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All Nations Are Superpowers

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“The splitting up of the world into three superstates was an event which could be and indeed was foreseen before the middle of the twentieth century. … In one combination or another, these three superstates are permanently at war, and have been so for the past twenty-five years.”
Emmanuel Goldsteinnote , The Theory and Practice of Oligarchic Collectivism, a book-within-a-book in Nineteen Eighty-Four

In any given show where there is some sort of global conflict, or speculative fiction of any kind, there will most often be only 2-4 countries (or other kinds of sovereign political entities) involved, and each will be described as a superpower. Often they'll be Space-Filling Empires, which just by dint of their sheer size have access to proportionally immense/diverse resources of one form or the other that allow them to be superpowers, but some of the superpowers may be really small countries that can punch far above what their size would imply due to some special advantage (e.g. monopolizing a disporportionately powerful/abundant resource), and at the most extreme even factions that aren't sovereign nations may have superpower-level resources; of course, the latter two kinds of "superpowers" are frequently Hufflepuff Houses.

Obviously, this isn't historically accurate; the Cold War, for example, was primarily between the United States and the Soviet Union, at the time the world's sole superpowers, but many other countries that were far smaller and less powerful had a huge stake in the outcome and non-trivial influence, such as those along the Iron Curtain, and places like Latin America and Southeast Asia where communism was making headway. If there are two factions, they will fairly often be The Empire and The Federation, or The Alliance or The Republic, though usually neither is portrayed as "good" in this setup (ala Legend of the Galactic Heroes, or even Gundam).


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Valvrave the Liberator averts this by having three main nations-Jior, ARUS, and Dorsissa, but the latter two are superpowers, wheras Jior (where the protagonists are from) is a peaceful weaker nation.
  • Most iterations of Gundam, sometimes there are smaller neutral powers involved, but even they tend to be a collection of neutral powers allied together.
  • Code Geass has the world mostly divided up Nineteen Eighty-Four-style between the EU, the Chinese Federation and the Holy Britannian Empire. Except Australia, for some reason.
    • Japan used to be neutral, too, and is implied to have been an economic superpower in its own right before the series began because it controlled some 70% of the world's sakuradite deposits. Japan played the world powers off each other since, if any one country invaded and conquered Japan, the other two would be forced to immediately attack it as allies or else face annihilation thanks to the overwhelming advantage the invading power got from all that sakuradite. Britannia invades Japan at the start of the series and gets around this problem by distributing the sakuradite in equal thirds to itself and the other two powers.
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes has the known galaxy divided between The Empire and The Alliance. Two seemingly minor factions of note do exist, but even then, one (Fezzan) is the planetary equivalent of a Merchant City that can punch above its weight class on defense thanks to its stranglehold on the galactic economy, and the other (the Earth Cult) is an N.G.O. Superpower that specializes in causing chaos through infiltration, sabotage, and assassination.
  • Xam'd: Lost Memories seems to have things divided up between the Northern Government and a Southern alliance.
  • Last Exile also has two Superpower factions.
  • In Fushigi Yuugi, there are four countries roughly analogous to the four cardinal directions, each with its own emperor and god.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Marvel Universe, several tiny fictional micro-nations/city-states are considered superpowers due to their extremely advanced science and technology, monopoly over a form of Applied Phlebotinum, and resident superhero / villain heads of state. Other nations do not miss out either and several have their own secret research programmes designed to create or upgrade superhumans and their own resident team of superheroes.
    • Wakanda, a tiny African nation long hidden from the world, has had the cure for cancer for centuries and possesses the world's major source of Vibranium. Currently it is ruled by Emperor Scientist and all-round badass King T'Challa, aka the Black Panther, who serves on the world's premiere superhero team, and his weather manipulating Queen Storm of the X-Men, and has favourable ties to the Fantastic Four. This has changed in later years when Doctor Doom stole the stores of Vibranium and an attempt to retrieve it with the aid of the Fantastic Four, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Deadpool forced T'Challa to render a good 95% of it inert, followed by the events of Avengers vs. X-Men, which saw Wakanda ravaged by a Phoenix Force-empowered Namor and T'Challa annulling his marriage to Storm
    • The tiny East European country of Latveria goes even further- it is considered a superpower pretty much because of the fact it is ruled by Doctor Doom, an even greater Emperor Scientist than T'Challa, as well as a Sorcerous Overlord, which is so advanced that crime, poverty and disease have been totally eradicated and the country is policed by super-advanced robots of Doom's own design. It is so ridiculously advanced that VR simulations of a hypothetical war between Latveria and the United States- which bear in mind is even more advanced than its real-life counterpart thanks to a monopoly on superhumans amongst other things- has Latveria win every single time. This might have something to do with the fact that Doom has succesfully conquered the world already. Thrice (at least). And he surrendered it out of boredom.
      • One story hinged upon the fact that the only reason the US didn't officially recognise Latveria as a fellow superpower was Latveria's lack of political influence — both the US and the USSR (the story was written during the Cold War) were massive Federations with lots of alliances on their side and a stake on the UN pie, while Latveria was a single independent nation about the size of Singapore, albeit a single micronation capable of wiping out both federations from the map. Then Doom arranged things to establish an alliance between Atlantis and Latveria...
    • The tiny African island nation of Genosha used to be this, at least under Magneto, due to it being an open haven for the mutant species, meaning the vast majority of its population was comprised of superhumans, a bit of Laser-Guided Karma given that Genosha was formerly home to the world's largest market for mutant slavery, and bear in mind Magneto obtained the island because he managed to single-handidly take the entire planets magnetic field hostage and could have caused global catastrophe on his own- the world offered it to him. We say used to because another X-Men villain, Xavier's Ax-Crazy Evil Twin Cassandra Nova, sent an army of Sentinels to massacre 99.9% of the population, and it is currently an apocalyptic wasteland not really any good to anyone.
      • Magneto seems somewhat fond of this- he also created Avalon / Asteroid M, an asteroid above Earth that also was offered as a haven for the mutant race, this time backed up by Magneto stealing a whole bunch of nuclear weapons in case the world objected. Once again, this project failed due to the actions of another evil mutant.
      • Cyclops later ran with this idea, retrieving the fallen Asteroid M and rechristening it as "Utopia" as a place to keep the remaining mutants safe.
      • And House and Powers of X revives the idea with Krakoa, the new mutant homeland which has become a superpower thanks to its trade in pharmaceuticals.

