With the clout of China and India rising on the international arena, some people in the West, who are concerned over the already fragile, US-dominated unipolar world political structure or the Western hegemony, have rushed to offer a variety of recipes for inter-power relations in the 21st century and for the world's new power structure.
These recipes include multi-polar, non-polar or collective power models, a "democracy value alliance", a new trans-Atlantic union, and even a joint China-US governance idea.
All these concepts are in essence changed versions of the new US or Western hegemonic model that proposes maintaining the world's established power structure through absorbing some emerging powers. The model also proposes carrying out reforms of the new power structure. In all this the idea is to keep the US and Western hegemonic position intact as much as possible. The new situation emerging from the very beginning of the 21st century indicates that neither the US nor the Western hegemony will last for ever, and there will not be a transfer of the old hegemony to a new one. In the 21st century, the world will see the end of not only the US-dominated hegemony, but also of the hegemonic model that allows a few world powers to control global affairs.
The decease of the US and Western hegemony will not be caused by the challenge from such rising powers as China or other countries. It will be caused by the world's irreversible efforts for a hegemony-free political structure. As the result of this situation, we can expect a hegemony-free and harmonious world in the 21st century in which big countries will fulfill their responsibilities and obligations and small ones can enjoy equality, democracy and assistance from each other.
In the 21st century, the United States, the protagonist of the current unipolar world, will gradually evolve into a common power because of accelerated efforts of many countries which will advocate an end to the unipolar power pattern. Since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, a "balance of power" has come into being among the major countries. Despite its sole superpower status, the United States cannot always succeed in solving some global issues. It is even incapable of handling some domestic issues such as the subprime crisis. All these transmit to the world a strong signal that the US hegemony and Western dominance are now in an irreversible process of decline and final disappearance.
In dealing with some global issues, today's United States not only needs substantial support from staunch allies, but also needs understanding, participation and cooperation from other key world or regional players. Sometimes, it even has to give up its leading role to other big powers in finding settlements of some intractable issues.
With the spirit of peace and democracy exercising strong restraint within their boundaries, European countries have lost the basic driving force for hegemonic wars against other countries. On the other hand, economic globalization and marketization of the world since the end of the Cold War have activated the urge for peace and development among a number of developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Especially the peaceful rise of some powers, such as China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, has prompted some Western countries to join the resistance to hegemonism.
Some new-generation European leaders, though, still want to maintain the Western hegemony with the US at its core. They want to do so by advocating the "values diplomacy" and setting up the so-called democracy and values alliance or by forming a new trans-Atlantic union. But all these wishes will be difficult to fulfill.
The emergence of some peace-promoting powers will be an irresistible historical tide in the 21st century. Their rise will lay solid groundwork for the final end of the long-standing hegemonism in world politics.
New Delhi has generally chosen a path of peaceful development in South Asia despite its position of supremacy in the sub-continent. China has been even more committed to a peaceful development and always condemns any use of force in solving international disputes.
The strong efforts and calls for a hegemony-free world from these new emerging powers and the massive populations of Asian, African and Latin American countries have exerted a huge pressure on hegemonic countries, prompting them to deal with others on an equal footing.
The change of the world's hegemonic pattern pushed by newly emerging powers serves the basic interest of the whole world, including the West. It will also act as the main impulse to build a conflict-free and harmonious world in the new century.
The authors are with the School of International Studies of Renmin University of China. The article is reprinted from Global Times.
(China Daily September 12, 2008)