Wang Xin and Hua Xiao

Features of changing international strategic landscape in the first decade of 21st century and inspirations to be drawn

Извор/Source: International Strategic Studies, 3, 2011, serial No. 101, pp 6-12, China Institute for International Strategic Studies, Beijing, China

Објављено по посебној дозволи у е-библиотеци „Философија рата и мира“ у оквиру Културне мреже „Пројекта Растко“ • Published under a special permission in “Philosophy of War and Peace” E-library by Project Rastko Cultural Network

Abstract; The first decade of the 21st Century witnessed the profound change of international strategic landscape, which resulted in giving rise to a new situation characterized by a more balanced picture between international forces, an evidently stepped-up process of multi-polarization in the world, a side-by-side development of cooperation and competition between major powers, diversified and complicated threats to global security, and a more pluralistic pattern of national development.

This year marks the beginning of the second decade of the 21st Century. It is of great significance to review the development and evolution of the international strategic landscape in the first decade at the time when the first decade gives way to the second one, since it will enable us to further deepen our scientific understanding of the laws and characteristics of the international strategic situation, and facilitate us to shape up a peaceful external strategic security environment.

I. Profound changes of the balance of forces internationally in favor of the emerging forces have taken place and the process of world multi-polarization is evidently accelerated

At the onset of the 21st Century, the Western powers remained indulged in enjoying the "dividend of Cold War", so to speak. In the year of 2000, the American GDP accounted for almost 30% of that of the world, its defense expenditure made up 1/3 of that of the world and its science and technology as well as its ability to innovate enjoyed a pronounced cutting-edge. Playing on its superiority in economy and the military as well as its high-handed diplomacy, the U. S. was engaged in global strategic expansion. Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski stated in his book The Grand Chessboard ; American Primacy and Its Geographic Imperatives that the U. S. was the first, the only and the last global hegemonic power in the world.[1] The former U. S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Mr. Wolfowitz claimed that in the coming decades, no country was able to integrate resources, the advantage in geographical location and the rate of economic growth to compete with the US. International politics will remain to be a unipolar world dominated by the U. S.[2] The American columnist Charles Krauthammer said that the might of the U. S. could be compared to the Roman Empire and the world was entering into the "second American century". Some American strategists even coined the new term of "hyperpower" to replace the old term of "superpower" in the description of the US. Europe too was full of confidence in its own development. The year of 2000 saw EU adopted the "Lisbon Strategy" which stated that EU would build the most vigorous and competitive economic entity in the world, and then turn itself into a political bloc with the most powerful global influence.

Ironically, things in the last 10 years didn't seem to develop in the way they expected. The international financial crisis has undercut the dominating position of the U. S. economy; the Afghanistan War and Iraq War have undermined the America's pursuance for a unipolar world; and the absolute superiority of the American strength has been sapped. The realities of today show that the proportion of the gross amount of the American economy and the total volume of the U. S. trade in that of the world has dropped 10% and 5%respectively to compare with what it was ten years ago. The Nobel Prize Winner economist Krugman observed that the American achievements in the last 10 years were zero.[3] EU didn't fare so well either with its process of integration being caught in a bottleneck, its economic recovery being singgish and quite a few of its members being dogged by debt crisis. The celebrated scholar of Oxford University Prof. Garton Ash stated that EU had let the best 10 years for securing the domination of the international agenda together with the U. S. slip away. The past 10 years have been wasted both by the U. S. and EU. In striking contrast with this is the momentum-gathering trend of the collective rise of the emerging countries and their increasing importance in the international and regional affairs. To be concrete, China's economic strength and interna­tional influence in the last 10 years have progressively moved upward, advancing from being the 6th global economy to the second place, with the proportion of the U. S. GDP to that of China dropped from 8:1 to 2.5:1. Other emerging countries like Brazil moved from being the 10th economy up to the 8th place; Russia and India were being put in the ranks of top 12. Golden Saks predicted that by 2039, the gross amount of the BRICS' economy would overtake that of today's 6 largest global economies. Based on the projection of the U. S. National Intelligence Council, the rise of China and India will redraw the geopolitical blueprint and give rise to a new combination of the international forces, hence carrying the same significance as the rise of Germany in the 19th Century and the rise of the U. S. in the early 20th Century.[4] Today, the balance of international forces is experiencing a palpable change with the position and influence of the Asia/Pacific region in the international political affairs witnessing a rapid increase, albeit with the Western powers still in the dominating and superior position. As a result, the international strategic structure is undergoing a profound transformation. Prof. Niall Ferguson of Harvard University and the inventor of the term "Chinamerica" stated that the most distinguished feature of the last 10 years of the 21st Century is that the dominating position of the Western countries in the past 500 years is coming to a close and the first decade of the 21st Century marks the 10 years of world's tilting toward East.[5] The chief commentator of the Financial Times Mr. Wolf alleged that the last decade witnessed the demise of the American visionary unipolar world, which harbingers that the Western he­gemony headed by the U. S. and the U. K is on the wane.[6] Mr. Leonid Ivashov, President of the Center for Geopolitical Studies of Russia, observed that the world had entered an era when the hegemon is going downhill and a number of rising powers are springing up simultaneously.