  • The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951): Actually averted by the alien ambassador Klaatu. While he did land in Washington, D.C., we quickly learn that this is really only because he could only physically land in one place, and he thought landing in the capital of the world's most powerful country would get the entire world's attention. After he gets accidentally shot, the American diplomats who speak with him in the hospital try to explain to him that they're fighting the evil Soviet empire, but he brushes this off as minor internal squabbling within the human race that doesn't concern his interests. Instead he insists that he has been sent to deliver a message to the entire world. Yet when it is suggested that they might try to arrange for him to address the United Nations General Assembly, he declines, specifically pointing out that not every state or political group is represented in it. He even considers "state actors" like the unrecognized side in civil wars (that, and at the time the film was made, the People's Republic of China was not a recognized member of the United Nations, and would not be until it replaced Taiwan in 1971 - but then Taiwan wasn't officially counted). In the end, pressed for time, he comes up with the ad hoc solution of making an impromptu address to an international conference of scientists, who are generally apolitical.

  • The world of Nineteen Eighty-Four only includes three superpowers—Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia—who are (or are not) unceasingly at war with each other.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire is a downplayed version, but still very much counts by the standards of the setting that it's based on. In the real life Late Middle Ages, Europe consisted of at least several dozen states; Italy alone was divided into five majornote  and several minor ones. The largest of these circa the mid 14th century were England (which also included various bits of France), Castile, Hungary, the lands following the Holy Roman Emperor (not the whole loose federation called the Holy Roman Empire), and the domains of the French king (which did not include all of the Kingdom of France). The states besides these are too numerous to list but notable examples (besides those already listed in Italy) included Portugal, Aragon, Granada, Poland, Austria, Bohemia, Novgorod, Bulgaria, Lithuania, and the Teutonic Order. Westeros, on the other hand, is Europe-sized yet united under a single monarchy, albeit a loose one. Even prior to the unification, it was only divided into the Seven Kingdoms: the Reach, the Kingdom of Isles and Rivers, the Stormlands, the North, the Westerlands, the Vale, and Dorne.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the earlier seasons of Stargate SG-1, only the most powerful countries are ever shown to know about the Stargate program. Russia learns about the American program first, soon followed by France, Britain, and China. Those five nations happen to be the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, but they appear to learn about (or suspect) the program independently. By the time of Stargate Atlantis, the Atlantis outpost is found in Antarctica, and all 46 signatory nations to the Antarctic Treaty learn the secret. The Atlantis Expedition is thus a truly multinational one, with representatives from nations such as the Czech Republic, Belgium, and Japan.
    • Jonas Quinn's homeworld Langara is dominated by the superpowers Kelowna, Tirania, and the Andari Federation.
  • Star Trek is constantly introducing new species, who control anything from a single planet to a full blown stellar empire. However, the Alpha Quadrant is effectively divided between the Federation, the Klingons and the Romulans with the Ferengi and Cardassians as major-minor players.

