American Unipolar Moment Has Ended, Global Multipolarity Emerges
February 28, 2012
Emerging multipolar world
M Zarrar Haider
The last two decades witnessed the expression of unipolarity in terms of unilateralism with invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the endemic Global War on Terror (GWOT). We are now in a new, fast-evolving multipolar world in which some developing countries are emerging as economic powers; others are moving towards becoming additional poles of growth; and some are struggling to attain their potential within this new system where North and South, East and West, are now points on a compass, not economic destinies. A new global order is rapidly emerging where the United States will no doubt remain a very important player.
Yet alongside the U.S. there will be several others. By 2025, six emerging economies – Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, South Korea, and Russia – will collectively account for about one-half of global growth. For now, the US dollar remains the most important international currency. In Global Development Horizons 2011, the World Bank presents what it believes to be the most probable global currency scenario in 2025, a multicurrency arrangement centred on the dollar, euro, and renminbi. This scenario is buttressed by the likelihood that the US, the eurozone, and China will constitute the three major growth poles at that time. It is belived that the world economy is on the verge of a transformative change – the transition to a multipolar world economic order.
China is only the largest part of a bigger story about the rise of new economic and political players. America’s traditional allies in Europe – Britain, France, Italy, even Germany – are slipping down the economic ranks. New powers on the rise are India, Brazil and Turkey. They each have their own foreign-policy preferences, which collectively constrain America’s ability to shape the world.
How India and Brazil sided with China at the global climate change talks or the votes by Turkey and Brazil against America at the United Nations on sanctions against Iran and the veto by Russia and China on the US resolution regarding regime change in Syria, all are signs and symptoms of the changing of a unipolar world into a multipolar and interdependent world.
Identifying Players in the New World Order
The world is changing. It is becoming increasingly multipolar with the emergence of China, India and Brazil and with the resurgence of Russia – forming the so-called BRIC.
The world is also becoming increasingly interdependent, not only economically as recently illustrated with the US financial crisis turning into a global economic crisis, but also regarding the threats and challenges our societies face, such as terrorism, climate change, and poverty and energy scarcity. This multipolarity in the age of interdependence, or interpolarity as Giovanni Grevi names it, will most likely shape the 21st century. The American unipolar moment has ended. Yet, it seems too early nonetheless to evoke true multipolarity.
Indeed, the US remains the dominant power, or the “lonely superpower,” and is likely to maintain its status for years and probably decades to come. America’s decline is not an illusion, but it must be understood in relative terms. US global influence is fading because it contrasts with the rise of the ‘rest’, i.e. the empowerment of other actors at the local, regional and global levels.
In late 2005 Goldman Sachs introduced the concept of the Next Eleven (N-11). The prurpose was to identify those countries that could potentially have a BRIC-like impact in rivalling the G7. Their main common ground and the reason for their selection was that they were the next set of large-population countries beyond the BRICs. The result was a very diverse grouping that includes Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Turkey and Vietnam. The N-11 weight in the global economy and global trade has been slowly increasing, with a contribution to global growth of around 9% over the last few years.