The process by which great nations are born and die, global empires are transformed into mediocre states and obscure upstarts turn into rulers of the world remains a mystery, despite all the best efforts of academics and politicians to crack it.
Today China is
at the center of the debate over this process, just as the United
States was 100 years ago. At the turn of the 20th century, the United
States was still waiting for its finest hour. It had already made a
remarkable economic leap, but had not yet received international
political recognition. There are many similarities in the historical
development trajectories of the United States and China at their moments
of transformation into world hegemonies. The founding father of China’s
economic miracle, Deng Xiaoping, instructed his successors to be modest
in their dealings with the outside world and wait for the right moment
to come into their own. Similar recommendations some 200 years earlier were left by U.S. founding father George Washington in his political will.
United States began to shed its isolationism only after it had
overtaken all its international economic rivals, which occurred under
Theodore Roosevelt in the 1900s. China’s current leader, Xi Jinping, has
much in common with Roosevelt. China’s “Big Stick policy” in the South
China Sea, tough rhetoric, ambitious statements — all these indicate
China’s desire to speed up the process of spending its economic capital on foreign policy.
For the U.S., the event that removed all obstacles on its path to establishing its international political influence was World War I.
glance at today’s headlines prompts the conclusion that China does not
have to wait long before it rises to the top of the global pedestal. The
confrontation between Russia and the West is a true godsend for China.
Just as the self-destruction of the Euro-
centric world a century ago
prepared the ground for building a new U.S.-centric system, the weakening of the U.S. in its standoff with Putin’s Russia in the 21st century will result in its being replaced by China as the leading global power.
is sad to admit that in both cases, the role of the key spoiler — the
country that ruined the balance of the global system — belongs to
In the opinion of many Americans, modern Russia does not
present a serious force to be reckoned with internationally and can
claim only the status of a
regional power. They may be absolutely right as far as Russia’s positive
capabilities are concerned, but its negative potential is immeasurably
higher. Yet this is manifested not so much in military pressure on its East European neighbors or threats to turn the United States into
“radioactive ash.” The real Russian threat lies in Moscow’s ability to
destroy the U.S.-centric world order by starting to play the China card
in the hope of hurting the United States and compensating for losses
resulting from Western sanctions.
The argument in favor of Russia forming an anti-American
bloc with China and other countries, which is often repeated by
Moscow’s politicians, is that a new international system will not be
based on hegemony or bipolarity, but rather on equal partnership between
the growing economies of Eurasia and Latin America, which form a
counterbalance to the U.S. and challenge the dollar’s global domination. This utopia may have some propaganda value, but the problem is that even the masterminds of Russian foreign policy do not believe in it.
is absolutely obvious that the sluggish progress in Russian-Chinese
economic relations prior to 2014 and its substitution with grandiloquent, but ineffective, declarations and memorandums of understanding had only one reason: President Vladimir Putin did not want to let China onto his territory. Now, however, in 2014, this resistance is no longer possible.
has decided that the threat of China’s economic and demographic
domination of Russia is less serious than the threat of the United
States provoking a “color revolution” in Russia. Suddenly, the future
of the global political system has become less important than the more
immediate fear of losing political control. Putin was faced with the
dilemma of losing power under the Americans or retaining it under the
Chinese. It could hardly be a surprise that he opted for the latter.
similar strategic choice is being presented to the United States. The
recent series of East Asian summits has clearly shown that China will
not miss this opportunity to fish in these troubled waters, so the United States must
now decide which is more important to it: To punish the aggressor
Putin, losing its world hegemony in the process, or to find a way of
resolving the conflict with Russia, thus halting the process of China’s
transformation into a political and military superpower.
Unfortunately for the United States leadership, the choice is not as obvious as it was for Putin. It
does not have such a telling illustration of its political future as
the Russian leaders got on Feb. 22, 2014, when Ukrainian President
Viktor Yanukovych was deposed and fled the country.