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On my planet, there are 5 continents and a few countries per continent. The continents are arranged as follows (this is Mercator Projection, and there is a large Pacific-like ocean between the two remote sides):

enter image description here

The 4 corner continents are huge, with areas about the size of the continental US each, and populations of about 10 to 500 million due to geographical factors. Each continent has 1 or more countries.
The central continent has only one country. It is about 100k sq km and has about 50 million people. The central country is a democratic republic.

The GDP of the corner countries ranges from a few to about 40 Trillion US Dollars in value (USD is important because the values of products need to be compared with Earth).

The "central" country (for its superpower status) needs to, in general, overpower the entire world without doing anything wrong or inhumane (for example, colonization is not allowed). One of those requirements is that its GDP needs to be more than the rest of the world combined (around 60 Trillion USD). It also needs to be able to become "independent" in all ways. How can it achieve that, for at least an extended period of time?

Looking for just some plausible situations that allow a very small country to have an extremely high GDP.

One simple solution is to have some resources such as petroleum almost entirely controlled by the central country - but I'm looking for something a little more clever.

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    $\begingroup$ There are many ways which real world countries have wielded disproportionate power relative to their size. The number of ways a fictional country could do this are far far larger. On this site we have an expectation that questions don't have many equally valid answers. This means questions like this where any story about a country's rise to power is an equally valid answer are not permitted on this site. Remember that we're here to help you build your world, not write stories set in your world for you. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jan 4, 2023 at 22:02
  • $\begingroup$ The real world countries have done that thru "bad" ways like colonization or wars. Here, that is not allowed. Also, It doesn't have to be a story. The history is irrelevant. Only some "current" situations that allow for the country to dominate the world. I have edited the question to focus on the economic aspect only. $\endgroup$
    – whoisit
    Jan 4, 2023 at 22:04
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    $\begingroup$ Even if you only focus on some "current situation" you still have a question with many equally valid answers. It's a similar situation with only requiring this disproportionate power be through some "good" method. Focusing on economic dominance doesn't do anything to resolve the core issue to the problem. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jan 4, 2023 at 22:07
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, that makes sense, thanks. $\endgroup$ Jan 4, 2023 at 22:40
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    $\begingroup$ @whoisit For future reference, please be aware that (a) per the help center we help build worlds (rules independent of stories) not tell stories. (b) We discourage brainstorming. And (c) this is an off-topic high concept question, meaning it's too broad, open-ended, and every answer has equal value (see help center). As you gain experience with the Stack, we'll begin holding you to those standards. Thanks. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jan 5, 2023 at 2:30

4 Answers 4

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It begins with Trade.

In the early days of sailing ships there would be some trade between the north/south tips of adjacent continents. Now all boat captains (and sailors) know not to chance the waters near the poles (icebergs/fog, there be dragons), and don't dare enter the central pacific (Bermuda-triangle, there be bigger monsters) this leaves the only trade-route west-east via the central part.

This places the central island ideally as a trade hub, controlling the exchange-rates between currencies from the four corners, and being a place of refuge and neutrality in times of strife between them.

This, over time, would allow the central land to offer credit, to commission it's own fleet of ships to first undercut the trade-prices of the others, then to monopolise the trade between the four - and to become a central hub for banking and stock-investment.

In time, they would manoeuvre themselves, leveraging the goods from each corner - worming their way into ownership of large chunks of the industry on the corner pieces, owning lands, leasing to the residents, holding the purse-strings of the rich and powerful there. Arranging conflicts to enable weapons sales (to both sides of course), swooping in like the angel of salvation in times of scarcity or privation (at a price).

This would (if managed effectively) give them the keys to the world and pretty-much unlimited power. A wrinkle in the perfect plan might be pirates with bases at the poles who parasitize off the fleet, but they're few and turn tail at the sight of a well-armed group of clipper-escorts. The clipper sea-police always protect the best interests of their masters of the central-isle, censuring any unauthorised trade between neighbours - thus ensuring a monopoly.

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  • $\begingroup$ Great world example of this: the mediterranean. Explains how small countries such as Italy were able to become superpowers like the Roman Empire. $\endgroup$ Jan 5, 2023 at 3:03
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Have the central people be space native indian stereotypes, like avatar.

The central people have a vaguely hippy culture, free views on sex, and are close with nature. They are so close with nature they have advanced to partially control it and have extremely advanced biotech. They are the original inhabitants of the planet, and were driven from the corners.

Because they hold vague and unobjectionable positive views, them hoarding all the advanced technology they have which controls nature won't be viewed as evil.

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    $\begingroup$ Wakanda, being a rigidly defined ethnostate, was also celebrated by lots of people who claim not to like such things. You don't need aliens, just demographics that match the preferences of cultural elites. $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Jan 5, 2023 at 3:43
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Space Elevator

Your positioning of the central continent right on the equator, and the lack of any equatorial land on the four other continents, immediately presents this possibility.

As the first point of contact for any interplanetary trade, it makes sense that the central continent would be the richest, whether via direct profit from trade, or via the flow of capital into other supporting industries (financial, manufacturing, services, etc.)

Given that any flow of goods, materials and labour necessarily has to traverse through its borders as well, this naturally gives it immense leverage over the corner continents. Want to pick a fight? Well, all they have to do is suspend their exports of Unobtanium for your reactor cells. Want to invade? Well, they have a military twice as big as yours and stocked with the best weaponry money can buy, sourced from all around the solar system. In essence, this would make the four other continents economic vassals of the central continent.

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2 Words:

British Empire.

So, that's the real world example - some ideas on how to achieve that in your fictional world:

1: Resource availability - specifically, easy access (e.g. on the surface) to various metal ores that need minimal processing

2: From Thomas Sowell, Navigable waterways (the small country may have rivers that barges can easily traverse)

3: Climate - this is a two-parter - first part is that the small country may have land that is more suitable to intensive farming and the second part is a theory (can't remember the name, sorry) that goes along the lines of - if it's too hot or too cold, the Civilization won't develop - but if you have harsh enough winters that you need to prepare (make shelters, store food etc.) but not so harsh that this takes up all your time - then the society will be forced to develop faster

4: Written Language - this is a biggy as it's probably the biggest accelerator of a civilization - what you could have in your story is that the small nation had access to materials (say Chalk...) that made it easy to develop a written language.

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