By Li Hongmei People's Daily Online
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently published two graphics which struck people as odd by the stark juxtaposition: In 2003, GDP in the U.S accounted for 32 percent of the world total, while GDP of the emerging economies put together took up only 25 percent. In 2008, however, things just reversed with 25 percent for the U.S. and 32 percent going to the emerging economies. The two graphs show GDP as a percentage of total world output. However, what deserves notice is that the dramatic reversal could take place in just five years, and how much more will it change in the next five or the next ten years?
It is evident that the upshot of the shifting economic power signals a swift reduction of U.S. strength as a unipolar power. 'At best, America's unipolar moment lasted through the 1990s, but that was also a decade adrift…So now, rather than bestriding the globe, we are competing—and losing—in a geopolitical marketplace alongside the world's other superpowers: the European Union and China,' citing an article in Saturday's New York Times Magazine titled 'Waving Goodbye to Hegemony' by Parag Khanna.
In the post-Cold War period and with the decomposition of the former Soviet Union, the world scenario was generally subject to the U.S influence. And especially in the 1990s, it seemed conceivable and probable that the international power structure would be ended in the U.S. predominance in the political, economic and cultural systems, or simply and bluntly put, the U.S. would be 'King of the hill.' It would be that case if the U.S. were not hit by the '9.11' terrorist attack.
The U.S. used to rally the international support by launching a severe clampdown upon terror and acting as the global rescuer to keep the world free from the terrorist havoc. But quite soon, this noble campaign against terrorism, initiated by the U.S. Neo-Conservative elites, was interpreted by the international community as a camouflage used by the U.S. to hide its intention to regain monopoly over the entire globe. In 2008, nevertheless, the U.S hegemony was pushed onto the brink of collapse, as a result of its inherent structural contradictions, which proved well-rooted in the American society and far from conciliatory. A visible sign of the U.S. strength decline turned out to be the decline of its monolithic economic clout over the globe.
The typically American liberal capitalist financial system, featuring the loopholes of effective monitoring and feeding greed and exploitation, sparked a swirl of Domino Effects last year and quickly sent the whole economy into plunging. The worst ever economic downturn since the Great Depression also helped the first African-American president Barack Obama take power in a backdrop that Americans are so dearly longing for a radical change.
With the breakdown of the U.S.--dominated international power structure, the world attention would be focused on such an unavoidable question: Does the decline of U.S. geopolitical hegemony make multilateral global governance more likely? Perhaps it is still too early to rush any conclusion, but at least one thing is certain: the U.S. strength is declining at a speed so fantastic that it is far beyond anticipation. The U.S. is no longer 'King of the hill,' as a new phase of multipolar world power structure will come into being in 2009, and the international order will be correspondingly reshuffled. Albeit, for now, the new international power structure is still indiscernible—
In the Middle East, peace talks between Palestine and Israel have yet to see any fruit, and maybe not in prospect; Iran is rising as a regional power; Latin America is stepping up its efforts to break away from the U.S. orbit; the European Union cannot afford its increasing expansion; Leading players on the European Continent such as Britain, Germany and France are battling their own economic downtrend; and Russia also faces a tough job in reducing its heavy reliance on gas exports and building the modern manufacturing industry of its own.
China has grown to be a new heavyweight player and stepped into the limelight on the world stage. And its role in salvaging the plummeting world economy from hitting bottom looms large and active, as the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during her just wrapped-up Asian tour, 'the U.S. appreciates the continued Chinese confidence in the U.S treasuries.' If the Cold War was 'a tug of war' between East and West, and a showcase of hard power, what we have today, for the first time in history, is a global, multicivilizational and multipolar competition, and a display of smart power. To be the winner, one has to seek more cooperation rather than confrontation.
The article represents the author's view only. It does not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.