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Q&A: Global Dominance

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7. Infrastructure

Revised
12 April 2015

Physical investments of a country or region over past decades or centuries can become valuable assets of further development. The quality and density of already existing networks of roads and highways, power lines, canals, rail ways, water reservoirs, airports, telecommunication lines, power stations, water supply and sewage systems, waste incinerators and many other public and private facilities are important factors in the investment decisions of international corporations. Countries or regions with good infrastructure can compensate other shortcomings. For the question of global dominance four kinds of infrastructure seem to be of particular relevance:
Energy infrastructure
Energy infrastructure is of paramount relevance for any modern society. Without a stable, sufficient and reasonably cheap supply of energy modern economic activity and social relations are impossible. The system for generation and distribution of electricity is probably the most critical infrastructure. While most countries and regions still use hydrocarbons (such as coal, oil, and gas) or nuclear plants for generation of electricity, some others always had renewable energy sources (hydropower) or are in the process of switching to solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy or others. Smart, shock-resistant electricity grids are at least as important as reliable electricity generation.
Commercial transportation of goods and materials, as well as public and individual transportation of people also requires enormous amounts of energy - often in the form of hydrocarbons, such as gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel. Energy is also used in numerous industrial processes - from steel and cement production to processes in the chemical industry.
 

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Spellman / Bieber - Energy Infrastructure  Jones / Zoppo - Smarter Greener Grid Collins - China's Energy Strategy Youngs - Energy Security

Frank R. Spellman / Revonna M. Bieber (2010)
Energy Infrastructure Protection and Homeland Security. Government Institutes

Kevin B. Jones / David Zoppo (2014)
A Smarter, Greener Grid. Forging environmental progress through smart energy policies, technology, and policy. Praeger

Gabriel B. Collins (Ed.) (2012)
China's Energy Strategy. The impact on Beijing's maritime policies. Naval Institute Press
 

 

Richard Youngs (2009)
Energy Security. Europe's new foreign policy challenge. Routledge

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Transportation infrastructure
Systems that can efficiently move materials, products and people within the country and to other parts of the world is an important element for global relevance. Roads, highways, bridges, canals, airports, and harbors are all parts of a country's transportation infrastructure. Their capacity, range and state of maintenance can greatly affect economic productivity. An adequate transportation infrastructure is also necessary to move military equipment quickly to places of conflict within and outside the country or region.
Information & communication infrastructure
Today, everyone is concerned about the availability, efficiency, and safety of communication infrastructure. Governments, businesses and ordinary citizens are all heavy users of this infrastructure. It consists of sub-sea cables, Internet hubs and switches, radio and television transmitters, communication and TV satellites, phone lines, cellular networks, data centers and various other components. However it is not only the hardware that is important. Software, such as encryption, encoding or compression algorithms, are part of a country's information and communication infrastructure.
Other infrastructure
Energy supply, transportation and communication may require the most common infrastructure, but there are many other activities that involve specialized infrastructure. These include, among others, facilities for efficient and safe waste disposal and sewage treatment; systems for the supply of clean drinking and irrigation water; early warning systems that can alert people and businesses from extreme weather events, earthquakes, flooding, hurricanes, nuclear or industrial disasters, and other catastrophic events; and emergency services that have appropriate resources and trained staff to assist in cases of accidents or disasters. Public parks, gardens and urban green spaces are also infrastructure that provides recreation and quality of life for the population.
Links to comparative analyses (in preparation)
In subsequent analyses we will compare China, Europe, and the USA and ask, which of them has the best infrastructure. This will help to asses their comparative advantage:
Links to on-line articles

 

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