Ten years of development of the international situation has fully attested to the truth of the statements that development is of overriding importance and economic strength will all along make the material base of international politics. The emerging powers' firm grasp on the historical opportunity of economic globalization to boost the rapid development of their respective comprehensive strength with the economic strength as the nucleus provides the ultimate avenue and the essential objective condition necessary for realizing the historical change of the balance of international forces. Besides, strategic option of the major powers does not only have a bearing on the wax and wane of the actual strength of each country, but will also become the essential factor that affects the evolution of the international situation.

I. Cooperation and competition among major powers develop simultaneously, and the feature of "soft power" competition between them stands out even more prominently

Following the demise of the Cold War, the development of major power relations veered away from confrontation between two major blocs—headed by the U. S. and the Soviet Union respectively— toward the direction of a relatively loose "non-bloc" state, with the immediate national interests becoming the primary consideration of every major power in addressing country-to-country relations. As a result, the pattern of major power relations has been progressively transformed to various partnerships from the former military alliance, and accordingly, the competition between major powers has been translated from military strength-based one to a comprehensive competition embracing political, military, economic, science and technology as well as cultural sectors. However, at the onset of the 21st Century, major power relations were still contaminated by the dregs of Cold War with the vestiges of power politics, Cold War mentality and "zero-sum" rivalry still lingering around. Consequently, conflicts between major powers are yet to be eliminated, and the wrangle between "one superpower" and "multi powers", and between a unipolar and multipolar world flavors the whole course of readjusting the relations among major powers.

In the course of the 10-year geared-up development of a multipolar world, inter-dependence among all the countries has deepened increasingly and the major power relations have presented the trend of cooperative competition. For one thing, coordination and cooperation among major powers has increased, and "zero-sum" rivalry has gradually given way to "win-win" or "win-win for all" approach. As a consequence, cooperation among major powers has been stretched both in depth and dimension. Out of consideration for their own strategic needs, traditional major powers have increased their dependence on the emerging powers for help, while the latter have likewise been proactive in seeking to develop their relations with the former. Thanks to this new development, it has become the preferred priority of the new and old major powers to engage in mutual cooperation economi­cally, to step up coordination in addressing global issues and in responding to challenges together, and to uphold common interests. For another thing, the dividing line between enemy and friend among major powers seems to become blurred. Economic globalization has shattered the former interest structure, making the major power relations more complex and pluralistic, and their interests overlapped and intertwined. The former so-called permanent "natural allies", non-conditional "all-round partners" and the friend-or-foe "antagonistic camps", no longer exist. In lieu of that is the apparently increased trend of forming "coalitions of the willing" on the basis of one's own interests, and the increasingly popular model of engaging in "menu-based cooperation" in light of the topics and capabilities. In the last 10 years, the G-20 that consists of developed countries and emerging nations primarily has evolved into a vital global political and economic platform. In addition, the emerging countries' cooperation mechanisms like the BRICS, the BASIC 4 as well as the "five developing countries" to protect their interests have constantly swelled their clout.

All in all, the world today is featured by cooperation coexisting with competition, and coordination coexisting with friction among major powers; the risk of triggering off a full-scale confrontation has dwindled; banding together to forge different interest groups has become the foreign policy sought for by many countries; while traditional political and security alliances are still in place, new type of cooperative partnerships have mushroomed; and disintegration and regrouping among major powers has notice-ably speeded up.

