There are different views and viewpoints on the changes and trends of the world structure. After Biden was elected, the restoration of US global leadership has become an important goal of the new administration, and there has recently been more talk of hegemonic stability. Of course, more topics still point to the Sino-US dispute. Just take the American academic and public opinion circles as examples. The Thucydides trap has been hyped up again and again, the new Cold War discourse is endless, geopolitical thinking has re-emerged, and the bipolar confrontation seems to be an established fact. How should we look at the world pattern and how to judge the direction of the world pattern? Will the U.S. unipolar hegemony make a comeback? The competition between China and the United States is tightening, will the bipolar situation become a reality? In response to these problems, this article puts forward three views.
American hegemony has ended, and the era of world hegemony has also ended
After the end of the Cold War, the United States became the world’s only superpower, relying on its own soft and hard power to build a unipolar hegemony system. Compared with historical hegemony, American hegemony is more of an institutional hegemony. It maintains and consolidates the hegemony system and hegemony status by establishing and strengthening the US-led international system on a global scale. In the meantime, the influence of the United States is comprehensive, and its scope of influence almost extends to the entire world; the ability of the United States to dominate the setting of the international agenda is also obvious. The September 11 incident that struck the United States made anti-terrorism one of the most important world agendas. And is generally accepted by the international community.
During this period, people also witnessed the rapid development of globalization, the rise of emerging developing countries, and the apparent rise of other forces. In contrast, U.S. hegemony has been in decline since the beginning of the 21st century, and the U.S.’s global influence has fallen sharply. Especially after Trump was elected as president in 2016, he adopted the narrow egoist policy of “America first” and incited and used populism, which caused a serious decline in US soft power. The US’s global institutional power was greatly reduced due to the US’s wanton breach of contract and withdrawal. . Although the new crown epidemic is not the direct cause of the U.S. recession, it is a landmark event, marking the end of U.S. hegemony and the reconstruction of world order.
With the end of American hegemony, the era of world hegemony has also come to an end. There have been so-called peace under Roman rule, British rule and equal hegemony in history, but the world at that time is no longer the same as the world today, and unipolar hegemony will not be resurrected again. This is mainly due to three reasons. First, no single country will have the superpower to dominate world affairs, and the growth and decline of international forces still stubbornly promote the process of multipolarization; second, world affairs are becoming more and more diversified, and global issues are becoming more and more transnational. The characteristic is that no country can dominate alone or effectively respond; third, the world today will not support hegemonic systems and hegemonic systems, and members of the international community will not voluntarily submit to hegemonic leadership, and hegemony has lost its legitimacy. The end of the era of hegemony means that for a long period of time, unipolar hegemony will no longer recur, and there will be no more hegemonic countries in the world.
It is unlikely that bipolar confrontation will replace unipolar hegemony
Although the most talked about is the strategic competition between China and the United States, it is difficult to form a bipolar pattern between China and the United States. There is still a gap in the strength of China and the United States. Like the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the scenario of reaching a strategic equilibrium and overall balance of power in the military field that the world valued most at the time did not appear. As far as the distribution of other forms of power such as discourse power and public opinion power is concerned, it is even more unlikely that the polarization will be formed. Furthermore, a necessary condition for the bipolar structure is that the two core countries need to establish their own alliance systems. Looking at the world today, even a quasi-alliance system is difficult to form. Most countries in the world will not easily choose sides, let alone re-establish alliances with major powers. In addition, the two poles dominate world affairs and there is no basis for legitimacy. Members of the international community will not recognize the existence of the two poles and will not be subject to the competition between the two poles.
In addition to the above-mentioned reasons, there is a crucial point. In view of global development trends and their respective national strategies, the Chinese and American governments will not recognize the bipolar pattern. As the world’s number one power, the United States’ attachment to hegemony will not disappear, nor will its hopes for establishing a close alliance diminish. The willingness to lead the world still exists and may rise again. For China, a clear Sino-US bipolar confrontation pattern violates the strategic intent of not seeking hegemony, nor does it conform to the ideals and beliefs of building a community with a shared future for mankind. From the perspective of China’s strategic interests, the two polarities with clear boundaries and conflicting competition are particularly detrimental to China’s current development and the realization of the great cause of national rejuvenation. Even when some American scholars put forward cooperation-based proposals such as “two countries co-governance” and “China and the United States”, they were not accepted by the governments of the two countries (and other countries). Therefore, promoting multi-polarization is a wise strategic choice and strategic action at present.
The convergence of multi-polarity and diversification means that the world will have more obvious decentralization and sinking of power. The era of hegemony and the concentration of power shown by the two poles, and the era of a few countries dominating the world has passed. Practical principles and basic guarantees for development and progress.
The development trend of the world is multi-polar and diversified
The development trend of the world is multi-polar and diversified. Multipolarity refers to the emergence of multiple power centers in the world, such as China, the United States, and the European Union. Although the United States has lost its hegemony, it is still the strongest single country in the world, and there is still a large market for liberal international thought. China is now the world’s second largest economy, playing a pivotal role in global affairs, and its overall national strength and influence are still on the rise. Although the EU is not a single country, and serious problems have also appeared during the COVID-19 period, it currently has a very strong ability and influence from both internal integration and external response. Therefore, at least China, the United States, and the European Union are the three relatively obvious power centers in the world. The absence of any party will make it impossible to talk about a stable world order and effective global governance. In addition, there are other international actors, such as India and ASEAN, which will also become sub-centers of power.
Diversity means that world affairs tend to take on multiple forms. One-dimensional concepts such as categorizing military power, drawing lines with ideology, and ensuring security through alliances with nations can no longer dominate the thinking and judgments of most countries. The diversity of members of the international community and their diverse demands and visions are already an important feature of the world today, and they will develop in a more diverse direction. Diversity will manifest itself in many aspects such as international actors, international thoughts, and global governance. Non-state actors will not retreat due to the strong resurgence of state-centrism, and will continue to play an important role in many areas. American liberal internationalism is no longer the only dominant concept of the international system. China’s development path and European model will have their own attractiveness. In addition, global governance will also decentralize from global governance to global, regional, and domain governance at different levels. In the context of intensified strategic competition among major powers and inefficient governance at the global level, governance at the regional level is likely to be more active. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) signed during the epidemic is an example.
The world structure continues to develop in the direction of multi-polarity, world affairs are becoming more diversified, and the world itself has become a complex of multi-polarity and diversification. Multi-polarity not only means that big congresses play an important role and assume greater responsibilities, but also that the roles and responsibilities of big powers are manifested in coordination, consultation and cooperation with other members of the international community. The convergence of multi-polarity and diversification means that the world will have more obvious decentralization and sinking of power. The era of hegemony and the concentration of power shown by the two poles, and the era of a few countries dominating the world has passed. Practical principles and basic guarantees for development and progress.