Contrasting visions: China and the US in an emerging multicultural, multipolar world

By James Peck
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, January 23, 2015
Adjust font size:

Chinese and U.S. perspectives on an emerging multipolar, multicultural world are strikingly different. Among other factors, the historic, often tortuously slow, rise of the South, tied as it is in key ways to the spread of China's global influence today, suggests why this so and why China's role is, in various ways, more compatible and supportive than Washington's of such a transformed world.

China's emergence as a great power marks the beginning of the end of American universalism, as we have known it, as well as centuries of dominance of Western norms, values, and institutions. This historic transformation is not simply a consequence of China's global influence; it is part of a new world in which no single hemisphere, no one country will have the kind of prestige, legitimacy, and power that the US has had since 1945.

This emerging multipolar world challenges the entire edifice of American power fashioned after 1945. For what made the US the world's one and only superpower was not just its military and economic prowess. Its very "superpowerness," its ability to be the pivot of power in virtually every region of the planet, is indelibly linked to its transformation of European and Japanese capitalism after World War II and the drawing of their elites to US strategic needs. This often overlooked triad of power remains the lynchpin of American dominance, as Washington's national security leaders well know. It was a key element of what Washington's Cold War strategy was about. Though the collapse of the Soviet Union was the most "visible victory" of the cold war, the "less visible" but no less consequential triumph for Washington was "the integration of Germany and Japan into a US-led system of collective security and the creation of a 'democratic zone of peace.'" Critical as the European and Japanese elites often are of US policies, these elites well understand what they get out of the current US system of power with its globe-spanning military bases and the ways its soft power restricts the range and character of debates about the "global order." This includes a shared, often subtle, agreement with Washington to conserve their privileged positions by preventing other countries in the South from fully challenging this domination.

Now China's growing global influence is slowly beginning to undermine this structure, and the reasons why this is so are numerous and varied.

First, the world has never seen anything like the rapidity and enormity of China's economic transformation. China is now the world's largest exporter; it has swiftly become a financial powerhouse and global investor, a main trading power throughout the world.

Second, China's profound sense of independence, and its history of a continuous civilization and cultural density, have blended with a policy of safeguarding its sovereign development in ways that few other nations have yet been able to do. Its very success in doing so offers both practical help to countries in the South (investments, trade, loans), while nourishing the historic drive of the South for independence from Western and American forms of domination, both direct and indirect. In this context, China's Silk Road initiative holds promise of being a dynamic step towards furthering a multi-polar order, laying the foundations for an interlocked pan-Eurasian economic cooperation zone that promises to and media debates, China is seen, like the further transform existing global economic dynamics.

Third, as Mao stated, China "will never become a superpower." This, of course, is not widely believed in the U.S. where in national security discussions and congressional and media debates, China is seen, like the U.S., as wanting to be everywhere and into everything. In this view, China's economic might would only lead to a Sino-centric world order; its military might would extend worldwide; its ethos would threaten more democratic and socially just alternatives of all sorts all over the globe. But this is a fantasy and a misunderstanding useful to those in Washington who seek to "contain" China and refurbish American power in the Pacific. China, unlike Washington, will not have 800 overseas military bases, or invade countries around the world, or commit regime change actions throughout a large part of the planet.

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
1   2   Next  

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from