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At the beginning of the 21st century, the United States of America were the world sole remaining superpower, the Soviet Union having collapsed nearly a decade before. However, by the end of the first half of the century, the world was dominated by 5 major powers, all of which had claims to being superpowers. Including a background of events before 2050 AD, this article describes the world during this time, created by decades of economic and political turmoil.
Nations of the World, 2050
By 2050, five major powers, all of which are arguably of superpower status, had emerged from the economic turmoil of the first half of the twenty-first century. As well as them, various other powers of significance had emerged. Here is a list of the major powers that had emerged an their backgrounds:
Founded in 1949, the People's Republic of China had for quite a while been considered part of the developing world. However, during the course of the twentieth century, China was transformed from a peasant society into a fully industrialised power with an immense military and nuclear capabilities. As China progressed, they became ideologically liberal, abandoning aspects of their communist ideology and adopting capitalist economic policies; this was arguably the seed of their emergence as a superpower, allowing China to prosper. By the early 21st century, China was showing signs of superpower aspiration, investing heavily in foreign business and becoming the manufacturing centre of the world. Their influence in third world countries, particularly in Africa was increasing too. This combined with their massive army and even larger population, made the Peoples Republic an ideal candidate to replace the United States as the world's leading nation, should the USA collapse. Though there was some worry in the States, most people were generally unconcerned; despite numerical superiority, the USA was still in many ways superior to the Chinese in terms of technology and diplomatic relations with the rest of the world. This changed in 2024.
The World Economic crisis between 2024 and 2031 effected the entire world, but hit the western world hardest. China also suffered, the with the USA plunged into anarchy and Civil War, China lost it's main source customers for a while, most US goods (well over 95% of them) being manufactured in China prior to the crisis. China suffered economically as a result and the lightning speed with which their economy grew was suddenly halted. This was a significant motivator for Chinese expansion into the Central Asian Former Soviet Republics, which were rich in oil wealth and resources, both of which China desperately needed due to the economic difficulty of losing US markets and the fact that there was a panic over decreasing world resources, caused by the Crisis. After the US government and military regained order into their country (in the form of the NAU), the Chinese regained some of their markets; in the meantime however, they had re-invested much in Africa, Asia and the developing Middle-Eastern states to help make up some of what they had lost during the crisis. These areas replaced anarchy stricken North America and Europe as China's main areas of foreign investment. up until 2050, China has also been openly expansionist, claiming that their conquests are necessary to maintain economic stability in their home land. With no US 'global policeman' watching the world, there is no one with the power to contain their expansion into lesser nations such as Mongolia and long-contested Taiwan.
Today, China is larger than it was at the beginning of the century, its' borders now encompassing a majority of Central Asia, with only the Russians with the power to contest them there. Taiwan was at last annexed in 2039 after 90 years of contesting the People's Republic as the 'legitimate' government of China. The occasion was celebrated in China with great joy and made into a national holdiay. Since the collapse of North Korea, Chinese troops have occupied the Northern half of the peninsula, peacefully co-existing with South Korea, a major 'customer' for China's industrial output. The Chinese also hold Mongolia and share Indochina with India, the Chinese powerbased their being in Vietnam. China's influence in the Pacific has also increased, extending as far eastwards as the Hawaiian islands, which were sneakily annexed from the United States during their Civil War. The NAU that succeeded the USA officially recognised Chinese dominion in Hawaii to avoid conflict. With the Anarchy in the west, China is now by default the world's most powerful nation, it's influence extending far beyond it's dominions in Asia and the Pacific; through neo-colonial economic policies and increased military presence to protect interests there, China practically controls most of Africa, though their control is unofficial and indirect. This domination in Africa helped China recover from the economic ravages of the Crisis, supplementing their lost markets in the western world and providing China with a vast reservoir of resources and economic wealth.
In terms of ideology China is still nominally communist; in reality however, China practices imperialism and aggressive capitalism, more so than the western nations did before the crisis. This can be seen in their vast foreign investments and their economic and social exploitation of the resources and peoples of Africa and Central Asia. The ideals of the Revolution of 1949 are long dead, Chinas' ideological fanaticism having been replaced by an entrepreneurial imperialistic nationalism not to dissimilar from the kind of national spirit observable in Britain during the days of the Empire, or post-war USA in the 1950s. Communism is merely used by the Chinese government and people as a means of justifying themselves and their actions and expressing national interests, but can only be seen in their rhetoric, communist ideals being unobservable in their actions and decisions. Essentially, China is an Empire in everything but name.
