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The concept of “rising powers”

Pinar Tank, 29 June 2012

The end of the cold war and the bipolar world order heralded an era of transition for global governance. Twenty years on there is still no consensus on the status of the distribution and exercise of power in today’s multipolar world. What is clear, however, is the rise of new powers seeking a global political role comparable with their increased economic clout. Often referred to as the BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – to which second-tier powers such as Indonesia, Turkey and Mexico can be added, these states are called “rising powers” or “new powers” because of their rapid economic development, and expanding political and cultural influence.

Based on two seminars hosted by PRIO/NOREF in 2011 and 2012, this brief article reflects on the term “rising powers”, illustrating some of these countries’ common traits and different approaches to their role as emerging powers. How do new powers as diverse as Brazil and Turkey aspire to rising-power status? How important is regional leadership? How do they project soft power? And finally, what challenges do established powers face in their relations with rising powers? 

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