With the collapse of Soviet Union, the US became the single global power. With that position came adulation from client states. | A 1992 cartoon By David Horsey | Published December 27, 2011 | Click for image.
Rise and Fall
In the last 150 years, we have the rise of four powers – Germany, Russia, Japan and USA. In the same period we have seen the eclipse of four powers. The Ottoman Empire, China, Spain – and India.
Some may want to include the Austro-Hungarian Empire – but it was an empire in eclipse by 1850 itself – plus its demise has had little effect.
Remarkably, Germany, Russia and Japan have been through many wars, defeats – and are nowhere near eclipse as yet. Though they have not achieved the ‘eminence’ of the USA, their seat at the global power league is still not taken by any other power.
In a cloud of hubris
USA may congratulate itself in the demise of the USSR, but Russia has seen abolition of monarchy, a painful process in Russia also like in most countries. A 10-year civil war followed the abolition – with Kerensky leading the White Faction supported by the West, against the Communist Red Faction, under Lenin. Communism survived in Russia, from 1930-1990, surviving the German invasion during WWII.
After the break-up of USSR in 1990s, the last 10 years has seen Russian ship regain some sense of direction.
The best thing for Russia
In hindsight, the loss of the Russian Empire in Central Asia, Eastern Europe may have been exactly what Russia needed. Russia’s Empire in Central Asia and Eastern Europe was a huge drain on Russia. When commodity prices collapsed in the 1980-1990 decade, Russian earnings based on raw-material exports also collapsed. The cost of the Russian Empire brought down the USSR.
Without the burden of an empire, the world may see a more powerful Russia. It may even outlast the American Empire.
In the meantime, overcome with hubris, Americans have been thumping their own backs and chests in self-congratulation.
we have forgotten how countries behave as their power increases. We have been living so long in a world where one power has been so much more powerful than all the others. The existence of the American hegemon has forced all other powers to exercise unusual restraint, curb normal ambitions, and avoid actions that might lead to the formation of a U.S.-led coalition of the kind that defeated Germany twice, Japan once, and the Soviet Union, more peacefully, in the Cold War.
The Chinese, as good historians, are acutely aware of the fate that befell these others and have worked hard to avoid a similar fate, following as best they can Deng Xiaoping’s advice to “keep a low profile and never take the lead.” As relative power shifts, however, that advice becomes harder and harder to follow. We saw some early signs of what the future might hold in China’s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea. The response of the United States, which swung in behind the nervous powers in the region, has possibly convinced the Chinese that their moves were premature.
They may have themselves bought in too much to the widespread talk of America in decline. Were that decline to become real in the coming years, however, it is a certainty that Chinese pressures and probes will return. Greater relative power on China’s part might also lead Beijing to become less patient with Taiwan’s lack of movement toward acquiescing to the mainland’s sovereignty.
A situation in which U.S. power were declining, China’s power were rising, and the Taiwan issue became fractious is practically a textbook instance of how wars start — even if neither side wants war. That is why some have referred to Taiwan as East Asia’s Sarajevo. (via The Rise or Fall of the American Empire – By Robert Kagan, Gideon Rachman, and Daniel W. Drezner | Foreign Policy).
Is this what the Chinese think?