less open to forging bonds with the Pacific islands, which also shows why New Zealand has more widespread hegemony there as a regional power.
- ^ Considered a great power
- ^ Permanent member of UNSC
- ^ Member of G7
- ^ One of G4 nations
- ^ Member of G20
- ^ Member of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)
- ^ Member of MIKTA
- ^ Member of OPEC
- ^ Member of BRICS
- ^ Member of G-15
- ^ Member of D-8
- ^ Member of N-11
- ^ Member of CIVETS
- ^ Member of G-14
- ^ Member of QUAD
- ^ Member of AUKUS
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