‘More than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades-a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, markets open, billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress, and advancing frontiers of human liberty’ President Obama, in a recent speech ,reflected on the US’s role in the world in the past half century.
But is the United States’ global power, influence and leadership on the decline? Persistent voices from strategic think tanks around the world and from within the United States it self suggest that there is an emerging consensus that US global leadership and its global hegemony in general is severely under threat and slipping steadily.
British academic, Martin Jacques has authored a new book with a telling title When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order he estimates that over the next half-century, China will emerge as the world’s leading power and that there is a shift of power from the west to the East. Analysts project that by 2025, Asia will be home to three of the five largest economies in the world.
In another thoughtful piece, Japanese analyst Hitoshi Tanaka, author of The Crisis of Global Governance and the Rise of East Asia argues that US leadership of the world has slipped for reasons that include the disastrous foreign policy of former US president George W. Bush, including the costly invasion of Iraq, the continuing costly war in Afghanistan in military and economic terms which Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria estimates will cost $ 2 Trillion by the end 2011, have taken their toll. Nobel Prize economist Joseph Stiglitz puts the cost of the US debacle in Iraq at $ 3 trillion.
One would add that the current global financial crisis and the declining US economy have not helped matters either and exposed the vulnerability of the US economy which has reportedly shrank – the engine of US geopolitical capability and prestige.
‘The US’s net external debt climbed by more than $1.3 trillion in 2008 alone and is expected to reach almost $ 3.5 trillion by the end of this year. ..Unless the U.S. quickly achieves and maintains a sustainable economic position, its ability to pursue autonomous economic and foreign policies will become increasingly compromised’ notes Fred Bergsten in Foreign Policy.
The US has borrowed excessively from China to finance President Obama’s stimulus measures to shore up the US economy which is showing faint signs of revival.
TIME magazine reports that the US owes China $ 763.5 billion in US Treasury department debt.
Signaling an emerging new world order, China has publicly called for the replacement of the United States dollar as the world’s reserve currency owing to perceptions of a long-term weakening US economy. China has threatened to introduce a new global reserve currency called’ the renminbi’ to replace the US dollar. China’s increasing importance is exemplified in its influence in the current global financial crisis. it is viewed as the ’primary driver of global economic growth’. Indeed recently reported economic growth in China was interpreted as a more optimistic outlook for the rest of the world economy.
According to Newsweek China is slated to surpass Japan this year as the second largest economy in the world.
The rise of China, analysts suggest, has altered the world order and will see the declining influence of the Group of 8 countries (G8) of US, UK, Canada, France Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia and in their place the G2, China and US. President Obama has said that Washington and Beijing will shape the 21st Century.
In regard to the U.S. and China, Daniel Drezner talks of the former and later respectively as ‘a declining hegemony with the willingness but not the capability to act as the global leader, combined with a rising power with the capability but not the willingness to act as a global leader’.
I would add that the rise of Arab states such as United Arab Emirates and Qatar with their burgeoning financial muscle from oil wealth and astute economic policy have added another dimension to the global balance of power scene. Arab financiers have bought a handful of English Premiership football clubs such as Manchester City and Portsmouth. It was reported that an Arab consortium bought a 25% stake in Germany’s Mercedes Benz group. In Uganda, telecom giants Zain and Warid are testimony to the growing financial influence of the orient in world business.
So, is US power really on the decline? Mark Twain, a writer, was prematurely announced dead and on reading his obituary remarked thus ’The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated’.