Superpowers Are What We Make of Them

Jan 31, 2012

The Economist lead story this week on China’s Paradox of Prosperity offers some fascinating fodder for a lecture on constructivism:

“In this issue we launch a weekly section devoted to China. It is the first time since we began our detailed coverage of the United States in 1942 that we have singled out a country in this way. The principal reason is that China is now an economic superpower and is fast becoming a military force capable of unsettling America.”

What strikes me about this paragraph is the factual assertion that China is now a superpower. Perhaps I’ve been reading too much of Dan Drezner, but my first reaction was “really? Prove it.” Yet now that The Economist – a leading authoritative news source – has stated this, is it now “fact”? Are superpowers what we make of them?

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Catherine (Kate) Weaver is associate dean for students and associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. She is a distinguished scholar at the Strauss Center for International Security & Law, where she is the founding director of Next Generation Scholars Program. She also chairs the university’s Graduate Assembly Academic Committee, the President’s Award for Global Learning steering committee, and the Truman Scholarship committee. Weaver’s research focuses on transparency in international development aid, reforming global economic governance, and the politics of data in the world economy. She has developed methods to track and dynamically geomap aid and climate adaptation, and writes about the shifting power, players and paradigms in governing the global economy. Her latest project, the Global Indices Network (GIN), examines the interdependent power and pathologies of global indices.