Asian Century

The key players of the global power contest must realize that we are past the cold war era wherein two superpowers fought for global domination. Suppressing a rising China simply because it threatens the American leadership will not be the end of this diplomatic war that the U.S. seems to be embarking upon. The current world order is far from the unipolar or bipolar which have been witnessed earlier. This century marks the rise of several countries which had spent most of the previous centuries as colonies of the west. Dubbed as the Asian century, the 21st century is bound to witness the rise of the east to put an end to the western hegemony. The west needs to realize that no decisions made at the global platform will be viable without the involvement of the Asian players who constitute a large number of people and a huge chunk of the global GDP. Much like the creation of G-20 since the G-8 could not have evolved economic and financial solutions for the benefit of all economies.

An alliance built on the lines of NATO or Warsaw( which were based on the exaggerated military and political potential of the leading nations) will only crumble under domestic political shifts.  The underlying threat perception that binds the Quad ( an alliance of the U.S, India, Japan and Australia for a free and safe indo-pacific) is based on the idea of defending the status quo of liberal rules-based order- a construct solely based on the global hegemony of the west. It is also based on the denial of the fact that China is already a superpower and not just an American rival in making. Unlike the other regimes based on a variant of a communist ideology like North Korea or Cuba, China’s unique political structure has made it an economic force akin to the vein running through the current global economic and financial output. Similarly, it is no secret that the Asian democracy- that is India- functions very differently from its western counterparts wherein federalism, representation, protection of minorities and catering to regional/communal/cultural aspirations shape Indian politics.

The hegemon must take a step back

Step one should be acceptance of China as an influential world leader and abandonment of the idea of a single acceptable ideology for running a country. The assumption of the superiority of the western liberal democratic model which according to Francis Fukuyama marked “the end of history” of realpolitik with the fall of the communist Soviet Union has proved to be flawed beyond doubt. The imposition of liberal democratic order in the Middle East has proved disastrous for their peace and security. They continue to be marred by conflict and war with terrorism spreading like a festering wound.

American troops had beaten the Taliban to dust but their reformist zeal to ensure the establishment of a government that resonates with the American brand of liberalism has led to a humiliating defeat and retreat of the American forces from Kabul. It has also legitimized the Taliban as a prospective ruler of Afghanistan with the Doha engagement putting them on the negotiation table with other prominent world leaders. While The USA has almost vacated Afghanistan, the Taliban has failed to adhere to its promises of ceasefire and abandonment of terrorism against civilians, pushing the nation, yet again, into turmoil.

The worsening economic conditions in countries like Iran and Cuba are largely attributable to decades of economic and military sanctions imposed by The USA. The unilateral abandonment of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear growth in return for the lifting of sanctions, between Iran and the permanent 5 of UN plus Germany- and re-imposition of sanctions had pushed Iran into a massive crisis of essential services especially food and medicines. Similarly, the sanctions on Cuba since the 1960s have debilitated the communist state economically with massive protests by the citizens against unemployment and inflation.

On the other hand, China and Russia have established their places in the world despite American sanctions and it’s time for the west to recognize an ideology different from their own while providing them manoeuvring space and capacity. Their presence in the UN has saved several countries in recent times from NATO invasion under the garb of abuse of human rights and suspected nuclear proliferation ( Libya and Iraq are cases in point).

Acknowledgement of novel developmental trajectory

The brazen superiority of the West has led it to turn a blind eye to the massive difference in the circumstances in which the eastern countries live and prosper. Unlike the west, China has shown no apparent objection to a multipolar world wherein it is willing to share its status on the international front with other influential powers. The development models of most countries in the east have been severely impacted by Neoliberalism imposed by IMF in return for developmental loans. China however managed to avoid ideological conflicts during the cold war and was never forced to accept loans from IMF under duress. Hence China enjoyed political autonomy at a time when the west was importing its ideology to the third world. This provided ample space for political and economic experimentation towards the end of modernization and set the Chinese model apart in a world that witnessed universalization of western policy as the only acceptable policy (Source).

While this largely explains the animosity of the western dominant narrative against China, it becomes imperative to accept that the model worked for the Chinese development. Like most things, China’s definition of a superpower status differs from that of the USA’s. China’s Xi preached “equality of civilization” and warned against the “stupid” and “disastrous” clash of civilization. This is the jargon that “seems” to shape China’s idea of a multipolar world as it comes dangerously close to the superpower status. This current reality validates Samuel Huntington’s prediction of a civilizational clash between the West and China in his “clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order”.

Room for the Eastern Narratives

It is high time that the Global East is given sufficient room to propagate its models without the supervision of the West. The post-colonial philosophies are more likely to shape the third world considering its greater relevance to the current time and age. The regressive ways used by the developed world to attain their “developed” status are denounced by the current order. These techniques included development at the cost of exploitation of the colonies and indigenous population and discrimination on basis of race and ethnicity. The means to the end were far from liberal and it’s time that they rose above the ‘ideological hypocrisy’. The East has the right to trial and error for making its own decisions for the governance of the people without an overarching imposition of archaic world order.

Tanya Vatsa has BA/LLB(Hons.) from  National Law University, Lucknow, India; Currently a Gandhi Fellow with one and a half years of experience as an assistant advocate;  has previously published articles on foreign affairs in the International policy digest, the Kottneeti and the Diplomatist.


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