Like it or not, America’s hegemony over the world order is ending soon. It may sound too alarming to some, but to ignore this critical point in the story would be foolish.
As the world shifts from a unipolar world order revolving around America to a multipolar order, Americans must be vigilant if we are to survive and prosper in this new era of uncertainty.
The rise and fall of the world’s superpowers over the past 500 years has been astonishing, with the title shared and ping-pong among Western civilization. For most of this period, these great kingdoms, nations, and empires wanted to maximize their own profits while minimizing the wealth of their competitors.
Tthus, the mercantilist economic system was born. According to William H. McNeill’s book “The Rise of The West,” merchant empires were forged to collect raw materials within their borders in order to facilitate internal trade while making foreign trade difficult.
Yet despite this fierce competition to be entirely self-sufficient, there is one empire that everyone else traded with, even when the goods traded were sold at astronomical cost: the Chinese.
As long as goods could be traded across Eurasia, China has been the world power around which all others revolve. China had the largest number of people on some of the most fertile soils with the most stable and efficient government in the world for more than 2,000 years, according to McNeill.
His fertile heart was surrounded by mountains, deserts and jungles, making an outside invasion nearly impossible. China had all the luxuries everyone wanted: silk, tea, porcelain, salt, sugar and spices, according to McNeill. These were China’s top exports and the only form of payment they accepted was cash, according to McNeill.
Several wars have been fought for access to ports and trade routes to China, according to McNeill. The era of exploration was made for finding better trade routes to China, according to McNeill. The Americas were accidentally discovered by the Spaniards when a Genoese navigator named Christopher Columbus believed he could sail west to China, according to McNeill.
However, it was these American lands that gave the West a springboard to become the dominant world civilization. As the settlers cultivated what turned out to be some of the best agricultural land in the world, they created a surplus that could feed an ever-growing population, according to McNeill.
This massive population could be used to harvest and process goods that would reduce dependence on China. Gold and silver mined in the Americas funded Western expansion in the Far East, according to McNeill. Some empires have conquered the rich lands of India and Indonesia, removing Chinese middlemen and weakening China’s global power, McNeill said.
Despite this growing needlessness, China has refused to make any changes to accommodate this new world order, according to McNeill. After all, in the eyes of the Chinese, they were the only true civilization. The rest were barbarians who should be grateful to their emperor-god for acknowledging their existence by taking their money for some tea leaves.
All of these growing tensions between China and European powers culminated in the Opium Wars and the capture of Hong Kong, where once mighty China was defeated by a small impoverished island on the other side of the globe called Great Brittany, according to McNeill. From that point on, the world powers would all be Western, vying for power against each other until one came out on top.
Although there are many names for the period between 1839 and 1949 here in the West, the Chinese have developed their own term: 百年 耻辱, the century of humiliation.
Eventually, social pressures increased so much that, according to the United States Office of the Historian, the Qing Imperial Dynastic government was ousted and left a power vacuum that was ultimately filled by the Communist Party. Mao Zedong and his communist supporters were trying to create a communist utopia, and they decided that the best way to do it was, according to the Association of Asian Studies, essentially to starve the peasantry, destroy the intellectual class and desecrate the ancient monuments and artefacts. .
Meanwhile, China functioned more like North Korea than the Soviet Union, completely isolated from the world outside of the USSR and other Communist countries. However, when the Soviet Union collapsed due to social and economic tensions, according to the Japanese research institute, the Chinese Communist Party made an unthinkable gesture out of desperation to maintain power: it opened China to world trade.
This massive population of China was perfect for the cheap mass manufacturing that the West needed. With investments from the capitalist world, China began its rapid industrialization, which led, according to the Congressional Research Service, to the fastest GDP growth in history. China has grown so fast that, according to the Washington post, it used more concrete in three years than the United States had used in a century.
With a new source of economic power, China began to expand its influence abroad.
It is important to reiterate that China is, according to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, not a free society.
Public shame for defying central authority, forced integration of minorities into Chinese culture through concentration camps and threats against dam rivers that support more than a billion people downstream, according to National Geographic and BBC News, are standard practices for the government, and the fact that China feels it does not need to hide it from the rest of the world shows how confident the CCP is.
The relatively recent Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, according to the Foreign Affairs Council, is the most ambitious and costly infrastructure plan the world has ever seen. New roads, ports and even cities are being built to facilitate China’s trade.
These countries that China invests in are generally too unstable for Western banks and businesses to consider investing, according to the Foreign Affairs Council, but it could very well play into China’s hands. According to the New York Times, if the country China invests in cannot repay China, China is simply leasing any infrastructure built with Chinese money for 99 years, just like the British did with Hong Kong.
China’s plan is to develop relationships with its resource supplies as well as new markets for its manufactured goods. Despite the current blunders of COVID-19, China, according to Forbes, uses this time to deepen his understanding of the world.
As the world is distracted by internal conflicts in the United States, China is slowly gaining influence by providing aid and building infrastructure to impoverished countries around the world, according to the Foreign Affairs Council. Like America, according to the book by Charles A. Kupchan “Isolationism: A History of America’s Efforts to Protect itself from the World, slowly turns to isolationism, China is a much more predictable and rational trading partner than the volatile United States.
If America does not pull itself together, we will be left behind in the world order, and China’s oppression and totalitarianism will make developing countries follow in its footsteps, leaving the world without freedom and democracy.