To this day, my most popular blog post ever by number of blog comments is Top 10 Most Powerful Countries In 2011, in which I tried to tally the power rating (Comprehensive National Power, as the Chinese would call it) of the world’s Great Powers. It was rather unscientific, there being no particular method by which I assigned numbers.
My second most popular post ever is my recent megapost attempting to measure the Comprehensive Military Power of the world’s leading armed forces. This effort was much more rigorous and provoked a great deal of discussion both here and elsewhere.
This tell me something. Namely, that there is a big popular demand for quantifying all aspects of national power. No wonder the National Review is jampacked with list-based articles of the “5 Chinese Weapons the US should Fear” and the like.
This is convenient, because before compiling the CMP, I also attempted to create a more rigorous measure of the CNP, using a index derived from an averaged measure of economic, military, and soft power. I will not be doing a very big detailed post on the CNP 2015 because I decided I have enough material and ideas to write a small e-book on it instead.
In the meantime, before what is tentatively titled Future Superpowers comes out, for those who are interested in the general idea behind my version of the CNP and would like to see some preliminary rankings and estimates – which will be sure to change, though probably not by much – here goes.
The CNP was compiled, as above, based on an average measure of economic, military, and soft power. Economic power was an index tied to nominal and PPP-adjusted GDP; military power was derived in a way similar to the CMP, albeit the version used here was slightly less sophisticated; and soft power was the average of some measures of diplomatic, elite, and mass/popular soft power such as UN veto rights and percentage of the world’s Top 100 universities. All three major components were given equal weight because, as with Ian Morris’ attempt to quantify historical social development in The Measure of Civilization, there was no particularly good reason to favor one or another component. It’s somewhat like Varys’ riddle over whether a sellsword will obey the king (military power), the priest (soft power), or the rich man (economic power) when they all order him to kill the other two; it all depends on the particular situation and there is no correct answer.
Interestingly, the rank order was very similar to my first “intuitive” attempt at quantification in 2011. The US is head and shoulders above everyone else; China has half of its power; and Russia approximately a third. France, the UK, Germany, Japan, and India form a very tight cluster at around 20% of US national power. Then there is another big gap, and at decidedly less than 10%, there is Brazil, Korea, and the Saudis. The only major difference between the 2011 version and the current 2015 version is that whereas Turkey was 10th in the former, in today’s more rigorous version it shifts down by quite a bit and Italy displaces it (though it could just as easily have been Saudi Arabia, Canada, or South Korea). However, I had overestimated the power of pretty much every country relative to that of the US in the old primitive 2011 version. This matters if you want to make your index proportional and additive, as I have now explicitly set out to do now.
Here are the actual rankings. Note that I didn’t bother doing all countries, just the generally more important ones.
Comprehensive National Power in 2015
The third column is the CNP of each Power relative to US=100 this year. The fourth column gives national CNPs as a percentage of all the “power” in the world. The fifth column gives the CNP per capita as a percentage of that of the US.