Here are some opportunities for an aspiring chest-thumper of a nation to proclaim its greatness and to use it as a lever to hopefully achieve greatness at some point in its future:
- Winning Olympic medals, having an Olympic program to create world class athletes even if sports at the individual level may not be as admirable.
- Economic Growth, celebrated at Davos and other such fora as a coming out party
- Large, widespread, successful, wealthy and local 'diaspora'
- Image of a 'knowledge economy', 'emerging market/giant', superpower
- Image of a future threat to take over economic leadership
- Political grandstanding over territory disputes
- Political psywar, mindgames, give and take in energy or other resource deals internationally
- Image of a grand history and heritage, preferably concerning a past empire, military might, martial techniques
- Image of a past civilization that was at some time the 'greatest', 'wealthiest', 'most powerful', etc.
- The ability to get mindshare from the incumbent grand daddy, viz. in our day and age, the United States.
If this brings to mind any country or countries it is not intentional on my part to draw such particular attention. Fill in the space with almost any medium sized or large country and it will still be true.