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Recently there has been a lot of talk about a new multipolar world.
This is such an enormous idea and a huge conversation.
I am especially interested because a multipolar world could presumably impact our international marketing strategies and how we do business across the globe.
I had so many questions that I decided to do some research and find out more facts so I could educate myself on, “What is the multipolar world?” and how it could impact our international marketing initiatives.
What is the multipolar world?
The multipolar world refers to an international community with several great powers that balance the world order. In a multipolar world, no one country has total control and influence over other nations. For example, the United States, China and Russia are three great powers that may keep each other balanced in the multipolar world.
After some research I found that some global shifts in power and influence are happening right now. These shifts will affect how we do business, socio-economic implications and access to capital, and of course there will be some political implications, which will not be a focus of this article.
Let’s now get into some of the details as it relates to, “What is a multipolar world?”. Here's what I found:
Right now, you and I are living during one of the most fascinating global changes our world has ever seen.
That’s because the world is changing from a unipolar world to a multipolar world -- right in front of our eyes.
This is a very important topic to be aware of as you build and strategize your international marketing strategy.
In this helpful and thought-provoking article we will define what the multipolar world is, compare it to a unipolar world, briefly review how the international marketing landscape is affected and then review some ideas for what this might mean as you construct your international marketing plan.
Let’s now discuss the differences between a unipolar world and a multipolar world, and review some possibilities.
What a multipolar world may mean is that the United States, or the main forces dictating many policies for the United States, may not hold as much centralized power.
This means these forces may not have as much influence over other nations as it has had for much of recent history. In fact, many resources suggest that some of this power and influence has included the 20th century and possibly started as early as the 16th century.
One example of this shift to a multipolar world is the advent of the world's largest free trade agreement (FTA) that was just organized, representing an incredible 30% of the world’s population.
This trade agreement is called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and has member countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Australia and China. The United States is not a direct trading partner in this multinational free trade agreement.
This seems like a very big deal as so much innovation will be produced and distributed as a result of the FTA. For a helpful article about the RCEP, see our article here:
What is the RCEP trade agreement in simple terms?
Maintaining an atmosphere of free trade, global peace and sustainable development requires a balance of power among the biggest powers. The biggest powers are the nations that possess significant military strength, political stability, economic capability, resource endowment, and population.
The multipolar world refers to an international community with several great powers that balance their control and influence over other nations.
The distribution of power capabilities determines the number of great power states and, consequently, world polarity.
When the world has two or more dominant powers competing for influence on a global stage, multipolarity is the result.
History provides examples of different periods of multipolarity.
Although the two opposing superpowers dominated the international system with the solid military, economic and political sway over their allies, arguably, some experts would suggest that the world enjoyed relative peace and stability for more than four decades before the USSR collapsed.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the cessation of the Cold War, the United States became the face of the greatest power with no significant opposition despite the world assuming some multipolarity. In other words, the perception was that the US became a unipolar power in a "multipolar" world.
So, is the current international system multipolar or unipolar?
A unipolar global system emerges when a single major power has decisive influence or command and control over other nations.
In this scenario, the state stands as the only superpower, with no government to balance its power.
For example, the British Empire lasted about 400 years, and grew to over 400 million people. An incredibly powerful navy combined with being the first industrial nation, may have made Britain a hegemony as it dedicated policy and authoritarianism over its 90 colonies it looked to for other countries natural resources, per the World Atlas.
There is a huge lesson here in ‘all things’ moral, legal, and ethical in business and international marketing. For an excellent thought experiment and to read some helpful articles on the topic of Free Enterprise, Free Enterprise in Marketing and “What would Happen Without Free Enterprise?”, please see these three helpful articles:
After reading these articles and seeing how the British Empire conducted business for nearly 400 years, a multipolar world may be evermore important moving forward.
Additionally, for a very helpful article to put more color on the importance of international marketing in a free enterprise environment go here for a great article:
What is the deglobalization trend? (vs. globalization)
For another example, after the 1989 collapse of the Soviet Union, one could argue that the world reverted to a unipolar international system where the United States influenced and shaped the economic, political, and cultural landscape in the rest of the globe.
Besides the USSR's dissolution, factors contributing to the United States hegemony include its geographical location and military power that granted security. Unlike European powers, China and Russia, the US is isolated and physically distanced.
That said, new factors such as the rise of China and BRICS countries seem to challenge and even cause a decline in the world unipolar system.
With the potential return to a multipolar system, the world would have to find a new balance where the major powers balance their economic, technological, military, and political capabilities.
China, India, Brazil, and other members of BRICS have the potential to alter the current international structure by creating more trade agreements and rely upon their own natural resources for food, energy and an increase in international trade and marketing.
This shift towards self-reliance of individual nation states, and a more equitable shift of power, could present more opportunities for international marketing.
From rising China to the Arab Spring protests, is it possible that geopolitical changes are transforming the world from a once unipolar world centered around Washington DC to becoming a more expansive multipolar international system?
Some experts think so.
But let’s go a little deeper into the definition, so it is very clear.
Merriam-webster.com defines unipolar as:
“Having or oriented in respect to a single pole: such as based
on or controlled by a single factor or view.”
As an example, an academic with Ohio State University named Thomas A. Stewart suggested that “China mistrusts a unipolar, U.S.-dominated world.”
Another important word to add to this discussion is: hegemony.
Dictionary.com defines hegemony as:
“leadership or predominant influence exercised by one nation
over others, as in a confederation.”
Let’s now bring this to the center of the conversation.
After the Cold War and the fall of the USSR, the United States has remained the only superpower leading to a unipolar world for the past 20 years.
Consequently, the US has been crucial in curating a new, unipolar world order.
Even before the unipolar era, the United States laid the foundations for the current global economic model by supporting the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which later became World Trade Organization and Bretton Woods Agreement.
While the agreement had representatives from around 44 states and led to the creation of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, the US maintains indirect control of these international financial institutions.
Besides politics, the unipolar system has allowed the US to influence the world order by exerting its political and social influence on other nations.
For example, during the Cold War, the United States indirectly suppressed the spread of socialist values by supporting anticommunist movements and possibly transforming the political landscape.
Very few people, if any, know how things will unfold, but there are some factors that can play a role in your international marketing strategies.
While we have no control over these macro topics, here are some things to periodically keep your eye on:
For a very helpful article that clearly outlines and reviews the biggest food producers, go here:
What are the biggest food companies in the US? (+Amazing brands)
For a good article that describes the biggest agriculture companies in the US, and some basic agriculture guidelines, go here:
What is the Biggest Agricultural Company in the US? (+Top 5)
The international system's polarity depends on the distribution of power potential among the globe's major powers.
When more than one great power exists, a geopolitical situation of multipolarity results. After World War II, the international system was typically bipolar, with opposing US and USSR powers and no peripheries.
But the collapse of the Soviet Union left the United States as the only superpower, leading to a unipolar world order for the past two decades.
Notably, rising powers within BRICS and the EU threaten the current unipolar state, implying the world might soon return to multipolarity.