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Unraveling Global Hegemony

Introduction

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, The US has been functioning and using its power as a hegemonic state, by providing a liberal international economic order and security system alone. The US has been maintaining a hegemonic order and having different spheres of influencing on other states.

Even though China is a significant international actor, it never had the global reach and influence of the US (Fox, 1944, 1980; Sharp, 1992). Hereby, there appears to be only one superpower for the foreseeable future, which is the US.

This essay intends to analyse the US leadership and US dominating power in global governance, what constitutes hegemony in the current world context and why China as the second largest economy cannot challenge the US’s hegemony position.

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US leadership in global governance

Over five centuries, the states which are most powerful in the international system and held leading positions in world politics in the world are sixteenth century’s Portugal, Span, as well as Italy; seventeenth century’s Sweden and the Denmark; the Great Britain, France, and Germany in both eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; and the US and the Russians in the twentieth century (Bernstein and Munro, 1997; Garten, 1992; Joffe, 1998). The US and the Soviet Union were recognised to be the two most influential superpowers in regard to nuclear weapons and the global breadth of their national interests, during the Cold War time (Joffe, 1998).

After dissolution of the Soviet Union and the breakdown of Communism on 1991, the US has probably been the only state with superpower capability and leadership in all the spheres. Though international relations has been described as “anarchical” (Hobbes, 1988), the global governance, which deals with particular global political, economic and military issues by various rulers and actors that make up the international regime (Hurd Ian, 2018), is largely dominated by American practice of power.

At present, although the US seems not explicitly to dictate and implement global policies unilaterally, and it still serves (albeit selectively and on its own terms) as an incentive for multilateral action (Bernstein and Munro, 1997; Garten, 1992; Joffe, 1998), thinking how it acted during the Gulf War and in Bosnia as examples. Indeed, the US policy decisions point out a direction that other countries use as a major reference to measure their decisions (Fox, 1944, 1980; Sharp, 1992).

Indeed, militarily, the US ranks first worldwide and is considered to have certain duties and rights in terms of international security and peace building. Thus, organisations such as the League of Nations and the United Nations, has admitted US’s privileged status. From the US perspective, as how it always states, by pursuing particular policies, which also benefit other counties, as well as its military strength, it maintains the international order and stability. The US policies, as scholars describe, containing balancing power globally, avoiding crises, dealing with the avoiding crises rather than take advantage of crises unilaterally, as well as minimising counties’ conflicts (Fox, 1944, 1980; Sharp, 1992).

The US also tries to justify its leading position by providing certain ‘public goods’ for other countries, for examples it can be a beneficial economic order and international security. Its values, which are commonly embraced by many states, can be another factor, which shows its leadership. The US gains a disproportionate part of the benefits of the existing international system, but also takes greater responsibilities, as it is the regulator (Haas, 1953; Kegley and Raymond, 1992; Layne, 1993; Mearsheimer, 1990; Wagner, 1993; Waltz, 1979; Wilkinson, 1999). There are some scholars arguing that, although the US remains the world's leading power in protecting global public goods such as an open international economic system and international stability, where it will maintain its current predominance and it works only in the condition that they reach international consensus on issues of global importance.

However, the US is not playing the absolute dominant role without any scepticism as there is still some ambivalent attitude towards it. It is normally not an easy situation for other major powers making a decision, whether or not be so dependent on the Americans. An example to this is, the European acknowledge that, in the international order, engagement from the US is sometimes a precondition, however, some Europeans believe that, the US cannot play a role of ranger alone, but can operate and collaborate with others (Fox, 1944, 1980; Sharp, 1992).

As time goes by, it seems not likely that, the US will be able to sustain its current lofty status. Other super powers will emerge, and it remains to be expected, if they will co-exist either promote or undermine international order (Fox, 1944, 1980; Sharp, 1992).

US role of hegemony VS rising power of China

‘Hegemony’ refers to where one state lays down the rules for the others, or where an empire has rolled up the system, either directly by conquering and annexing all other states or indirectly by making them vassals (Jackson, 2019). And it is believed to be an explicit outcome of unbalanced power. Although for examples of balanced power exist, after a while, the world would often make way for some kind of hegemony (Kaufman, 1997; Wilkinson, 1999). Conversely Levy (2005 & 2010) argues that international systems are likely to move towards a balance of power, or at a minimum, very rarely sustains hegemonies, and the history has witnessed a number of aborted attempts to create hegemony due to great power balancing. According to Kindleberger and Gilpin, the typical hegemonic country is the US, after the year 1945, because it is a provider of various public goods including relatively open markets, a stable international trading currency, and a nuclear deterrent force (Brown, 2018).

