France is the 42nd largest country in the world. With a population of 67 million, it is also the 20th most populous. France is not a large country, it’s not even the biggest nation in Europe. However, the country is world famous. Millions of people each year travel to France and even more people around the world learn about France and French culture. But why? Why when France is quite a small country, is it so important to the world? Well… let us explain…
1. France Has A Large Economy
A first reason why France is an important country is because it is a major global economy.
France is the 7th largest economy in the world. This factor alone makes the country important. Having a large economy means that France produces a significant quantity of goods and services. This makes the country vital to the wider world economy through trade and commerce. Having a large economy also means France is a major trading partner to many nations – further adding to its importance.
With a GDP of 2.6 trillion USD, France plays a major role in both European economic and political affairs. Its economy is one of the biggest drivers of the European Unions’ prosperity. Major French companies, such as Total, Carrefour, AXA and Orange are consumed all over the world. Key French economic areas, including automobiles, food and agriculture, computer sciences, tourism and pharmaceuticals also add to why the country is important.
France has a GDP per capita of 50,400 USD. This makes French people wealthy by global standards. People in France generally have a good standard of living. This further add to France’s position as vital global economy.
2. France Is A Major Military Power
A second reason why France is important to the world is because the country is a major military power.
France has a standing army of over 200,000 soldiers and 35,000 reservists. It has 210 combat aircraft in its air force and 180 warships in its navy. Although France does not have one of the largest armies in the world, it’s military is highly equipped and extremely well trained. The French military is a formidable fighting force, and this is a big reason why France is an important country.
As a founding member of NATO, France is key to ensuring European security. The country is a strong ally of the United States, which adds to the nation’s global importance.
France is a major nuclear power. The country acquired nuclear weapons in 1960, becoming only the fourth country to do so. France currently has around 290 nuclear warheads.
Another factor that adds to France’s importance as a military power is it independence. France does not rely on other nations, such as the US, for its military technology or logistics. The French military is able to undertake major operations without external support. This further adds to the importance of France.
3. The Countries Colonial History Makes It Important
A third reason why France is an important country is because of the nation’s colonial history.
France was a major imperial power. At its height in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the country ruled over an area of 13.5 million square kilometres, and with territories from Senegal to Syria, and from Vietnam to Madagascar. Tens of millions of people were ruled by the French Empire. Although France’s colonial rule is controversial, it’s legacy is a major reason why the country is important today.
Many nations were formed by gaining independence from France. The borders in regions including West Africa and Southeast Asia exist today because they were determined by France. The French legacy in Lebanon and Syria is still acutely felt in today’s world.
As well as all the nations that gained independence from France at the end of the country’s Empire, there are also many overseas territories that remain part of France to this day. French Guyana, Martinique, New Caledonia, and Guadeloupe are just some examples of France’s overseas possessions. From South America to the South Pacific, from the Indian Ocean to the Caribbean, there are French territories. This adds to the country’s global importance.
There are many states around the world who feel connected to France due to the country’s colonial legacy. This is a major reason why France is important.
4. French Cuisine Is Hugely Important
Another reason why France is an important nation is because of the country’s cuisine.
French cuisine is world famous. Millions of people a year travel to France to sample the nation’s cuisine. French food, and wine, is one of the things that most people associate with France. There are also French restaurants all over the world, further highlighting the importance of French food to not only French people, but to huge numbers of people globally.
As well as French cuisine being enjoyed by millions of people around the world, French cooking has also had an enormous impact on food globally. The French culinary tradition – including recipes, ingredients, and methods, have had an enormous legacy on both European and Fine Dining around the world. The French way of eating, as well as how restaurants are run, and presented, in many parts of the world, are directly linked to traditional French styles.
Many would argue that one of the biggest things that makes France an important country is the nation’s cuisine and its impact on food and restaurants all over the world.
5. French Art and Culture Is World Famous
A major reason why France is an important country is because of its art and culture.
French art is world renowned. From classical painters, sculptors, and composers, such as Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne, and Paul Gauguin to modern day film, TV and music, people all over the globe engage with French artistic works. France has a long history of artistic expression. Many people travel to France to go to museums and art galleries. People all over the world study French artistic movements as their impact on art globally is hugely important. French fashion and architecture are also very highly regarded.
As well as French art being a major reason why the country is important globally, French culture is also another key reason. French culture is highly respected around the world. French traditions, customs and ideals have had an enormous historical impact. Many people hold France in high regard because of its culture and this is a big reason why it is an important country.
6. French Is A Major Global Language
One factor that makes France a hugely important country globally is that French is a major language.
275 million people around the world speak French. It the 5th most spoken language in the world. As the home of the French language, this makes France a very important country.
As well as over 60 million French people – including those in France and the country’s overseas territories. There are also over one million French speakers in Canada. Across Africa, including in countries such as Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Central African Republic and Mali, there are also 141 million people who speak French. These major French speaking regions of the world add significantly to France’s own globally importance.
Alongside the millions of people around the world who speak French as their first language, there are also hundreds of millions of people who speak French as their second language. There are countries, such as Algeria, Tunisia, and Lebanon, where French is commonly spoken as a second language. There are also lots of people all over the world who learn the language as a hobby, or to better understand French culture, or to because they want to holiday or move to a French speaking country.
7. France Is A Diplomatic Power
A final reason why France is important to the world is because it is a major diplomatic power.
Diplomacy is the management of a country’s international relations. It is how a nation works with other countries, as well as how they forward their strategic interests through the use of soft power. Diplomacy is also how nations build formal and informal alliances with other countries.
France is a major diplomatic power. The country has 160 overseas embassies allowing it to build direct connections with almost every other country in the world. France is also highly active in international bodies such as the United Nations. France’s diplomatic corps is adept at promoting the country’s interests, building global partnerships, and forming alliances with like-minded nations.
Soft power is how nations forward their strategic interests through cooperation rather than coercion. France is highly adept at using soft power. Cultural and educational exchanges, promoting the country’s film, TV, and music, as well as ensuring a positive image of France around the world are just some ways that the country uses its soft power. The country is also a major donor to humanitarian causes and has many large NGOs, including Médecins Sans Frontières, Médecins du Monde and Action Contre La Faim, that work around the world helping people affected by conflict, crises, and disasters.
The fact that France is a major diplomatic power is one of the biggest reasons why the country is important.
Want to Learn More?
For those wanting a brief overview of France and to better understand why the country is important to the world pick-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 an important modern state. The link is to the book on Amazon.com.
For those interested in why France is an important nation globally, 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 an important country today. We’ve linked to it on Amazon.com.
If you’re interested in looking more into Frances’s history to understand the country’s 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 important place in the world. We’ve linked to the paperback on Amazon.com.