III. Global security threats have diversified and non-traditional security issues have increasingly loomed larger in international security

In the aftermath of the Cold War, the milieu of international security has some-what turned for the better, resulting in deflating substantially the risk of a new world war, and yet, the destabilizing elements in international security are still developing: hegemonism and power politics have blown up into vital threats to world peace and security; and ethnic and religious conflicts as well as conflicts and disputes over territorial sovereignty, which had been swept under the carpet in the context of the "bipolar" world structure, have heated up rapidly. Relevant statistics have it that from 1991 to 2000, the average outbreak of local wars and armed conflicts stood at 11 cases every year, clearly dwarfing the average level of 4. 5 cases a year during the Cold War time, which is an evident indication that traditional security issues remain a vital factor that affects the international security. Besides, the threat of terrorism has manifested itself some-what, plotting almost 400 cases of terrorist attacks in average every year worldwide from 1990 to 2000.

During the past 10 years, the traditional security issue is far from being up-rooted. On the contrary, all major powers had been attaching greater importance to using military might to protect their core national interests and to support political and diplomatic struggles. Major powers had, in fact, stepped up scramble for outer space, the polar regions, strategic points and passages. Moreover, local wars and armed conflicts were in the state of high occurrence: the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War broke out successively; conflicts between Israel and Palestine, and between India and Pakistan had been on on and off throughout the whole period; and wars and conflicts of various kinds had been haunting the African Great Lakes Region. Based on the statistics, in the 10 years spanning from 2001 to 2010, local wars and armed conflicts popped up at the average of 13.7 cases a year worldwide, paling by far both the levels recorded during the Cold War time and the 10 years in the wake of the Cold War. In parallel with this is the looming of non-traditional security issues. International terrorism has become a front-rank immediate threat to global security. In the aftermath of the "9/11" event in 2001, international terrorism entered into an active period. According to statistics, in the time span from 2002 to 2010, 5, 500-plus cases of terrorist attacks befallen 140-odd countries throughout the world, taking a toll of more than 35,000 lives and wounding 78,000 more people. Other non-traditional security issues like international financial crisis carry a far-reaching influence. Ever since its eruption in the second half of 2007, the U. S. sub-prime mortgage crisis further aggravated into an international tsunami—the worst international financial crisis ever befell this world since the Great Depression in 1929, and its profound impact on the international strategic landscape and the regional security situation is still fermenting, so to speak. Then the importance of information security in the national security is getting increasingly prominent. Cyberattack is growing into a novel threat and its impact on the security of the state power and the social stability is on the rise. For this reason, major powers are stepping up their efforts in the development of a cyber force and in uplifting their capability in both cyber attack and protection. In addition, the energy security issue  is figuring more prominently. As the international oil price keeps on fluxing at high level, geopolitical scrambles over energy producing areas, passages for energy shipping, and energy domination are getting increasingly fiercer, subjecting the international energy supply-and-demand pattern to an intricate evolution. The issue of climate change gets hotting up progressively. Today, it has gone beyond the realm of environment to become an economic, political and security issue that attracts the great attention of the international community and all states. Besides, immediate challenges are staring in the face of public health security; and piracy is rampant and savage. What merits attention is that quite a few major international events were set off by non-state actors: the "9/11" event was plotted and executed by terrorists in an asymmetric way; the international financial crisis was triggered off by the Lehman Brothers as a result of its bankruptcy; and the "Wikileaks" event was caused by an individual web-site, indicating that the influence of non-state actors on international security is on the upswing.

In a nutshell, the 10-year unfolding of the international situation had come down to the followings: the global security threat has gone beyond the realm of traditional security in terms of its content and influence, bearing the evident feature of diversity and complexity; in respect of the dimension and the fields it covers, global security threat has transcended the geographical space within the boundary of all countries, carrying the clear characteristics of being transnational and diffusional in nature; with regard to the course of its happening and de­velopment, global security threat has broken away from the pattern of developing from the incremental accumulation of contradictions to the flare-up of conflicts, hence with the strong flavor of being unexpected and covert; regarding to the degree and nature, global security threat has gone beyond the general problems that mankind will run into in the course of fighting for survival and development, thus with a critical nature of urgency and chain-reaction.

