United States of America has come of age. From being yet another colony of the mighty British Raj, she has morphed into a superpower. She has unparalleled military, economic, political, institutional and ideological power and uses them to maintain its numero uno status in the comity of nations.
But, history teaches us that the superpower status of a nation-state doesn’t last for eternity. France, for instance, was the world’s most dominant world power during the reign of Louis XIV. But, Britain dethroned her and conquered colonies all over the world in a bid to secure the world power status. Post second world war, USA became the world hegemon and Britain was relegated to the background. The rising powers of the Asian continent, for instance India and China, are challenging USA’s dominance in contemporary period.
Truth be told, Asia was largely a pawn in the imperialistic quest for glory. Chinese melon was cut in spheres of influence and the spoils divided. India, one of the oldest civilization, was chained and subjugated by the British empire. The countries of south-east Asia were no exception. The Asian landmass was conquered and put to colonial usage.
United States has a crucial role to play in the decolonization of the Asian countries by exercising pressure on colonial powers like Britain, France, Dutch in order to bolster ware preparation against the Axis front led by Adolf Hitler in the second world war.
Was it altruism on the part of America ? Was it benevolence on her part ? Certainly not. In order to counter the rising tide of communism and socialism, USA has to make the move. She wanted to extend her influence in the newly independent nation. This wouldn’t have happened as long as the erstwhile colonial empires held on to their colonies tightly.
Decolonization was put in to operation after the end of second world war. Newly independent nations came into existence. USA, in the meanwhile, has accumulated considerable clout. It had made great war profits. It ingrained itself in institutional structure like United Nations and UN Security council as a permanent veto yielding member. It controlled Brettonwood institutions like World bank and International monetary fund. It possessed the Nuclear bomb and demonstrated to the world its destructive efficacy at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In Asia, the newly independent countries appetite for finance to achieve development activities and social welfare were satiated by Brettonwood structures but with strict riders attached. Structural adjustment programs, though innocuous looking, gently pushed the young nations to a path of neo-liberalism and a market based economy.
USA hegemony had ideological component as well. It possessed the soft power to manufacture consent without coercion. It brought about the disintegration of Soviet Union and ,thus, had the last laugh in its engagement with Soviet Union.
The end of cold war was the epitome of the rise of United States. Today, USA is being challenged by the Asian giants viz. India, China and Japan in economic, political, military and ideological dimensions. We are moving towards a multi-polar world from a uni-polar one.
China, post-reforms, has become not only the manufacturing capital of the world but also a major regional power. China, to a large extent, finances the current account deficit of USA by its capital flows. Economic sell off of USA’s treasury bonds would give USA a torrid time, in case of a political stand off.
India, world’s largest democracy, is the fastest growing democracy in the region growing on a large base. It has a positive trade balance with USA, has been dismissive of USA led discriminatory treaties like Nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). India’s growing clout in the Indian ocean region through which a majority of world’s energy supply line passes.
To add, to these factors, USA is also crumbling under its own weight. Separation of power between legislature, executive and Judiciary often produces unavoidable standoffs on policy issues. Open immigration policy of USA to all talented people has build up a significant Asian diaspora. They are naturalized Americans today but certainly blunt efforts by USA establishment to take a hawkish stand when confronted by Asian powers, by lobbying and opinion building.
Rise of nation-state and their innate desire to prove their superiority over others had never a good result. The ambition of Kaiser William II led to first world war and the desire to carve a living space for Germans by Adolf Hitler resulted in the second.
Antagonistic relations between nations never lead us towards the future we have in mind for the human race. Today, the pressing needs of climate change, environmental pollution, world peace calls for a concerted effort by all and sundry to achieve the goals of a better future for posterity.