France is the 42nd largest country in the world. With a population of 67 million people, the country is also the 20th most populous in the world. Globally, France is a small nation with far less people than many major nations. However, France plays a disproportionately large role on the world stage. But why is this? What makes France such as powerful country?
Let us explain…
1. France Has A Powerful Military
A first reason why France is a powerful country is because of its military strength.
France has one of the most effective armed forces in the world. The French military is equipped with state-of-the-art technology and is highly trained. The French armed forces have 208,000 personnel across the army, navy, air force and special forces. The country does not have the largest army in the world, but it’s ability to achieve its objectives and be a highly effective fighting force makes France a powerful country.
As a key member of NATO, France’s armed forces play a vital role alongside the US, Great Britain, and other European countries in defending Europe. NATO membership also gives France access to the latest military technology being developed by her allies. France itself has a major arms industry and this is a further reason why it is a strong country.
France’s military has a long tradition and has proven itself consistently to be capable of defeating enemies. The power of France’s armed forces is one of the most important reasons why the country is one of the strongest in the world.
2. The Country Is A Nuclear Power
A second reason why France is a powerful country is because it is a nuclear arsenal.
In 1960, France developed its own nuclear weapons. This made it the fourth country in the world to become a nuclear power. Today, there are only nine nations that have nuclear weapons and being one of them makes France a strong country.
France has around 300 nuclear warheads. It has a fleet of four nuclear powered submarines, meaning it can deploy its nuclear capabilities around the world as needed. The countries nuclear arsenal is fully independent and does not rely on technology from allied countries such as the US. The independence of France’s nuclear deterrent is a further reason why the country is a major global power.
As well as having a significant nuclear arsenal, France plays a major role in nuclear non-proliferation. Being a nuclear power gives France significant influence over how nuclear technology spreads around the world and this influence is another reason why the country is powerful.
3. France Has One Of The Richest Economies In The World
A third reason why France is a powerful country is because of the size of its economy.
France has the seventh largest economy in the world. This makes it a major world power. With a GDP of around 2.9 trillion dollars, France is one of the world’s richest countries. France has major industries including agriculture, transportation, technology, and high-end consumables. These power the French economy and make the country strong globally.
As well having a major economy, French citizens are generally wealthy. France has per capita income of 50,400 dollars. This makes French people among the richest in the world.
There are many major global brands that come from France. Companies such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermès, L’Oréal, and Orange all have global reach. They are known around the world and sell products many people are familiar with. The size of companies such as these and their connection to France makes the country powerful.
With a large economy, rich population and a range of successful global companies, France is an incredibly strong country by world standards.
4. France Has Immense Global Soft Power
Another reason why France is a powerful country is because of the nation’s immense soft power.
In global politics, soft power is defined as a country’s ability to work with other nations to achieve their strategic aims. It is the opposite of hard power – where force is used to achieve a country’s objectives.
France is one of the strongest countries globally because it has been able to harness soft power effectively. The country has 160 embassies around the world. It also engages fully with international organisations including the United Nations, European Union, NATO, and the World Trade Organization. At the UN France is a permanent member of the Security Council. This provides the country with veto rights within a UN and is another reason why the county is powerful.
Another way that France uses its soft power effectively is through the provision of overseas aid. The country funds extensive humanitarian assistance and development projects around the world. It also has many well-known NGOs, including Médecins San Frontiere, Action Contre la Faim, Solidarites International and Médecins du Monde.
France has been able to harness soft power to achieve its aims, and this is a key reason why the country is strong.
5. France Has Immense Post-Colonial Influence
A further reason why France is a powerful country is because of its post-colonial influence.
France had one of the largest empires in the world. From early 17th Century until the 1960s, France held territories on almost every continent. Although France de-colonised from the 1950s onwards, the country still holds enormous influence over its post-colonial territories.
An example of France’s influence over its former colonies is its hold over the currencies of West and Central Africa. Controversially, both the West and Central African Francs is economically controlled by France. Although African countries have pushed against this in recent years, progress away from France’s dominance over the currency is slow.
As well as still having enormous influence over countries that used to be its colonies, France also still has territories around the world. Examples include French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Réunion. France has thirteen overseas departments and territories. Most of these lands remain part of France. They send representatives to the French parliament, use the Euro as their currency and are legally part of the nation of France. Holding these territories gives France incredible global power as its hold’s lands in some of the most strategic locations in the world.
6. The Country Is At The Heart Of Europe
France is one of the most influential countries in Europe and this makes it powerful.
The predecessor of the European Union was the European Economic Community (ECC). France, along with five other European countries, were founding members of the ECC. As the ECC became the EU, France retained its highly powerful position within Europe. Today, especially with the UK’s exit from the EU, France is positioned to be, alongside Germany, the driving force of the European Union.
France’s position within the European Union makes it extremely powerful. The EU is the third largest economy in the world and France’s influential position allows it to mould the EU somewhat in France’s favour. As one of the largest EU economies, France also has the economic might to be a major power within the European Union.
In recent years, France has made efforts to reform the EU and pushed for more harmonisation between the countries in the bloc. France is well-placed to drive changes within the European system as it is one of the strongest and most powerful countries on the continent.
The position of France within the European Union is a major reason it is a global power.
7. France Is An Artistic And Cultural Superpower
A final reason why France is a powerful country is because of its art and culture.
French culture is renowned around the world. The country’s cuisine, alongside visual arts, films, music, design, and architecture have had an enormous influence globally for over a century. French culture is seen as high-end and desirable. This gives the country immense power on the global stage.
Another reason why France is powerful is because of its tourism industry. France is the country in the world receiving the most foreign visitors. This means millions of people a year visit the country, experience French culture, and build a connection with the nation. Tourism also gives a major boost to the French economy.
France is a global leader in art and culture. Many people all over the world look to France for inspiration and the positive view most people have of France and its culture gives the country a lot of power.
Want To Know More?
For those wanting a brief overview of France and a look at what makes the country powerful, we recommend picking up a copy of The History of Modern France by Jonathan Fenby. It’s a fantastic overview of French history and explores the people, events and ideas that have made France a strong modern state. The link is to the book on Amazon.com.
For those interested in why France is a powerful country, we also really recommend the book De Gaulle’s Legacy: The Art of Power in France’s Fifth Republic by W. Nester. It explores how President Charles De Gaulle has influenced all subsequent French Presidents. It’s a fascinating look at what makes France a powerful country today. We’ve linked to it on Amazon.com.
If you’re interested in looking more into Frances’s history to understand the countries modern global position, we recently read and loved The French Revolution by Christopher Hibbert. We think it’s perhaps the best concise account of the events that changed France, and the world, and formed the foundation of France’s place in the world. We’ve linked to the paperback on Amazon.com.