    Video Games 
  • Subverted in Mass Effect: at first, it looks like the trope is in full effect, with powerful polities of thousands of worlds and trillions of people like the Asari Republics, Salarian Union, Turian Hierarchy, human Systems Alliance, Vol Protectorate, hanar Illuminated Primacy, elcor Courts of Dekuuna, and Batarian Hegemony seemingly ruling the entirety of their species. Reading the codex reveals that most of these aren't actually nations, but rather EU-esque alliances of various smaller states meant to present a unified front to other space-faring species. The Asari Republics, for example, mostly consist of city-states, which given their population and number of planets probably corresponds to tens of thousands of nations. On Earth specifically, some nations expanded but it's specifically noted that, although they act under common purpose through the Systems Alliance, the states of Earth are still very much independent. The only species truly unified under one government is the Turian Hierarchy.
  • Nuclear-war sim DEFCON does this with the world divided up into six equal powers. It works for game balance, but makes for frankly odd geopolitics: South America and Africa are united nuclear powers able to field bomber fleets, navies and ICBMs equal to North America or Russia. Then there's the rest-of-the-world Asian bloc, a unified empire of Japan, China, India, Pakistan, both Koreas, the entire Middle East and everything in between.
  • Due to the small number of powerful empires in Civilization-type games, most conflicts will be like this.
    • Civilization 5 introduces truly independent city-states, and for a change introduces incentives for allying with them if you should choose not to crush them.
  • In Valkyria Chronicles, there is only the Federation and the Empire, and the very tiny and peaceful grand duchy of Gallia, which is the only country still independent.
  • Averted in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, where Begnion takes up almost half the continent, with Crimea (the good guys) needing to curry Begnion's favour to defeat Daein (the bad guys, which are around the same size as Crimea but with a better military). There are also lots of smaller Laguz-run countries which don't pose much of a presence separately.
    • Most games feature a powerful evil empire, a few powerful good countries and a bunch of unimportant minor ones.
  • In the Advance Wars games there are four nations who live in relative peace with each other (Orange Star, Blue Moon, Yellow Comet, Green Earth). The presence of an apparently space-faring Black Hole nation disrupts this balance of power.
  • Evil Genius: The world map is split between several Fun with Acronyms-named superpowers ("Pronounced as a word" type: S.M.A.S.H., H.A.M.M.E.R., etc.; what letters stand for is not explained). They have separate "heat" (grudge gauges), each has its own superagent, and part of villainous ascension involves sowing enough dissent for agents of different superpowers to start attacking each other on sight. A hierarchy of power is present, with the superpower based in Africa and South America being the weakest and spoof Britain with its colonies being the strongest (complete with the peskiest, James Bond-ripoff superagent).

    Web Original 
  • In Ilivais X, the American continents are under control of the Aztec Empire, and the vast majority of the Eurasian continent and Africa are under the Iberian Empire. The Gaia Forces, a neutral zone mostly descended from the space colonies, is allowed a buffer section of Russia and the entirety of Australia.
  • In Pay Me, Bug!, there's The Alliance of Free Worlds, The Empire of the Radiant Throne, a collection of small "Free Trade Baronies" that only remain independent through economic power, and nothing else.
  • In the future arcs of S.S.D.D. almost every nation is a member of, or at least allied with, either the CORE or the Collective of Anarchist States, including the pieces of the former USA. Though there are some minor independent nations mentioned, plus China, and California OW is owned by the Maytec Consortium which sells stuff to both superpowers.
  • In Toro League, virtually every named nation, whether it be fan-made or taken from the Pokémon main series, is generally treated as being roughly equal in power, regardless of size or logic. Note that this includes the titular Toro, which canonically has a population of under a thousand, relative to the multi-million populations of every other region.

    Real Life 
  • The world immediately before the First World War came close to resembling this. The entire world was basically divided among a few great powers which held either direct imperial control or exercised effective control via treaties or other methods. These were the the British Empire, the German Empire, the United States, the Russian Empire, France, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Empire of Japan, Italy, and Qing China, in roughly that order of power.note  The top three alone controlled nearly two thirds of world GDP between them.
  • Late Antiquity was kind of like this. The Romans, Han, Kushans, and Iranians had conquered (or otherwise subjugated via a client relation) basically everything they could possibly reach and contact at their tech levels due to oceans or deserts bordering them, bar some minor states and tribes at each of their fringes. Furthermore the Han were only vaguely aware of the Romans and Iranians, and vice versa. As far as the vast majority of people living in Eurasia at the time were concerned, there were only one or two major powers, anything else being a statelet or only existing as the occasional bit of myth.
  • The term for this in political science is Multi-Polar System, although that does not quite mean that nations are superpowers per se, just that no one or two nations hold a monopoly on power. A world with two-nation superpowers is known as a Bi-Polar System, a la the Cold War, whereas a world with a single dominant superpower is known as a Uni-Polar world, a la the modern world with the United States, which is so powerful it is sometimes promoted to Hyperpower by some commentators. There is a general consensus that we are moving towards a Multi-Polar system again as nations like Brazil, India, Russia and China, and the European Union, gradually become economic centres in their own right, as opposed to the economic dominance of the US, although it will be decades before any of these come close to matching America in military power. A Bi-Polar world between America and China is unlikely since though China's economy is set to rival that of America's in the near future, they are also economically interdependant and though China is arguably the nearest military rival, there is still a chasm of difference between the two.