The Power Gap

Power can be measured in two ways. The Asia Power Index distinguishes between resource-based determinants of power and influence-based determinants of power.

The first four measures of the Index — economic capability, military capability, resilience and future resources — are requisite factors in the exercise of power.

The next four measures — economic relationships, defence networks, diplomatic influence and cultural influence — assess levels of regional influence, lending the Index its geographical focus.

The Power Gap provides a secondary analysis to the Index based on the interplay between resources (what countries have) and influence (what countries do with what they have). Countries can be overperformers or underperformers, irrespective of where they place in the comprehensive power rankings.

Countries with outsized influence in Asia relative to their resources have a positive Power Gap. Conversely, countries that exert undersized influence relative to their resources register a negative Power Gap.

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Japan’s Power Gap score of 11.4 reveals it to be a quintessential smart power, making efficient use of limited resources to wield broad-based diplomatic, economic and cultural influence in the region. Russia’s Power Gap score of –6.7 indicates its influence may be limited by its position on the geographic periphery of Asia.

Australia, Singapore, and South Korea have more influence than their raw capabilities would indicate. This points to their ability and willingness to work collaboratively with other countries to pursue their interests. They are highly networked and externally focused.

Developing countries often register influence shortfalls — reflecting their unrealised power potential and internal constraints on their ability to project power abroad. Meanwhile, misfit middle powers — such as North Korea and Taiwan — are geopolitical outcasts that deliver inconsistent performances across the influence measures.

The distance from the trend line — which is determined using a linear regression — reveals how well each country converts its resources into influence in Asia.