The Changing World Order | Teen Ink

The Changing World Order

November 10, 2022
By KJosephAm BRONZE, Cypress, California
KJosephAm BRONZE, Cypress, California
4 articles 0 photos 0 comments

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines the word hegemon accordingly: “something (such as a political state) having dominant influence or authority over others”, however in the modern era a hegemon cannot be defined purely by its political reach; rather additional considerations must be examined such as economic capabilities, social stability and domestic political efficiency. In examining the trajectory of civilizations, the US will be used as the surrogate to characterize Western Civilization, and China will be used for a similar purpose to represent Sinic Civilization. Of course, the following countries are not entirely representative of their respective civilizations, but as a pragmatic consideration, the countries will be sufficient in exemplifying larger trends occurring in Western and Sinic Civilization respectively. China and the United States were also chosen because they remain perhaps the most predominant countries in their civilization, thus their policymaking and geopolitical trends have a reverberating impact on the world at large. The individual case studies will take into consideration the political, economic, and societal shifts of civilization to establish a case for the following thesis: the West is in decline with Sinic civilization taking its place. 


The West has often been considered the most dominant civilization in the context of history. The necessary historical conditions that enabled the West’s dominance are ambiguous at best but there are some close to definitive factors including technology and state-building. Technological advancements were instrumental in enabling Western powers to execute their colonialist ambitions. After World War 2 the United States naturally found itself in an advantageous position in which the world order would be shaped largely by American political and economic doctrine. The Liberal International Order constructed from the ashes of Hiroshima established a multilateral liberal order heavily reliant on trade, alliances, and globalization. Spearheading the Liberal International Order, the United States established extensive military treaties and trade networks, growing out of its isolationist shell. The United States firmly established itself as a global hegemon using the institutions of the Liberal International Order to enact its political will and extend its economic influence. The trend of US intervention started with ironically the decolonization of the Iron Curtain, then the proxy wars of the Soviet Era, and now shows its residual repercussions in the modern conflicts of the Middle East.  

Moreover, statebuilding both as a political concept and in its execution was significantly more developed in the West than in other civilizations. That is not to suggest that Hindu, Islamic, Japanese, nor Orthodox civilizations did not have complex systems of government, but rather Europe and the Americas had a much more developed conception and execution of state-building and governance. This often contributed to a more complete and rapid proliferation or consolidation of infrastructure, economic power, political will, and societal institutions. History proves, as a united German nation’s power is amplified tenfold compared to a collection of divided Germanic kingdoms and principalities. The United States’ politcal reach is undebiably wide reaching thorughtout the globe. Domestivcally America, serves as a bastion of democarcy for the developed world. Economically Washington has been able to craft a world order that has secured its inytrests while simultaniously forefronting its position in the global economy.  The United States leads in various economic mectrics. 


The decline of the West can be attributed to multiple complexities across the political, economic, and societal climate made particularly apparent in the United States. First is an observation of the shortcomings of America’s political institutions. The United States model of political governance is one of a federal republic with checks and balances aimed to equalize the 3 branches of the federal government. The legislative branch is incompatible with the current state of the United States political climate, namely with the intense rise of political polarization. In the past the presidency has been able to conduct both its foreign policy and domestic policy with relative cohesion as political cooperation was not uncommon, however, in the modern era, the United State’s presidency is discombobulated and nonlinear. Doctor Thad, professor of political science at UC San Diego observes the conditions that breed gridlock, “Unified government has produced low levels of gridlock whenever the legislature and governorship have been controlled by different parties, gridlock has ensued”  The past two presidents best display the bureaucratic inefficiency of the American political system. Obama’s presidency started to slowly feel the creeping implications of political gridlock. Americans increasingly started to more firmly align themselves with red or blue and motivated by such trends, politicians followed with a less diplomatic method of policymaking. Obama aimed still to be realtive centrists but ultimately his policy intiatives, namely Obamacare, were a pitiful shadow of his policy often times degraded by political incooperation. Trump signifed one of the highest points of both political and social polarization. Pressured by the short 4-year time frame and driven by the will of the Republican political base Trump implemented drastic policies. Shortly after, Biden attempts to reverse Trump’s policies also motivated by the Democrat voters, ultimately creating a system of ruthless inefficiency. Independently the executive branch would operate to a sufficient degree but when combined with the astronomically high levels of political polarization the United States currently experiences, the White House’s policy becomes watered down, nonlinear and contridactory. 

 

Economically the United States faces a twofold problem: its position in the international economy and problems within its domestic economy. 


