Balance of Power by Asia

The recent report by the Congressional Committee on National Defense Strategy has indicated that the US might be losing its military superiority, especially in case of a conflict with China and Russia. This is the first time in almost three decades that US military power has seriously come under scrutiny at home and abroad. The US spends around $700 Billion annually on its military, which is more than what the Asian powers spend combined. If such a massive budget is not enough then one must conclude that the fault lies in the American approach to address issues. Since the emergence of Arab Spring and the destabilization of the Middle East, Asian powers have been wary of US influence in Asia. Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran all have opposed the US prolonged stay in Afghanistan, even India a close ally of the US, views US policy towards it with suspicion. The US unilateral sanctions on Iran have also forced the Asian powers to rethink the balance of power in Asia. The balancing act of Asia can ensure long-term prosperity and stability in the world.

Unipolar to Multipolar World

The report drafted by the National Defense Strategy Commission has accepted the dwindling US military influence on the global scale. US Secretary of Defense was quoted during his comments on the strategy that the US military keeps the “Great Power Competition” at the heart of its strategy. As a result of colonialism, the European powers emerged as global decision makers. Historically speaking, powers have emerged out of global conflicts. The European powers emerged out of long European wars and colonialism. The end of two world wars gave birth to two new superpowers and these two Super Powers dominated the world.

The emergence of Great Power is yet a new kind of phenomena in which whoever emerges as a victor would enjoy global hegemony in all global affairs. This Great power could be a single country or a group of countries allied together through virtue of mutual interests. Looking at the current scenario, one can easily notice that a China-Russia duo could be a potential competitor in this Great Power struggle. The grave question here to be asked is, would the world have to undergo another great loss of human life and property for a nation to claim victory. I would personally disagree. The Great Powers would emerge as a result of competition, competition in economic, military, lifestyle and alliance making terms. In the struggle of Super Powers in the previous century, sanity had prevailed and any direct confrontation between the two superpowers was avoided. The same would happen between the new competitors. China with its Belt and Road Initiative offers massive infrastructure projects and lucrative trade deals to partner countries. China has touted its rise through peaceful means but the US a follower of offensive realism shall not accept China’s rise, even through peaceful means. For any country wishing to develop, greater connectivity and trade are a prerequisite. Since the US has imposed a trade war on China, it had to look around it to continue its globalization drive. China’s, BRI is a framework to achieve the Chinese Dream by creating a community of countries that have tied their economic destiny to that of China. If China keeps doing well, so will everyone else in that community. Hence the BRI could be a major shift in the global economic system and Asia could be the center of the world economy.

Where is America losing ground?

In an academic conference held in the US this year, the audience asked a visiting senior Chinese economist, till what time China’s economic growth would continue. He smiled and answered, “as long as the US continues its misadventures around the world, China would continue to grow”.

America is losing because of its own mistakes, or perhaps it’s at the natural end of its superpower cycle.  Economically, the US, the global promoter of free trade and economic liberalism is acting as a trade protectionist state. It withdrew from various trade agreements like the TPP and has threatened to withdraw from the WTO and NAFTA which further positions it as an isolationist state. The US the global voice on Human Rights issues is no longer a part of the Human Rights Commission of the UN. The US has also shown a non-willingness to cooperate in environmental issues which the US championed for, like the Paris Climate Accord. These steps have greatly affected the moral leadership it enjoyed around the world. The US has withdrawn from various agreements which ensured peace in the world, like the JCPOA. This again has put the US standing in the world under increased scrutiny. Friends and foes alike have a trust deficit with the US. This has led to countries taking matters in their own hands, like France and Germany talking about a “European Army” and other nations looking for alternate and reliable partners for security and trade in their regions. China is moving swiftly to fill out this global leadership vacuum. On one hand, It has initiated the BRI project offering connectivity and trade to partner countries and on the other side, it has increased bilateral trade in local currencies, hence reducing its and its partners’ dependency on dollar trade.

The current US attitude could be a temporary phenomenon but it has cast huge doubts on the US being able to lead the world into the era of globalization. It is said that the 21st century would be the age of The Asian Renaissance, where Asia would emerge as the global leader. But for that Asia has to enhance cooperation, consultation, and communication from within and the outside world.

Moaaz Awan
Moaaz Awan
The Author is a keen China Observer and a Ph.D. Scholar at Tianjin University. His research interests include China Pakistan Economic Corridor, the Belt and Road Initiative and Shanghai Cooperation Organization.