North American Union
The idea of the North American Union was first proposed around the beginning of the century, as a means of improving business and trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico by bringing them all under a single currency (the 'Amero') and creating a political entity similar to the now extinct European Union, allowing a certain degree of freedom of movement between the borders of the three different countries. American patriots were strongly opposed to the proposal such a union, some going as far as to suggest that the union was part of the formation of a 'New World Order'. American progressives on the other hand liked the idea of an EU-like political/trade system in North America. Due to mixed views (and from most of the public apathy and indecision) on the subject, the Union remained an idea for quite a while, though trade agreements and treaties between USA, Canada and Mexico were made, bringing in elements of the Union, though the Union itself was not yet officially implemented.
With the beginning of the Economic Crisis in 2024, the western world completely fell apart. The financial system failed completely and USA, Canada and Mexico fell into anarchy and civil unrest. In the USA in particular, all law and order disappeared, shops everywhere were looted outright as people panicked and rushed to procure as much for themselves as possible. Gangs emerged from local communities and essentially set up their own small countries where gang leaders would rule their local areas like kings. The rich and famous were able to rush to 'safety zones', bunkers and army bases where order was maintainable. Many more of them fled to Australia, which didn't suffer as badly as the rest of the world and order was mostly kept. Europe was also experiencing similar anarchy it should be noted. After a year of madness, looting, slaughter and lawlessness, the military, had remained mostly loyal to the government in hiding, decided to emerge from their well defended bases and bunkers, which had held out against the anarchy. They decided it was time to 'reclaim' the United States. The government created a 'military first' policy, in which the army would be the primary concern of the government rather than the people; soldiers would be fed first basically. Nearly all US troops were re-called from various US army bases around the world to fight what was now seen as a Civil War by the governments few remaining supporters. During the anarchy, areas not controlled by the government had divided into innumerable tiny local factions (too many to name) fighting each other for resources; Alaska had declared independence and had come under Russian influence. Hawaii had also become independent (but was later annexed by China in 2033 with little resistance).
The campaign against mass civil unrest, or 'Second Civil War' as some coined it, dragged on for nine years (2025-2034), the war becoming easier for government forces after the re-stabilisation of the world economy in 2031. The war had a dramatic effect on the USA; after years of the US government slowly growing more authoritarian over the years, the war had effectively completed the United States' transformation from the ideal democratic nation it had aspired since gaining its' independence from the British in 1783, to a militaristic, authoritarian state, run by an elite of so-called 'enlightened despots'. From this point onward, the USA ceased to function in anyway as a democracy and was now run directly by the army, the government and other persons of power. Not that this bothered most of the population, who after decades of poor education and exposure to dumb down media were generally unaware of their rights as US citizens. The achievement of this power over its own people had come at the price of worldly influence and diplomatic relations, not to mention that many of the United States' allies in Europe had politically disintegrated and still in a state of anarchy. Other than that, the USA had committed many atrocities on its own people during the civil war, which had irreparably damaged their reputation as the 'global policeman' and 'defender of democracy'.
The new model USA looked north and south of itself and saw that the nations of Mexico and Canada were still in a state of anarchy. Conscription was re-introduced to further bolster the army's man power (despite the fact that the US army now numbered over three million servicemen and women, though it must be taken into account that many of soldiers were lacking in experience) and prepared to re-introduce order and 'democracy' to these regions. Canada was first; the invasion was launched in 2036 and the densely populated Quebec region was subdued within a matter of three months. The open wildernesses of British Columbia on the other hand were not so easy to consolidate and took over 5 years to fully subdue US soldiers resorting to a scorched earth policy and terror against the Canadian population to crush their rebellious spirit. In 2037 (whilst the invasion of Canada was still underway) the expedition against Mexico was launched and proved to be swift at first, the new model American military showing no mercy to any form of initial resistance. By the time the US troops had reached the Yucatan region in south-east Mexico however, they face ugly jungle warfare from the locals; as with British Columbia, Americans simply used scorched earth tactics, burning forests and using terror against the local population, generally showing no mercy. Bogged down in the Yucatan region, resistance fighters all over the country were inspired to rise up against the American occupants of their country. It took three years to achieve total victory in Mexico.
