World order is based on the balance of three elements, economic activities and strength, military power and distribution and political system and leadership. Historically, the world has never been a uni-polar world led by one single superpower. Post WW II, the U.S. has emerged as a superpower leading the capitalist world in confrontation with a communist bloc led by the Soviet Union. As the Soviet Union collapsed after more than four decades of Cold War confrontation, the U.S. had become the sole superpower seemingly treating the world as a uni-polar world. However, many large nations such as Brazil, China, Germany, Japan and India have rapidly advanced their economy under their own evolving political systems (except Japan being fostered by the U.S.); even small nations such as Singapore, Vietnam, and South Korea, have also made outstanding economic progress having varying military strength and different political governing systems. Thus a multi-polar world order is inevitable and the U.S. must accept it.
World order is based on the balance of three elements, economic activities and strength, military power and distribution and political system and leadership. Historically, the world has never been a uni-polar world led by one single superpower. Throughout conflicts and battles, the world has endured millennia of wars with rise and fall of powerful nations or empires led by one or two of the above three elements but never all of the three. Hence, the world has never really functioned under a uni-polar leadership even though from time to time nations rise into a superpower status economically or militarily.
WW II was a long fierce war on Earth extended more than a decade in some regions. Following WW II, the U.S. and the Soviet emerged as superpowers militarily when most other warring nations were devastated and weakened by the war. The U.S. was able to rebuild her economy to be the largest in the world with a commanding position to help other nations to develop their economy. The U.S., benefitted from a democratic political system and a capitalistic economic system, was promoting 'democracy' erroneously in my opinion as an ideology rather than a methodology of decision making to assist political leaders and their governing systems to enact and execute policies for the benefits of their people. With her strong economy, the U.S. was able to win the Cold War against the Soviet Union, making the U.S. as the sole superpower in the world to this date.
Since the ending of the Cold War in 1990, the U.S. is strategically leading the world as a uni-polar world even though there is no unique political system recognized by the world. The U.S. governing system is by no means perfect (from the point of view of other nations) and the UN structure is by no means effective in resolving international issues. In the meantime, many large nations such as Brazil, China, Germany, Japan and India have rapidly advanced their economy under their own evolving political systems except Japan being fostered by the U.S. Small nations with varying military strength and political governing systems, such as Singapore, Vietnam, and South Korea, have also made outstanding economic progress. Despite of the uni-polar approach by the U.S. subordinated by Japan, the third largest world economy, the world is still stubbornly acting as a multi-polar world with China and India rising as great nations and economies and Russia, not only remaining as a strong military power but also evolving economically with serious reform.
Recently, Professor Yan Xue Tong, Dean of School of International Studies in Tsinghua University, in an interview by Global Times（5-3-2016) commented on the very issue of how the US-China relation will become in the evolving multi-polar world. He discussed that the shrinking gap between the U.S. and China in economy as well as in military strength will inevitably lead into conflicts damping cooperation between the two nations. Besides economical competition, the U.S. and China face a number of issues such as unification of Taiwan and Mainland China, North Korea nuclear threat, and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. Although the seriousness of the issues are more attributed to US attitude and actions than those of China’s, Professor Yan's view is that the U.S. and China will not engage in direct war even though the conflicts will continue and get more complicated.
While I tend to agree with Professor Yan's diagnosis and prediction on the US-China relation regarding their current conflicts, I do believe that we need to analyze the US-China relations in a bigger context of how the two great nations will live with each other in a multi-polar world. Most importantly, we need to understand why the two countries should not pursue a uni-polar world strategy and must objectively accept the inevitable multi-polar world in which the two great nations can play a complimentary role for mutual benefits and world prosperity and peace. Only through objective analysis, can these two countries reach understanding and bar emotional decisions as often being uttered during the U.S. presidential election campaigns or the Chinese leadership transition. I also agree with Prof. Yan's conclusion that after a new US President taking office into the second year, the new leader will most likely come to a more rational attitude towards the US-China relation.
As the world is evolving into a multi-polar world, we must recognize a few things. First, no country has a given right to be a world leader. The U.S. earned her superpower position with the victory against the Axis nations and by her post WW II Marshall Plan to restore Europe and her effort to rebuild a devastated Japan. This success may make the U.S. to appear as the sole superpower in the world, but in reality, it is more cultivating a multi-polar world. The U.S. must objectively accept that consequence. Otherwise, she has to deviously destroy any rising economy or country to keep herself as an empire. The latter strategy would never succeed as borne out by the collapse of many empires in human history. The collapse of the Soviet Union in final analysis is due to her own problems in conducting a faulty economic system and a corrupt political system imposed on a compulsory collected states. In an objective analysis, the U.S. cannot view the winning of the Cold War as the success of trying to build a uni-polar world with the U.S. being the de-facto leader.
Secondly, post Cold War, the world order has not become more orderly, rather, it has become more complicated. It is obvious that many global issues whether they are economic problems or security issues require collective deliberations and decision making; G7 and G20 as well as APEC, ASEAN, etc are clear examples that the world is a multi-polar structure and world issues must be resolved by multi-polar leadership. Looking back to the history of the U.S., the U.S. foreign policy has advocated the Monroe doctrine (in America) to keep the foreign powers away while in America the U.S. more or less practiced 'cow-boy behavior’ policies (Guns settled any land disputes or issues). Going forward and beyond WW II and Cold War, 'cow-boy behavior' justice doesn't work. The U.S. must accept objectively the realities presented to her by the multi-polar world.
From the world perspective, the evolution of a multi-polar world to maturity is a blessing to mankind. In this process, multi-cultures and different governing systems will be tolerated and accepted, the human race stands to gain and be enriched. With a balance of power among multiple great nations, the world issues will be most likely be settled with more not less justice. The small nations have a choice to align themselves to one of the world leaders based on their assessment of a beneficial relationship. Prof. Yan pointed out that China may have to pay more attention to her relationship with neighboring small countries than to great powers in the world. This certainly is a logical policy based on a multi-polar world environment.
In a mature multi-polar world, going forward, each nation small or big may align itself economically with a great nation and militarily with another great nation and yet develop a unique political system of its own without rigidly identifying with another great nation. World issues will be settled through dialogues and discussions with participation of multiple relevant great nations.