Model: Dimensions

Main Dimensions

1. Human Development

2. Natural Resources

3. Policy

4. Economy

5. Science & Technology

6. Institutions & Law

7. Infrastructure

8. Culture & Values

9. Defense & Military

10. Environment

Answers & Resources

Q&A: Global Dominance




This website

The author

Model: Dimensions

Revised: 8 April 2015

Dimensions of global dominance

Analytic diagram developed by GKH.

The diagram above illustrates the ten basic dimensions of our analysis and some of the relationships we will discuss in detail. For each of these dimensions and relationships we will use empirical evidence to compare China, Europe and the United States of America. The main objective of this holistic analysis is to assess what country or region will become the dominating power of the 21st century. There are three types of dimensions (see corresponding colors in the diagram):
Inputs (green boxes)
These are resources and conditions that governments and countries can "utilize" to prosper and dominate. A sufficiently large, well educated and healthy population, rich natural resources, and advantageous geographical conditions are examples. Analytically we distinguish the three input-dimensions: "human development", "natural resources", and "geography and environment".
Actions (red boxes)
These are fundamental human activities in a society which are necessary for a country or region to prosper and dominate. The most important group of activities is everything that makes the "Economy" strong. The second group of activities is what Talcot Parsons once called "Goal Attainment". These are activities necessary for efficient and strong political leadership. A most fundamental human activity is scientific research, which generates the technical innovations that are a basis of economic growth and political strength.
Structures & capabilities (yellow boxes)
The third type of analytical dimensions encompasses those social structures, organizations, and facilities which are necessary to project power ("Military"), efficiently run the economy ("Infrastructure"), avoid costly social conflicts ("Institutions & Law") and integrate and motivate the population towards higher goals ("Culture & Values").
The diagram also highlights a few important relationships between the ten key dimensions. There are essentially two types of connections: Immaterial relations, such as ideas, plans, decisions, norms or flows of information and knowledge (black lines), or material relations, such as flows of people, physical objects and money (red lines).

Examples of material flows would be the natural resources that are consumed by the economy, and the flow of waste and pollution that economic activities release into the natural environment. However, people can also be "material flows", such as the labor migrants that move into a particular economy.

Other relationships are purely immaterial, such as the information and knowledge transfer, which is essential for a modern society. One of the most important immaterial flows is the transfer of knowledge between scientific and technological research and the economy. However, there are also immaterial flows of ideas and norms between the cultural system and the economic system.

Most material relationships in the diagram begin or end in the economic system, which should emphasize that a prosperous economy is a core condition of global influence. Without a prosperous economy no country or region can achieve global dominance (as the Russian Federation had to learn in recent decades). Economic growth fuels a country's tax income and provides the financial resources to build and maintain a strong military and functioning infrastructure or funds scientific research and technological development, which are all important dimensions for global dominance.

The political system (in particular, the government) is the source of many immaterial flows. It decides what infrastructure should be built and how many resources should be allocated for defense. The political systems also sets the norms and standards in which the economic system has to operate. And it allocates resources for education and science, which are essential for the development of human resources and technological innovation. Such political decisions may be good or bad, guided by foresight or corruption, made democratically or authoritarian. But whatever decision is made, a country's development is greatly affected by political actions.
The political system can make or break a country's chances for global relevance. Failed governments and corrupt or incompetent leaders are the "number one" cause of poverty, social disruption and conflict. Competent, fair and visionary leaders, on the other hand, can lead an impoverished nation to economic success and political relevance, as was, for instance, demonstrated in Singapore or Finland.
The quality of infrastructure, for instance, is not a God-given condition. The situation that hundreds of millions of people around the world do not have any kind of toilet is the direct fault of (local) leaders and governments. The failure to build latrines is not an economic or technical problem, but a problem of leadership and insight into basic principles of hygiene. The fact that half the countries of the world do not provide even basic education to their population is a colossal policy failure - it is not caused by insufficient financial resources or lack of development aid.

Links to details (in preparation)

Comparative analyses of various advantages and challenges in human development of China, Europe and the USA:



Structures & capabilities



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Links to online articles

Eileen Otis: Inequality in China and the impact on women's rights. The Conversation, 19 March 2015

Ching Kwan Lee / Yonghong Zhang (2013): The power of instability: Unraveling the microfoundation of bargained authoritarianism in China. American Journal of Sociology. vol. 118, No. 6, 1475-1508


Creative Commons License

"China-Europe-USA" by Gerhard K. Heilig is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. First published: 2004; Completely revised: 2015