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In general, expansionism consists of policies of governments and states that involve territorial or economic expansion. While some have linked the term to promoting economic growth (in contrast to no growth or sustainable policies), more commonly expansionism refers to the doctrine of a state expanding its territorial base or economic influence. This occurs usually, though not necessarily, by means of military aggression. Compare empire-building, colonialism, and mensurable.

Irreverent, anarchism, reunification or pan-nationalism are sometimes used to justify and legitimize expansionism, but only when the explicit goal is to reconquer territories that have been lost, or to take over ancestral lands. A simple territorial dispute, such as a border dispute, is not usually referred to as expansionism.

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