Future Hegemonic Rivalry Between China and the West?

Erich Weede

Abstract


Currently there is a unipolar distribution of power. The United States reigns supreme. Russia's economic power will remain insufficient to underwrite a renewed attempt to establish global leadership. While the European Community still commands sufficient resources for exercising global leadership, it lacks the political foundation for unitary action. Moreover, the European addiction to the welfare state undermines European competitiveness. Japan is too much of a "trading state" and unlikely to become a first-rate military power, before she is overtaken by China in economic size. So, count Russia, Europe and Japan out as conceivable challengers to United States hegemony. China is the only plausible candidate. Its economic growth rate is nothing less than spectacular. Moreover, the Chinese government seems capable of extracting the necessary resources for waging a hegemonic rivalry from a society that is likely to remain quite poor for at least another generation. There are a number of conceivable scenarios for the emerging American-Chinese relationship. The future will depend on the relative speed of the American decline and the rise of China as well as on the openness of the global economy. The more open the global economy, the better the prospects for rising per capita incomes in China become, the better the prospects for some mellowing or even democratization of the Chinese regime. Only if the West sticks together under American leadership and if creeping capitalism in China leads to creeping democratization later, is hegemonic rivalry likely to remain benign and peaceful.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.1995.50

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