The United States remains a powerful country, but it has not come to terms with the immense changes taking place in the world order, writes Vijay Prashad.
Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research
On Feb. 24, the Chinese Foreign Ministry released a 12-point plan entitled “China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis.” This “peace plan,” as it has been called, is anchored in the concept of sovereignty, building upon the well-established principles of the 1945 United Nations Charter and the Ten Principles from the Bandung Conference of African and Asian states held in 1955.
The plan was released two days after China’s senior diplomat Wang Yi visited Moscow, where he met with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Russia’s interest in the plan was confirmed by Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov shortly after the visit: “Any attempt to produce a plan that would put the [Ukraine] conflict on a peace track deserves attention. We are considering the plan of our Chinese friends with great attention.”
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the plan hours after it was made public, saying that he would like to meet China’s President Xi Jinping as soon as possible to discuss a potential peace process. France’s President Emmanuel Macron echoed this sentiment, saying that he would visit Beijing in early April.
There are many interesting aspects of this plan, notably a call to end all hostilities near nuclear power plants and a pledge by China to help fund the reconstruction of Ukraine. But perhaps the most interesting feature is that a peace plan did not come from any country in the West, but from Beijing.
When I read “China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis,” I was reminded of “On the Pulse of Morning,” a poem published by Maya Angelou in 1993, the rubble of the Soviet Union before us, the terrible bombardment of Iraq by the United States still producing aftershocks, the tremors felt in Afghanistan and Bosnia. The title of this newsletter, “Birth Again the Dream of Global Peace and Mutual Respect,” sits at the heart of the poem. Angelou wrote alongside the rocks and the trees, those who outlive humans and watch us destroy the world. Two sections of the poem bear repeating:
Each of you, a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,
Clad in peace, and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the rock were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your
Brow and when you yet knew you still
The River sang and sings on.
History, despite its wrenching pain
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.
History cannot be forgotten, but it need not be repeated. That is the message of Angelou’s poem and the message of the study we released last week, “Eight Contradictions of the Imperialist ‘Rules-Based Order.”
In October 2022, Cuba’s Centre for International Policy Research (CIPI) held its 7th Conference on Strategic Studies, which studied the shifts taking place in international relations, with an emphasis on the declining power of the Western states and the emergence of a new confidence in the developing world.
There is no doubt that the United States and its allies continue to exercise immense power over the world through military force and control over financial systems. But with the economic rise of several developing countries, with China at their head, a qualitative change can be felt on the world stage.
An example of this trend is the ongoing dispute amongst the G20 countries, many of which have refused to line up against Moscow despite pressure by the United States and its European allies to firmly condemn Russia for the war in Ukraine. This change in the geopolitical atmosphere requires precise analysis based on the facts.
To that end, our latest dossier, “Sovereignty, Dignity, and Regionalism in the New International Order,” produced in collaboration with CIPI, brings together some of the thinking about the emergence of a new global dispensation that will follow the period of U.S. hegemony.
The text opens with a foreword by CIPI’s director, José R. Cabañas Rodríguez, who makes the point that the world is already at war, namely a war imposed on much of the world (including Cuba) by the United States and its allies through blockades and economic policies such as sanctions that strangle the possibilities for development. As Greece’s former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said, coups these days “do not need tanks. They achieve the same result with banks.”
The U.S. is attempting to maintain its position of “single master” through an aggressive military and diplomatic push both in Ukraine and Taiwan, unconcerned about the great destabilisation this has inflicted upon the world. This approach was reflected in U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin’s admission that, “We want to see Russia weakened” and in U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul’s statement that “Ukraine today – it’s going to be Taiwan tomorrow.” It is a concern about this destabilisation and the declining fortunes of the West that has led most of the countries in the world to refuse to join efforts to isolate Russia.
As some of the larger developing countries, such as China, Brazil, India, Mexico, Indonesia and South Africa, pivot away from reliance upon the United States and its Western allies, they have begun to discuss a new architecture for a new world order. What is quite clear is that most of these countries — despite great differences in the political traditions of their respective governments — now recognise that the United States “rules-based international order” is no longer able to exercise the authority it once had.
The actual movement of history shows that the world order is moving from one anchored by U.S. hegemony to one that is far more regional in character. U.S. policymakers, as part of their fearmongering, suggest that China wants to take over the world, along the grain of the “Thucydides Trap” argument that when a new aspirant to hegemony appears on the scene, it tends to result in war between the emerging power and existing great power. However, this argument is not based on facts.
Rather than seek to generate additional poles of power — in the mold of the United States — and build a “multipolar” world, developing countries are calling for a world order rooted in the U.N. Charter as well as strong regional trade and development systems.
“This new internationalism can only be created — and a period of global Balkanisation avoided,” we write in our latest dossier, “by building upon a foundation of mutual respect and strength of regional trade systems, security organisations, and political formations.” Indicators of this new attitude are present in the discussions taking place in the Global South about the war in Ukraine and are reflected in the Chinese plan for peace.
