In the past many decades, one country from the continent of America has been in global hegemonic position for almost a century long. The United States, going through the periods of World War II, Cold War with U.S.S.R., has clearly become a dominant power in political, economic, ideological, military, and cultural aspects of the world. Many people have been referring this phenomenon as ‘American Imperialism’. However, a political theorist Michael Walzer argues that it is a better description if one called it ‘American Hegemony’. Robert Keohane shares this point of view, arguing that word ‘empire’ obscures rather than illuminates the differences in form of rule between the United States and other Great Powers, such as Great Britain in the nineteenth century or the Soviet Union in the twentieth.
One might say that 19th century was an era of imperialism. The British Empire was at the core of it. Ironically enough, once the largest colonies of the British Empire, the thirteen colonies declared independence in 1776 and became a dominant power itself. (At the time, the British Empire was not in its most prosperous status, though.) It is extremely dangerous to assess the characteristics of U.S. as in the heritage from the British Empire, but it helps one understand the U.S.’s foreign policies, or economic tendencies regarding the globalized world.
While the main international tactics of the British Empire has been the ‘gunboat’ diplomacy, U.S. in the post cold war era became more elaborate than its predecessor. However, I believe that the basic feature in the Anglo-American way can be summarized as the ‘adventurism’. This of course, means that they are ruthless and invasive, but it also means that they willingly take chances. Basically, they have the mind of the gamblers. Ever since the United States has entered the global politics, the world history has been a giant chicken game. However, when the U.S.S.R. gave in and ‘the end of history’ has arrived, U.S. faced ever more fearless gamblers. Among many, there are the Muslim extremists and China.
In the last decade or so, U.S. struggled to fight off these challenges and maintain ‘the world order (it is more likely the world dominance or hegemony)’. The conflict between U.S. and the Muslim extremists is well-known and there is no point going over it here, but I would like to share some thoughts regarding the rise of China. Many have foreseen that China will replace U.S. as world hegemony. After dark eras of Communism, the market economy of China is growing rapidly and its military forces are of the strongest kind in the world. Then the question is, when the time comes, what will happen? How will U.S. react?
U.S. has been suffering from critical financial crisis that shook the world since 2007. The crisis was triggered by a liquidity shortfall in the U.S. banking system. It caused many large financial institutions to collapse, and stock markets panicked. The housing market has also suffered, resulting numerous evictions, foreclosures, and prolonged vacancies. Many economists considered this phenomenon to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It contributed to the failure of key businesses, declines in consumer wealth estimated in the trillions of U.S. dollars, substantial financial commitments incurred by governments, and a significant decline in economic activity.
U.S. being in this critical state, what will happen when China rises to power? Whatever kind one sets as a hypothetical scenario for this matter, it does not look good. Here’s one of mine. If the current status continues into the future without significant changes, that is China rapidly rising as economic and military hegemony and U.S. continually declining in terms of political, economic, and cultural dominance, will U.S. just sit back and let China seize the throne? Though U.S. is economically declining at the moment, its military forces and agendas will continue to influence the world politics for the time being. This means, when things go bad and U.S. is cornered, it is highly possible that U.S. will somehow be involved in military conflict with China. Even if not military, there will be a clash of some kind for sure. And for now, no one can know how intense or destructive those conflicts will be.
This seemingly crazy scenario is quite considerable, when we think about how Britain and U.S. have dealt their conflicts with other actors in the world politics, and how market-based-economy China is still under the socialist totalitarian regime. My arguments may sound too unfavorable to U.S., its nature, and future prospective. However, one should always consider the worst case scenario, at least to find a way around it. It is true that U.S. hegemony has some military hostility contrary to popular beliefs, and it is also true that the time will come when U.S. and China will confront each other as two major powers of the world. Though there were several similar situations in the past, like with Japan considered a economical hegemony that would replace U.S. in the 1990s, or simply with U.S.S.R. in the cold war era, U.S. was never this desperate. At this point, one might say that American Hegemony is facing its biggest challenges and the road to stabilization will not be a merry-go-round.