However, there are scholars argue that the US national interests are based in multilateralism. In order to be more specific, the US cannot solve global problems alone such as transnational terrorism (particularly after 911 terrorist attraction incident), the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and global warming, though it is the world's leading power and remains a hegemonic position (Joseph Nye, 20002). Some scholars even indicate that the US hegemonic status would be challenged by new emerging contenders and this is an inevitable trend (Japan 2002), especially when taking into account China’s high rates of economic growth.

This essay insists that the US today plays a hegemonic role in various ways in different sphere of the world. As for the US’s main contender — China, even though it is with great-power economies, it still cannot challenge the US role of hegemony. the current US predominance as ‘hegemony’, but argue that a multiple structure will inevitably evolve out of the present global system, in which US relative power will decline and Chinese power will increase. Actually, for years, the scholars have been predicting that China will probably emerge to challenge the US, especially on the basis of its immense economic power.

After Chairman Mao, the founding father of the People's Republic of China, dead in 1976, Deng Xiaoping — the paramount leader of the People's Republic of China since then, introduced capitalist methods into China’s socialist revolution. He revitalised China by implementing economic reforms, to force greater efficiency on China’s command economy, and to provide ‘Open Door Policy’ in order to push Chinese market into the global capitalist system. These reforming methods largely improved Chinese people are the living standards. And since then, China gradually witnesses rises in economy and more substantial participation by the PRC in the global capitalist system(Japan 2002).

Michael Pillsbury describes Chinese policy makers and Chinese strategic analysts in this way:

The existence of a dangerous and predatory hegemony is the context of Deng Xiaoping’s advice, which employs expressions from the Warring States and other ancient texts to guide future Chinese leaders on strategy. China must ‘tao guang yang hui’, which, literally translated, means ‘Hide brightness, nourish obscurity’, or, as the official Beijing interpretation translates the four-character idiom, ‘Bide our time and build up our capabilities’. China at present is too poor and weak and must avoid being dragged into local wars, conflicts about spheres of influence, or struggles over natural resources. Deng’s much-quoted advice also is to ‘yield on small issues with the long term in mind’. There are Chinese analysts insist that China should develop its economic capability first, at the same time, try to avoid suppress or confrontations from the US (Pillsbury, 2000).

With the acceleration from the domestic market reforms and ‘Open Door Policy’ as well as the foreign investment, China has averaged annual economic growth rates. Also, China is speedily modernising its military ability (Stokes, 1999; Scobell, 2000). China is regarded as a ‘threat’ due to its rising power.

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However, scholars overlooked China’s domestic issues and vulnerabilities of the Communist Party of China’s regime. There exist evidence including maintaining domestic political and social stability and minimise other domestic crisis, such as corruption, wealth inequality, sustaining continued economic modernisation, entrusted legal system, are tough questions for the Communist Party. China is engaged in a traumatic process of transition. It is trying hard to continuously increase the material standard of living of its people and sustain the high rates of economic growth, as they are crucial to maintain political legitimacy (Japan 2002).

Moreover, the US strategic hegemony is linked inextricably to the expansion of the world market economy and the globalisation of capitalist modes of production. Thomas Friedman concluded that, ‘in the globalisation system, the United States is now the sole and dominant superpower and all other nations are subordinate to it to one degree or another’ (Friedman, 1999, p. 11). Although China enjoys the second largest economy globally, it continues to shelter under US hegemony in terms of global market.

Another key aspect that China would not be competitive with the US is the soft power. Soft power is a vital component of the being a hegemony. Scholars argued that the China regime, propagation of human rights, and other values have no attraction to other countries and regions and even Taiwan, which shows a negative attitude towards the non-democratic China politic system (Japan 2002). The Chinese government continues to actively resist the input of American culture, especially the pressure to democratise (Japan 2002).

Conclusion

In the current world, there is as yet no viable alternative to participate in this US-dominated system. Despite China having the world’s second largest economy and with possession of nuclear weapons, it has its server domestic conflicts and slowing down the rapid economic growth. Moreover, China’s soft power is far behind the US’s influence to the world. In the foreseeable future, the US will remain the only hegemonic state.


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