Our dossier analyses at some length this moment of fragility for U.S. power and its “rules-based international order.” We trace the revival of multilateralism and regionalism, which are key concepts of the emerging world order. The growth of regionalism is reflected in the creation of a host of vital regional bodies, from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), alongside increasing regional trade (with the BRICS bloc being a kind of “regionalism plus” for our period).
Meanwhile, the emphasis on returning to international institutions for global decision-making, as evidenced by the formation of the Group of Friends in Defence of the U.N. Charter, for example, illustrates the reinvigorated desire for multilateralism.
The United States remains a powerful country, but it has not come to terms with the immense changes taking place in the world order. It must temper its belief in its “manifest destiny” and recognise that it is nothing more than another country amongst the 193 members states of the United Nations. The great powers — including the United States — will either find ways to accommodate and cooperate for the common good, or they will all collapse together.
At the start of the pandemic, the head of the World Health Organisation, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, urged the countries of the world to be more collaborative and less confrontational, saying that “this is the time for solidarity, not stigma” and repeating, in the years since, that nations must “work together across ideological divides to find common solutions to common problems.” These wise words must be heeded.
Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and, with Noam Chomsky, The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.
This article is from Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
The US cannot win a war against China . Or Russia either. Not as it throws money at impractical “defense” projects designed for older forms of war, or imaginary new ones and craters its economy. The recent drone downing is a metaphor for the US loss of power. You reap what you sow. And now the US must fear the reaper.
“. . .a qualitative change can be felt on the world stage.” And so disparately needed as all seem to agree here and let’s up hope elsewhere in our wrong headed country.
Generally speaking good thoughts are just that, thoughts. Unfortunately good thoughts are like farts, even strong ones, that totally dissipate in the next wind. And so it is and always has been with global and regional socio-economic politics.
People who don’t want to cooperate such that others can “win” from economic cooperation are the enemies of human development. People who want to use militarism first instead of as a last resort are the enemies of human development. Countries need “win” “win” solutions not “I win you lose, too bad” mentality. That’s the USA philosophy and it won’t work in the medium term let alone the long term. Yes they can browbeat the Western nations with their military threats for a few decades but even the USA’s closest “associates” (I don’t say friends as friends don’t threaten the existence of other friends) such as Canada are becoming wary and weary of this belligerent approach.
As the hegemony of the US obviously and visibly declines, the risk of it lashing out uncontrollably and perhaps irrevocably increases.
My concern is about how far the US is prepared to go to maintain its position. If it were behaving rationally, it would know that it can’t hold on for much longer, and would accept the inevitable. But it is not showing any signs of rational behaviour or thought at the moment, and appears willing to risk all to retain its global domination.
It likes to play the brinkmanship game, but seems oblivious to the risks of accidentally triggering a fatal conflict. The recent Black Sea drone incident is an example of one that could have escalated badly. Yet, it keeps doubling down, never accepting its losses, driven by some seriously deranged individuals in Washington, and its allies in Brussels and London.
How long can the cooler heads in Washington maintain the restraints on their political masters? What happens if they can’t?
Disaster happens and it’s not far around the bend if the USA doesn’t stop the manic cruelty and destructive foreign policy approaches.
I wonder about “Thucydides Trap” argument. Thucydides is a very thoughtful author, famous for a-historical dialogues that masterfully recapitulate reasoning of conflicting sides (a-historical because it is very doubtful that well reasoned positions were actually voiced, and in the case of contemporary West, unthinkable).
Thucydides trap was not truly a trap, but a case of Athens, hubris. Both Athens and Sparta were established powers, but for several reasons, Athens were more expansionist and developed a method resembling “color revolutions”. Regardless of who was at fault, and who was not, the outcome of Peloponesian war was dire for both sides. Athens were losers, Sparta became foolish after victory, imaging itself as a hegemon of Hellenic world and abusing the position as badly as Athens before. Thus Sparta collapsed to, and 100 years after that war, Hellenes of Greece proper were observers of greater powers deciding their fate.
To summarise, foolish reading of Thucydides internalizes the foolish thinking he described, while sober reading provides lessons how to avoid it. Thus the “trap” is an example of “new everything, understood nothing”.
Well said & I agree completely. Manipulation knows no bounds. At least not in the USA & the West.
Marvellous poem! Thank you for it and the article.
It seems that the Rock, the River, and the Tree are all weary of the US-led Axis of Greed and its endless wars of exploitation of Mother Earth.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is a snake oil salesman that is beholden to unelected tyrants such as Schwab and Gates. Tedros has never spoken “wise words” but instead has only parroted what he has been told to do.
“What follows”? My guess is “Peace and goodwill to all men”, to quote, but of course it will include the female gender too, something I personally have great hopes and expectations of; not to put too fine a point on it. XOXOXO
Excellent article. I think just about everyone in the world wants USG to… well, grow up.
We survived two years of lockdowns and personal hardships and the very moment we began to feel normal again they pulled out of Afghanistan and relocated to Ukraine.
People have had enough. But it is also very clear that it is not power that drives USG. It is greed, money and oil.
