There is a widespread argument about the reformations taking place in the international world order. There are compelling narratives about what kind of world order is emerging. Nevertheless, none of these narratives is able to give a complete picture of the future order. The existing literature on the budding world order can be divided into two categories: multipolar and multi-partner. Each of these narratives commonly focuses on the prospects of sustainability of liberal world order and predicts the emergence of an international system with new rising powers. Nonetheless, these narratives differ on issues such as how the world order is to be governed and what role will the United States, the leader of current order, play to stabilize it. It is necessary to analyze which international institutions will be able to facilitate cooperation in a strategic environment where the current order is in crisis.
The first narrative is popular among policymakers and suggests that the world is currently witnessing the balance of power politics once seen in the multipolar order of the 19th and early 20th century. This narrative postulates that as new powers rise the unipolar order will be replaced by multipolarity where the relationship between China and America will play a key role. This narrative focuses on the material capabilities such as economic and military power. It argues that military power is dependent upon economic might and as emerging powers increase their economic power, they are expected to amplify their military power as well. Given the relationship between military and economic power, Beijing’s emergence as the second largest economy gets a lot of consideration.
Ian Bremmer, an American political scientist and foreign policy expert contends that, “America should put an end to our prohibitively expensive superhero foreign policy and instead of throwing money at other people’s problems start to invest money more wisely in American education, rebuild our infrastructure, care for our veterans and all those who need help here at home.” Such a policy orientation has been popular in the public in America after U.S. President Donald Trump was elected. Trump’s policy of ‘America First’ was a result of the years’ long burden of responsibility that the U.S. has taken on for policing the world.
The second narrative acknowledges that the ascent of new powers will influence the world order. This narrative is more intently connected with liberal internationalism, noticeably advocated by G. John Ikenberry in his book Liberal Leviathan. Proponents of this narrative claim that the U.S. will remain an unprecedented power as it has shared interests with several powers across the globe. Advocates of this narrative suggest that it is unlikely for the U.S. to withdraw from its global responsibilities in the future. As a result, the U.S. would continue with its policy of active engagement and maintain its leadership position. This narrative further emphasizes the future prospects by stating that the emerging world order cannot be based on liberal hegemony. Instead, it needs to work around partnership diplomacy especially between China and the U.S. However, a reconstructed order will allow these institutions to flourish and the soft power element in the liberal world order will continue to attract democratic countries around the world while the U.S. will have to adapt itself to the emerging realities of the global order.
The continuous growth of China’s economic and military power has allowed it to put forward its own plan for the future world order. China has made a shift in its policy-making by letting go of the careful and narrow approach towards global affairs and adopting a more assertive foreign policy to transform global norms. In order to explain this policy shift, some Chinese scholars give more attention to system level factors such as Beijing’s growing position in the international system and their increasing material power. On the other hand, some Chinese scholars emphasize upon domestic level factors like internal strife in bureaucratic political structure and growing nationalism, while some Chinese scholars have also focused on individual level issues such as the values and beliefs of policymakers that characterize their understanding of global politics and China’s role as an emerging power. Keeping in view China’s policy shift, Nien-chung Chang Liao argues that it “can mainly be attributed to elite perceptions and leadership preferences.”
The crisis of world order is a result of the crisis of leadership led by the prosperous rise of emerging powers which are now corroding the basic governance structure of the international order. More states are now voicing their opinions and competing for authority to regulate the international system because of which there is a need for reform of old institutions and enhanced partnership between states along the lines of soft power. New tools of governance will be required as the existing institutions must deal with issues that cannot be resolved through traditional method such as state to state diplomacy. There is dire need to rearrange the post western governance structure. States need to work on building new global institutions that are suitable for a multipolar world order. HH
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