The Developing World Caught In The Crossfire Of Great Power Rivalries – OpEd


In today’s complex geopolitical landscape, great power competition is intensifying, with major players like the United States, China, and Russia vying for dominance on the global stage. While this competition has far-reaching implications, one of its most significant consequences is the negative impact it has on the developing world. 

In today’s world, great power competition primarily involves the United States, China, and Russia. These nations wield immense economic, and military might, making their interactions and rivalries particularly consequential. Developing countries often find themselves economically dependent on great powers for foreign aid, investment, and trade. While these relationships can foster development, they also expose vulnerable nations to economic vulnerabilities.

Economic Dependency: Developing nations rely on great powers for loans, grants, and investment. This dependence can lead to a loss of sovereignty as powerful nations exert influence over economic policies and decision-making.

Debt Burdens: Many developing nations accumulate significant debt to great powers. These financial burdens can hinder economic growth, as debt repayment consumes a substantial portion of national budgets.

Exploitative Trade Practices: Great powers may engage in trade practices that benefit their economies while disadvantaging developing nations. Unfair trade terms and practices can perpetuate economic inequality.

Political Implications

Proxy Conflicts and Instability: Developing nations often become battlegrounds for proxy conflicts between great powers. These conflicts breed instability, hinder development, and create humanitarian crises.

Erosion of Sovereignty: Great powers also interfere in the internal affairs of developing nations, undermining their sovereignty. This interference ranges from election meddling to covert operations.

Regime Changes and Interference: In the pursuit of their interests, great powers may support regime changes, leading to political turmoil and social upheaval in developing countries.

Environmental Implications

Resource Extraction and Environmental Degradation: Great powers often exploit natural resources in developing countries without adequate environmental safeguards. This can result in deforestation, habitat destruction, and pollution.

Climate Change Consequences and Vulnerability: Developing nations are disproportionately affected by climate change, which is exacerbated by great power competition’s impact on resource consumption and emissions.

Social Implications

Displacement and Migration: Proxy conflicts and political instability driven by great power competition force people to flee their homes, contributing to the global refugee crisis.

Impact on Healthcare and Education: Disruptions caused by conflict and instability can hinder access to healthcare and education, particularly for children and vulnerable populations.

Human Rights Abuses and Social Unrest: Developing nations facing political turmoil due to great power competition often experience human rights abuses and social unrest, affecting the well-being of their citizens.

Case Studies

Belt and Road Initiative (China): China’s ambitious infrastructure development project has drawn criticism for its debt-trap diplomacy, leaving developing countries burdened with unsustainable debt.

Military Interventions (United States and Russia): Military interventions in Afghanistan, Syria, and Ukraine have destabilized these regions, causing immense suffering for their populations.

Resource Extraction Projects (Various Great Powers): The unregulated extraction of natural resources in Africa and Latin America has resulted in environmental degradation and social upheaval. Analyzing these cases underscores the complex challenges posed by great power competition in the developing world.

Mitigation and Solutions

Multilateral Approaches: Strengthen international organizations like the United Nations to mediate conflicts and ensure that great powers adhere to international norms.

Regional Cooperation: Encourage regional organizations and alliances among developing nations to promote stability, economic growth, and shared security interests.

Developing World Agency: Empower developing nations to negotiate on equal footing with great powers and prioritize self-reliance and sustainable development.


Great power competition’s intensification is reshaping the geopolitical landscape, with consequences that reverberate across the developing world. Recognizing and addressing these challenges is imperative for fostering a more equitable and stable global order, where the well-being of all nations, regardless of their size or power, is safeguarded. 

Shehla Rahim

Shehla Rahim specializes in South Asian affairs. She can be reached at: [email protected]

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