Every major event has the potential to bring a tectonic shift or change in the world order. Soon after the end of second world war, Great Britain was no longer able to hold on the position of a global power with United States of America and erstwhile Soviet Union emerging as superpowers, playing decisive role in international politics for 40 years, the collapse of Berlin Wall and disintegration of USSR signaled the end of cold war, the victory of USA and globalization of liberal capitalism with the famous American political scientist Francis Fukuyama coming up with “The End of History and the Last Man”, type exaggerated thesis.
With the Corona virus pandemic which has killed more than five lakh people as of now, affecting more than 190 countries and creating perhaps the worst economic crisis post great depression of 1930’s many scholars now argue that the post Covid-19 the USA’s hegemony would end and world is going into a different power politics with China emerging as a world power. But the larger question remains unanswered would the world order change?
In reality even before the Corona pandemic the world was not same as it was in 1990s with USA’s hegemony not going unchallenged. Since 2000s the growth of China was a topic of research with many scholars like Oxford trained researcher Ajit Jha pointing that “a country of more than one billion people growing at the rate of above 10% for 20 years is a historic achievement and unprecedented in contemporary history”.
Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative (BRI) launched in 2013 with the target expenditure of $1.3 trillion dollars was aimed at developing Chinese centered global trade network and for world domination. With China posing it’s footprints through investment across Asia Pacific,Africa and Europe it’s clear that it was looking for a larger role in world politics even before COVID-19. Now with the pandemic the question should be that becoming a big power or even super power enough to lead the world and replace USA as epicenter of global stability.
We all know even USSR became superpower after the second world war; through its military power, global footprints and satellite states but was never able to lead the world.We also need to understand the impact and footprints of United States is unparallel even now despite China emerging as a major power.United States has 38 military bases abroad,with China having only 3 military bases(Djibouti,Myanmar,Tajikistan) even India has six outside military bases.
The defence budget of United States is $ 700 billion which is more than the overall defence budget of the entire world. The United States diplomatic involvement, it’s expenditure on research and development is very huge, the international multilateral systems and globally accepted western democratic model are in contrary of Chinese domestic model. The gap in the size of USA’s($ 22 trillion) economy and Chinese($14.5 trillion) is decreasing,but economy is one determinant of power relations. To lead the world any superpower must look at the larger picture,post second world war the United States came up with the Marshall plan for Europe to contain USSR, but China is looking assertive in 2020 and going into loggerheads with a major regional power and nuclear neighbour India and its disputes with other neighbours like Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines on South China Sea. To quote Gautam Bambawale former Indian ambassador to China “for minor tactical gains, China has strategically lost India”. For displacing USA as the epicenter of global politics we needed a collective Asian rise in 21st century in all aspects of power relations.
In this China could be the fulcrum and powers like India, Japan, Russia, Indonesia etc rising together, but it is difficult now. In contrary what we are witnessing is the theory of famous international relations realist scholar John Mearsheimer unfolding in front of us, “that the super powers use the idea of “buck passing” by increasing strength of buck catcher state to deter the potential challenger and help it focus on the buck-catcher; and facilitating the growth in power of the intended buck-catcher”.
United States Indo-Pacific strategy is all about this by using India,Japan and Australia to contain Chinese rise.To summerise, the world has changed even before Coronavirus with probability of China might becoming even a superpower in next few decades but it is also true that it cannot lead the world and USA would remain the fulcrum of global stability and international politics.