A new "new world order"?

Apologies for the lag in posting; life in Nagata-cho has gotten busy, leaving little time to dash off notes.

In any case, I want to call attention to an article in Foreign Affairs by Tufts University professor and blogger Daniel Drezner, called “The New New World Order.”

Drezner argues that US foreign policy in recent years has been characterized by an increasing willingness to welcome emerging powers, namely China and India, into leadership roles in international society, lest they opt out and create parallel structures: “If China and India are not made to feel welcome inside existing international institutions, they might create new ones — leaving the United States on the outside looking in.”

His thesis links to a notion I’ve been toying with for some time. In the early years after the cold war, various international relations theorists (realists, by and large) were quick to point out that a new multipolar order would quickly replace the aberrant unipolarity that had followed the fall of the Soviet Union. Numerous articles talked about the inevitability of multipolarity, and speculated as to which powers were the leading candidates to become the next great powers. (Germany and Japan were the leading candidates — just as Japan’s economy stalled and Germany was forced to absorb the enormous costs of reunification with the impoverished East.)

It seems, however, that those realists were right, about fifteen years too soon — and their vision of multipolarity owed more to bygone nineteenth century European balance of power than to the world order actually coalescing today. It seems that the multipolar order emerging today more resembles the “three-dimensional chessboard” discussed by Joseph Nye and others, in which multipolarity in economics, culture, and politics exist alongside and despite US military dominance.

Rather than resisting this, Drezner argues, the US has embraced the emergence of new powers and sought to revise international order accordingly, given them a stake in the system in a bid to forestall a revolution of the “upstarts.”

This is especially interesting in light of the recommendations of the recent second Armitage-Nye Report, which I have previously discussed at length. The picture painted by the report is of a US more willing to cooperate with China, India, and other regional powers — including Japan — to shape the regional environment so to accommodate the new giants. The extent to which the US has worked to engage China was revealed today, in a talk by Randall Schriver, partner at Armitage International, former deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia/Pacific affairs, and participant in the drafting of the Armitage-Nye Report. (I was attending on behalf of my boss.)

The picture painted by Schriver — whose brief was to discuss China-Taiwan relations, which ended up encompassing Sino-US relations — is of a US that, while still hedging somewhat in the event that China takes a belligerent turn, has fully embraced engagement with China, from the president down. Thanks to Secretary Paulson, the China-US Strategic Economic Dialogue ensures that US fears don’t subvert the overall economic relationship. Under outgoing chief of Pacific Command William Fallon, the US Military and the PLA held their first joint exercises and engaged in a number of visits and exchanges. The Bush administration, like earlier administrations that have entered office intent on taking a hard line against China, is now pushing for greater engagement with China in the hope that it will become, in the words of former Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, a “responsible stakeholder” in international society.

I will close with a number mentioned by Schriver in his talk. In the first Armitage-Nye Report, published in October 2000, China was mentioned a total of six times. In the most recent Armitage-Nye Report, China was mentioned 123 times. It is a new Asia, and, perhaps, a new world order.

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