After briefly reinstating the governments in exile of both Canada and Mexico, the US government and other powerful figures in the USA opened up negotiations with these governments for the creation of a political union between the United States, Canada and Mexico, arguing that a powerful authoritarian Federal government with an extensive military force, covering the entire the continent was the only way to prevent a such an uprising ever happening again. Still wary from the anarchy and well aware that the economies of North America were in total ruin, the governments of Canada and Mexico quickly agreed, and 2043, the United States, Canada and Mexico gave up their individual sovereignty and formed a new sovereign nation, or rather a union of nations: The North American Union which had been proposed so many decades ago was now a reality.
The Union contains within its' dominions all of the former territories of Canada, Mexico and Continental United States. Alaska still exists as an independent republic though under Russian protection, and Hawaii was annexed by the Chinese. Though at first considered grounds for war, upon the formation of the NAU, Chinese control of Hawaii was officially recognised to avoid conflict. The USA lost a lot of the international influence that had made it superpower at the beginning of the century during it's civil war. The withdrawal of US troops back to home soil during the civil war reduced US military presence around the world and eroded its' role as 'global policeman'. Many nations refused to allow NAU troops to reclaim former US military bases on foreign soil, arguing that the bases belonged to the former United States that no longer existed. This was essentially a justification to shrug off American influence in many countries. Though still very powerful and geographically larger than the former USA, the NAU was but a shadow of its predecessor.
Despite being less powerful than its political predecessor, the NAU still has nuclear capabilities, inherited from the United States' nuclear arsenal. The standard of technology, equipment, training is also lower in the NAU military than the former US military, but is much larger and wields greater power over its own citizens, if they can be called that now, considering that they no longer have voting rights (emergency powers introduced in 2024 by the USA in response to the anarchy have been continued indefinitely by the NAU since it's establishment). The head of state is referred to as the President, though he is no longer elected, but rather chosen by an already existent elite of so-called 'enlightened despots' (before the Crisis and subsequent anarchy caused, these people would have been powerful financially, but their political power would have been limited; such individuals would have been involved in major oil companies, banking or the military-industrial complex of the former United States). These despots are in theory advisors; in practice, they puppeteer the presidents and rule with near absolute power over the people with the armed forces, who, thanks to a 'military first' government policy do not have any qualms with firing on their own people if ordered to do so, knowing that their own families receive the full benefits of and the protection of the 'military first' policy. Civilian life in the NAU is generally miserable, controlled and determined by rations and job requirements (what could be put in laymen's terms as a 'those who work can eat' system). As the 'people at the top' are now in a position of safety and absolute power, they have no need of the old-model capitalism/consumerism that had existed in the former United States and now impose a form of 'quasi-socialism' or 'capo-socialism'. The North American economy is still a long way from recovery and although the capitalist system still exists to some extent, economic policies which could be described as socialist have been implemented as a necessary measure due to the scarcity of resources in the country and the lack of consumer goods (due to severed trade links with China which the NAU are reluctant to mend as they wish to limit the economic power of the Chinese to prevent subservience to and reliance on them ).
After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Russia lost a great deal of foreign territory and degenerated into a corrupt federal state governed by oligarchs, the Russian Mafia and former members of the Politburo and other fragments of the Soviet government. Russia had lost it position as a superpower, though it was not entirely ruined. Russia still possessed a powerful and well trained armed forces, and still had more tanks than any other nation on earth, including the United States. Russia was also still a nuclear power. Unlike the United States which has changed completely as a political entity, the Russian Federation is still very much the same as it was at the end of the previous century, if not slightly more centralised towards the government in Moscow, individual republics within the federation being under tighter control since the Crisis (2024-31).