The United States is not in a precarious position in the global economy, however, the damage becomes obvious when reflecting on the economic hegemon that the United States was. This is not the fault of the United States more so than it is the result of the astronomical growth that particularly East Asian countries have experienced. Nonetheless, the introduction of equally viable economic powers such as China represents the loss of the significant economic edge the United States mobilized to achieve its foreign policy objectives. There seems to be a significant shift during the Trump presidency to focus on domestic economic production rather than being heavily involved within international conflicts. The almost isolationist foreign policy represents an apathetic stance from the United States. The White House seems to be disinterested or at least half-hearted in combating foreign economic statecraft through the means of economic warfare. Such is most apparent in America’s response to China's Belt and Road Initiative. The Belt and Road Initiative continues to see consistent success in securing important points of interest, and paralyzing financial assets, and entangling countries in debt traps, with a relatively weak and late response from the United States.  


Second, the free market economy that characterizes the United States domestic economy is not immune to the fundamental shortcomings of laissez-faire economics. Capitalism provides an incentive for innovation but fails to adequately provide substantial incentive for businesses to provide fundamental goods and services. Thus, the United States relies heavily on capital goods imports and consumer goods imports from countries such as China, Canada, Mexico, Germany and Japan. Rather than being an equalizer, capitalism in combination with the American political system, seems to sway power into the hands of special interests groups and monopolistic companies. But perhaps the foundations of capitalism in the American system can only operate as such. For instance, it is close to impossible for technology to operate independently of the American political system. Democracy requires a delicate balance of checking but also allowing breathing room for technology companies. The fickle equilibrium is best displayed when Mark zuckerberg tetsified in front of the Senate after leaks revealed that facebook bled users’ data to the Trump campaign.  Free market principles hinder the American economy both with its conceptual failures and also execution of such principles. 


Finally, perhaps the greatest downfall of America, is the deterioration of the American social institutions and principles. America was often united under the bastion of liberty and civil rights. The American identity was centralized around the Constitution which in turn stems from judeochrisitan values. Such concepts of justice, civil rights, freedom, and independence created resolute solidarity particularly in the second world war. With the introduction of Social Activism traditional American ideals that rallied American society together seemed to be more or less abandoned. The rapid liberalization of societal institutions such as church, schools, government, etc represent the decline of traditional American ideals replaced by movements promoting social justice. Note that this paper does not make a value assessment of the ideology or other substantive components of postmodern liberalism, rather it observes the trend of the rise of liberalization centralized around social justice and its implications. Digression aside, the glue that once brought American society together is being abandoned and social dissension materializes. The clash spills over into US political systems and creates polarization. Soft power’s efficacy is determined by foreign public perception and a polarized constantly quarreling country does not sit well for much of the world. Jose Nino of the Mises institute writes, “the constant obsession about people’s race, gender, and lifestyle habits is not a sign of a healthy society. This type of internal tension will inevitably bleed into other facets of American public policy that foreign onlookers will be observing with interest, if not outright horror.”


”  This lack of cohesive ideology, which previously was judeochristian American values, is a significant cause of political polarization which itself brings a laundry list of problems. The United States loses soft power and alienates quote on quote enemy nations. More so than alienating enemy states however, the United States grows more detached from the people of the aforemntioned enemy nations, allowing states to mobilize populism, and extremism particularly spreading anti american sentiments. China has managed to mobilize public perception against America while bolstering nationalist sentiments particularly through wolf warrior diplomacy, however the inability of American cultural institutions to penetrate through the Chinese public is partially to blame. Had American cinema, music, and products penetrated through Chinese censorship, anti-American sentiment would be significantly less intense. Loss of soft power results in a higher dependence on hard power and opens the door for other states to breed extermist anti-American sentiment. The combination of which is a highly escalatory and frankly scary order. 

quillette.com/2022/03/17/is-americas-soft-power-declining/ 

fsi.stanford.edu/news/soft-war-america-losing 


However, the decline of America and more largely the West, cannot be discussed independently of the rise of Sinic Civilization, particularly China. Sinic civilization is proving to be the most viable successor to the West and in many aspects a significant catalyst for the West’s downfall. 


The Chinese Communist Party undeterred by political adversaries and checks and balances are able to operate cohesively often executing on long term political objectives. China’s foreign policy is not fickly changed every 4 years but is linear. Of course China’s political system is so incredibly efficient because of the high levels of censorship and political oppression, however it is undeniable that Xi’s political will is acted upon with symmetrical productivity unmatched by the West. However blunders in policy making itself and the execution of policy are still vulnerabilities China is not immune to.



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