Second Superpower

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"Second Superpower" is a term used to conceptualize a global civil society as a world force comparable to or counterbalancing the United States of America. The term originates from a 2003 New York Times article which described world public opinion as one of two superpowers.[1]

The term has also been applied by scholars to the possibility that the People's Republic of China could emerge as a "second superpower," with global power and influence on par with the United States.[2][3][4]

Invention in response to February 2003 demonstrations[edit]

Anti-war protests which were the impetus for the invention of the term.

On February 15, 2003 global demonstrations took place against the impending invasion of Iraq. These involved between six and thirty million people and were listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as including the largest anti-war rally in history. In reaction, New York Times writer Patrick Tyler wrote in a February 17 article that:

Popularization as a description of popular opinion[edit]

The New York Times article was widely circulated in the peace movement during February 2003, adding to the hope among many participants that galvanizing world public opinion could prevent the Iraq War.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan began to use the phrase "two superpowers" in speeches. In March, "The Nation" magazine cover story was titled "The Other Superpower". In it, Jonathan Schell wrote:

Though worldwide popular opposition failed to prevent the invasion of Iraq, leading some to reject the notion, the phrase is still popular among people in the anti-war and anti-globalization movements.

Application to Internet-based activism[edit]

On March 31, 2003, Dr. James F. Moore of Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society posted an essay entitled The Second Superpower Rears Its Beautiful Head. In it, he advocated four ideas: embrace the concept explicitly within the peace movement as an inspirational goal and a counter to the "first superpower" idea promoted by the Bush administration, continue to develop blogging and other means of linking the community globally, find ways to influence first superpower institutions including international institutions and international law, and continue to develop reflective personal consciousness so as to be able to lead from love rather than fear.

This paper received 50,000 downloads in five days. The substance of the piece was debated by a number of authors, including Jonathan Rauch writing in National Journal. Many bloggers linked the paper with Joi Ito's Emergent Democracy concept and paper.

Some attacked Moore's use of the term to describe primarily the effect of the Internet. Brian Fitzgerald argued in the Greenpeace Weblog:


Moore's paper was the subject of an attack on the dissemination process and the relationship of the author and his reviewers to Google, by Andrew Orlowski of The Register. Orlowski accused a small number of webloggers of "Googlewashing", a word Orlowski invented to describe media manipulation of Google to neuter the political significance of the word. He argued:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "A New Power In the Streets". The New York Times. 17 February 2003.
  2. ^ Wood, James (2000). History of International Broadcasting. ISBN 9780852969205.
  3. ^ Dillon, Michael (2009). Contemporary China. ISBN 9780415343206.
  4. ^ Bardes, Barbara; Shelley, Mack; Schmidt, Steffen (2008-12-16). American Government and Politics Today: The Essentials 2009 - 2010 Edition. ISBN 0495571709.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ "Making Waves". Greenpeace International.
  7. ^ "Anti-war slogan coined, repurposed and Googlewashed … in 42 days".

External links[edit]