America’s decline, China’s rise: inevitable? think again

January 16, 2012

Writing at The Diplomat, Zhang Yunling assures us that China’s rise to dominance is inevitable.  The Western economies are too weak and unstable and China’s too strong for the tide to turn, Zhang believes.  Indeed, he insists that the world should welcome an era of Chinese world leadership.   He presses his case with examples of Chinese beneficence, counterpointed by examples of US meddling or intransigence.  China would not repeat the errors or the arrogance of the Americans, he implies.

The theme of American decline and the coming Age of China is widely accepted.  Even long time Cold Warrior Zbigniew Brzezinski is contemplating the end of American supremacy and concludes only that China cannot afford for it to occur too quickly.

I have to disagree.  The last 5 cycles of the World System have seen various challengers for global leadership (hegemony is the term within the discourse).

copyright EnerGeoPolitics, 2010

While the players have changed, the basic structure has not:  It has always been a contest between economic/political systems that are relatively more open on the winning side and relatively more closed on the losing side.   The closed society always looks to have tremendous advantages – Imperial Spain, Napoleonic France, Industrial Germany.  Indeed, both the French and German economies had grown to surpass in size that of Great Britain, the other contestant, just prior to the ultimate struggles between the nations.  Still, it has always been the more open system that has consistently carried the day and dominated the following era.

The Chinese Model certainly presents a formidable challenge to the open system of the maritime democracies, and geopolitics does not have iron clad laws that deem what has happened in the past will always happen in the future.  However, if the US and its allies focus on the strengths of their system and make the decision to be more open, more entrepreneurial and more innovative, then the Chinese wave will crest and recede.


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