During the Crisis, Russia imposed a strict rationing system and martial law to keep control of the populace and maintain order. Being used to authoritarian regimes, martial law was easier to impose in Russia than in the USA, thus civil war and anarchy were prevented (mostly). The fact that Russia was relatively new to economic system of the west, and was itself rich in material wealth (Russia had been supplying much of Europe with gas roughly over the past two decades) meant that the Crisis caused by the economic collapse had less of an impact on them, but did not exempt them entirely from it's effects. Russia also saw a chance to extend its influence over the neighbouring territories and possibly regain its status as a superpower. When Russian intelligence heard of Chinese ambitions to extend the red flag to the shore of the Caspian Sea through the oil and mineral rich Central Asian region, that area became a priority for annexation. However, by the time Russian forces were mobilised and ready, the Chinese were already well into Kazakhstan, leaving Russia only a slither of Central Asian territory. To avoid conflict with Chinese and the kind of border disputes seen during the Soviet era, Russia and China officially agreed to partition the Central Asian region between themselves, China knowing the deal favoured them due to their superior gains. Maintaining peace would also become essential at this point as the two nations now shared a border stretching from the Pacific to the Caspian, all countries in between having been annexed. It is note worthy that the border now shared between the Russian Federation and Peoples Republic of China is larger than the border they shared during the Soviet era.
With disappointingly small gains in Central Asia, Russia looked in other directions. To the west in anarchy stricken Europe, some sense of order and authority was much needed, but intervening would have been more trouble than it was worth, due to the horrors currently occuring on that continent. Russia did go as far as to extend her borders to the Baltic and assert some control in parts Ukraine and Belerus, but did not go any further into the mess that was Crisis stricken Europe. Russia worked more to assert it's claim to the Arctic Ocean, an oil rich region and major strategic point in relation to North America. The Crisis had finished in earnest by 2031, but its effects were still present, particularly in North America, where the 'Second Civil War' or 'Campaign against The People' as some Americans referred to it, was to drag on for another three years. Alaska, however, rather than degrade into anarchy, was an exception, and decided to secede from the government in Washington and operate as an independent republic with it's own isolated economy. This way, the oil companies their could protect their wealth during the Crisis and develop further independence from government regulation and taxation and the Alaskan people could avoid the savagery seen in the continental United States and Canada. However, over time, the oil companies, who at first merely endorsed the new 'Republic of Alaska', exercised further authority over the republic and rumours grew that after the Civil War had finished in the Continental United States, that the oil companies who had become the de facto governors of the republic were to hand Alaska back to the Washington government and facilitate a US landing in Alaska, causing unrest amongst the general populace. This is where Russia saw their chance to extend their influence into this oil rich area of the world. The Kremlin purposefully sent operatives to Alaska to encourage and eventually orchestrate a coup d'etat in the Republic. The government was overthrown and those involved in oil were forced to flee with their wealth, many eventually becoming 'advisors' in the new NAU. Under the guise of freedom from federalism, Alaska was now aligned to Russia who now had a military presence in the region to help 'protect' the young Alaskan Republic. The oil companies their were nationalised due to Russian influence and a burst of Alaskan patriotism. Alaska had become a Russian colony in everything but name.
Life in Russia has barely changed since 1991; during the Crisis there was a greater military presence within the country, but living standards before were not that high to begin with and many poorer Russians did not even notice the slight fall in living standards. Oligarchs and others of similar wealth and class, who essentially composed the government, did not feel much of an effect either, they and their wealth protected by the army. It was those in between, city dwellers, the moderately 'well off' who suffered the most, having their living standards reduced to that of peasants. They were the main threat to order and wherever there was major trouble, they were the source. The countryside was not entirely peaceful but was relatively safe compared to the squares and streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Due to the clever application of force where necessary and its huge size and bountiful material wealth, Russia was able to operate its own internal economy separate from the rest of world during the Crisis, in a system that seemed eerily similar to the early days of the Soviet Union roughly one hundred years before. By the year 2050, Russia had returned to its previous state; it had barely changed in 59 years and is probably the least 'changed' of the five potential superpowers.
As for diplomatic relations, Russia is generally on good terms with the other superpowers; relations with the NAU are somewhat strained over Russian influence in Alaska, but are not yet by any means critical. As for the Chinese, due to the huge border they share, there have inevitably been some disputes over it, particularly over what many Russians see as an 'over-extension' of Chinese influence in Central Asia, particularly in regards to their extension of power to the Caspian Sea. However, to avoid the Sino-Soviet style clashes seen in the 1960s, both countries do much to keep each other at bay and disagreement to a minimum. Consequently the immense border between them has remained completely static since 2031. Russia's closest allies therefore are the economic power houses India and the Brazil-dominated FSA, as they have no conflict of interest or dispute with them.