Profound and wonderful insights, and an ideological formula to open a sustainable and prosperous future. After all, how much are we not doing that we could be doing to improve everyone’s quality of life because of the world’s continuing and accelerating investment and drain in destruction. A rational, even possible, future simply does not include a Cold War 2. In this one glaring point, America has revealed the lunacy that is driving it. In any case, the US is certainly on the wrong side of history, not to mention that through accelerating climate effects Mother Nature herself will enforce upon us the stark choice between cooperation or extinction, like it or not.
OH America—-there is that old poem “…the old men send the young men to war…”
Biden is an old man and along with Blinken and Nuland—America seems to be going down. I suppose America won in WW II and that was because the nation was so separate from the war action. Now America IS the war action all over the world and the people running the nation seem to be living in a past time—not realizing that the world has changed. And Secretary of Defense, Lloyd AUSHOLE is more of a sad failure. The planet is changing, but the war mongers seem the same more than anything else.
Agreed, but who is behind the warmongers, who is behind the curtain ? They have names and addresses, these are the tiny minority of USA based trillionaires who are now so confident that their plan for total World domination is nearing fruition, that they don’t care who knows it. They also don’t care if a conventional war leads to nuclear war. All of these individuals , who want to re-Balkanise the continuously growing Asiatic Block, have their private nuclear-proof bunkers in Delaware and Up-State New York, and they feel invincible. As long as neither Trump nor DeSantos attains the next presidency, they are fully confident that they can achieve their long desired dreams, and in the process, destroy China and Russia, and loot those countries with the power they will then have.
I wish that our Congresscritters and the swamp denizens of DC would read this brief appeal to reason and reality. When will we in the US wake up and take our place among the family of 193 nations, and give up the fevered dreams of empire that have done so much damage since the end of WW2? We in the US are sleep-walking to nuclear war, and it would be so easy for sanity to prevail and call a halt to the madness; alas, we must hope there is a “sanity clause” in the MICCIMATT that controls US foreign policy. Because a groundswell of opposition seems unlikely to emerge in the US, given our propaganda-driven mass media, and the deeply ingrained belief in our “exceptionalism”.
The World outside of the West is DONE with America? Their sick of their Economic Terrorism & Military Terrorism, their DONE with the threats, the Coercive & bullying behaviour & the arrogance & hubris of this Nation that thinks it has the God given right to meddle & interfere in the affairs of other Nations! The sheer ignorance & tone deafness to believe it has the right to dictate to other Nations on how they must run their own Country (or else?) & model it after their ludicrous Society & Political system, the so called (US) Rules based Order & Oligarchy masquerading as a Democracy defies belief? That’s why the Global South, the Middle East, Africa, China & Eurasia are rooting for Russia in Ukraine & looking forward to the collapse of the US Proxy War there, it’s just one more nail in the coffin of the US Empire! This collapse is happening so fast that everyone watching it is getting whiplash, all American Sanctions have failed against Russia & because the US has sanctioned so many Countries, they have now endangered the USD Petrodollar system as the World Reserve Currency in the biggest Financial own goal in Human History? What’s emerging is a Multipolar World in which the US & it’s Western Vassals are isolated & looking from the Outside in, like dogs outside looking at Meat from a Butcher shop window? The hysterical & crazy behaviour from the Biden Whitehouse & the US Govt confirms that they are in a state of panic, they can see the writing on the wall, that America is history, its going down in flames like that Reaper drone they are losing their minds over at the loss of it? The World is DONE with America & its Warmongering chaos of Murder & Mayhem! Game over!
“This collapse is happening so fast that everyone watching it is getting whiplash”
And there’s the rub. Worse for the vassal states who hitched their horses onto the back of the US wagon. (Honduras is the latest country to switch its “allegiance” to China.) As for the article title – “What Follows US Hegemony”, probably anarchy. Fresh food is already running out in UK supermarkets; rubbish is piling up in Paris; banks are collapsing left, right and centre; droughts all over europe IN WINTER. It didn’t have to be like this.
The US led economic sanctions as used on Russia, Cuba and all around the world, are the modern equivalent of a medieval siege. It’s time we recognized them as such.
Medieval siege with medieval minds. Living in the dark ages. Look at what the sanctions have done to Cuba in this photo essay – although they are called “economic blockade” in the article.:
In Cuba, they call it the ‘blockade’. That’s considered more forthright than ’embargo’, or ‘sanctions’.
in any event, the collapse of the US empire is accelerating. …….can’t happen soon enough! The world outside the US ‘sphere of influence’ has had it with the bullying ways of the US. …… Hundreds of billions of dollars of trade/economic/infrastructure deals have been negotiated throughout Eurasia and the Global South, facilitated by BRICS, BRI, SCO and other institutions. ……. all negotiated in a spirit of mutual respect and cooperation. …….Yes, China’s leadership is appreciated more and more globally.
The only question remaining is if the US empire will go peacefully in to the night, OR, will it go out with a (nuclear) bang in an all-out attempt to regain unquestioned global hegemony? (“We had to destroy the world in order to save the world!”)
I vacillate between the two scenarios in your question shmutzoid. It’s certainly a conundrum. But with the unhinged and unstable minds of the western leaders and their penchant for destruction, well…………………