Whenever I think of a neutral country, countries that come to mind are, say, Switzerland, Austria or Sweden.

However, no great power comes to mind in this context. In fact, they are mostly on the opposite sides as seen during the cold war.
Can great powers remain neutral, or will they always have to have their own blocs (by very definition of being great power)?

Great Power: A great power is an entity (a country or something like the EU) that is recognized widely as having the ability and expertise to exert its influence on a global scale.

Neutrality: The state of not supporting or helping either side in a conflict, disagreement, etc.; impartiality.

Large Conflict: A conflict that affects large amounts or area or population as deemed by the world, and has been going on for quite a long time (say, a year); and affects the world adversely as long as it continues.

Answers can discuss varying definitions - but primarily, I'm interested in if being a great power burdens them into taking sides always (or they'll lose that status)?

While the example given in the current answer is fine, I was looking for a more theoretical answer (i.e abstracted from examples, talking about the concepts of "great power", "neutrality", "conflict" and international relations and bloc politics).

  • 1
    Is this a question about history? If so, then it would better be suited for the history SE.
    – uberhaxed
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 0:17
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    You need to at least define your "great power" term here. Wikipedia says "China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States are often referred to as great powers by academics due to "their political and economic dominance of the global arena"." Do you only mean those? As well as what you mean by "large conflicts". Answers can discuss shades of neutrality (which BTW, Sweden had a lot less than you think.) Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 1:45
  • tags should not be used to add content to questions. they should be used to make questions easier to find. there are no other questions tagged "great powers." So it's not a topic of general conversation. If you want to define the term, as you use it, please do it in the body of the question itself rather than in the description of a tag.
    – wrod
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 6:29
  • @Fizz Thanks for the suggestion. I've incorporated that in the question.
    – whoisit
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 17:06
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    "taking sides always (or they'll lose that status)" This part is a bit weak. It's not clear how not always taking sides would directly translate to losing the status of great power. The two things might be unrelated. Power is not something that one needs to use everyday. One just has it (or not). Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 7:14

1 Answer 1


Sure they can. We're seeing it live - China has taken no sides in the Russia-Ukraine war. I know some people will say China "supports" Russia, but note that:

  • China didn't vote against or veto any UN resolutions condemning Russia; they only abstained
  • They are apparently not breaching Western sanctions on Russia
  • They have not provided military aid / weapons to Russia
  • They haven't outright said the invasion is justified or Ukraine deserved it or anything like that

They're about as neutral as you can get in that war.

For a historical example, see the First Sino-Japan war in 1894. None of the Western powers participated, although they had assets in the region (and there were some incidents such as the sinking of the Kow-shing).

  • That's not to say China will remain neutral till the end of the war. Being on the winning side has advantages. E.g. USSR declared war on Japan after the atomic bombs were dropped.
    – mikado
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 5:29
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    And it demonstrates that staying reasonably neutral will be interpreted by at least one side as taking the opposite side.
    – alamar
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 17:10
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    @alamar You will always find people who follow the philosophy of "if you are not for me you are against me" who take a lack of support as opposition.
    – Joe W
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 17:12
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    And it's not a large conflict by the definition in the question: it was a very small conflict until February 2022 and it's hardly a world war yet.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 20:30

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