Executive Summary


Prior to the eruption of the pandemic, globalisation was already showing signs of fatigue. The sum of the index value of global presence for all 150 countries for which we calculate the Elcano Global Presence Index had reached its peak in 2015. New data for 2021 show a contraction in this aggregate value of 2.35% with respect the previous year –the largest annual drop for the entire time series–.

Of the three economic, military and soft dimensions, the latter is the most hit by this contraction (7% between 2020 and 2021), despite the fact that soft exchanges had been those showing a greater dynamism during the past two decades.

A stable ranking of global presence?

As in previous editions of the Elcano Global Presence Index, the top 20 ranking is fairly stable, with the same group of countries occupying similar positions for several years in a row and showing that, despite geopolitical and geo-economic changes depicted in previous editions of this report, the West and/or the North still account for a great deal of the aggregate global presence.

China gains an enormous volume of external projection and continues to narrow the global presence gap with the US. The index value of Chinese global presence is now 2.3 times lower than that of the US (2.9 times lower only one year before), the latter losing global presence over the past year.

Spain is the country that loses the greatest volume of global presence among all 150 countries, despite retaining its 13th position.

Global Europe?

We calculate the global presence index for the European Union (EU) as if it were a single country, allowing for the analysis of its global role, in comparison with the US and China.

The EU records a global presence index value of 3,377 points in 2021, higher than that of the US (3,241) and much higher than that of China (1,365). However, between 2020 and 2021, coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic but also with the materialisation of Brexit, the EU’s global presence decreases by 300 index value points, while US external projection falls by only 6 points and that of China increases by 62.