IV. The pattern of national development is becoming pluralistic and the tendency of events is toward identifying a sustainable development model suitable for each country's own national conditions

As the Cold War demises, some states started to look up to the Western model as the accepted criterion of development, thus turning it into a mainstream model of development copied after by many countries. The U. S. scholar Mr. Francis Fukuyama stated in his book The End of History and the Last Man that the Western democratic system would become the universal system.[7] To echo his view, the American economic circle played up the so-called "Washington consensus", suggesting that neo-liberalism would become the global universal model. For a time, capitalism became very popular and it seems that the Western value would dominate the whole world.

The breakout and spread of the international financial crisis witnessed in the first decade of this century subjected the so-called "Washington consensus" underpinned by the theory of neo-liberalism to worldwide denunciation. As a derivative of the international financial crisis, the European sovereign debt crisis is becoming in­creasingly worsened and the ills of the national development model featuring "high tax and high social welfare" have further manifested themselves. As a result, the Western value and the Western model of development are called into question. A reflection upon the road and model of capitalism swept the globe. In striking contrast to this is the development of the major developing countries who lay stress on unfolding development in light of their own national conditions and on making constant effort to identifying novel development pattern suitable for their own development. In the case of China, it has been sticking to reform and opening-up, and to the promotion of socialist market economy, which effort has been paid off by the realization of economic development, political stability and social harmony. As a result, the "Beijing consensus" and "China model" have been given much weight to and learnt from by more and more countries. The Global Trends 2025 issued by the U. S. National Intelligence Council stated that China adopted a development model entirely different from the Western one for its economic development, which would double its appeal to some developing countries in the next 15 to 20 years. India has invested greater efforts in promoting service industry; has developed itself into "software superpower"; and has placed itself on the road of sustainable development featuring low energy and resources consumption and more stress on environmental protection. Russia is on the way of rejuvenation by primarily relying on energy economy and resorting to energy diplomacy. The president of the U. S. Eurasia Group Mr. Bremer held that liberal capitalism headed by the U. S., Europe and Japan is declining progressively and the emerging economies like China, Russia and more will usher in an all-round revival.[8]

Mr. Francis Fukuyama asserted in 1989 that the American model was superior to any other kind of development model. However, 20 years later in 2009, he had to correct his former judgement by saying that objective facts had demonstrated that Western freedom and democracy might not be the end of the evolution of human history. As China rises, the theory of the end of history remains to be reconsidered and polished. The mankind's treasure-house of thinking needs to reserve some room for the Chinese tradition.[9] The 10 years of exploration for the right model of development for each country has made it clear to us that the selection of the right model and road of development for every country is a matter of great strategic importance that has a bearing on the rise and fall, or the success or failure of a state. Only on the basis of scientific comprehension of and correct size-up of both the international and internal situations, can the selection of a development model suitable for a given country ensure peace, stability and development for that country.

 (Translated by Gu Dong)


[1] Zbigniew Brzezinski: "The Grand Chess-board-American Primacy and Its Geographic Imperatives". Translated by China Institute of International Studies, published by Shanghai People's Publishing House,the 2010 edition.

[2] People Network: "Lessons Left Behind to the World by the American Unipolar Era", November 2, 2009. URL < GB/1029/42358/10304559. html>.

[3] Paul Krugman: "The Big Zero", The New York Times ,December 28, 2009.

[4] The U. S. National Intelligence Council; Global Trend 2025 : A Transformed World; Translated by the Institute of American Studies of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, Current Affairs Publishing Но use,the 2009 edition.

[5] Niall Ferguson: "In China's Orbit",the U. S. Wall Street Journal, November 22, 2010.

[6] Martin Wolf: "How the noughties were a hinge of history", The British Financial Times, December 28, 2009.

[7] Francis Fukuyama: The End of History and the Last Man, Translated by Huang Shengqiang et al., China Social Science Publishing House, 2003.

[8] Li Shenming: "World in Reflection" , Social Science Documentation Publishing House, 2010.

[9] Francis Fukuyama: "Japan must face China's Century head-on" , Chuokoron, September 2009.

На Растку објављено: 2012-01-20
Датум последње измене: 2012-02-03 16:51:34

Пројекат Растко / Философија / Философија рата и мира