John Mearsheimer is a political science professor at Chicago University. He is well known for his hegemony theory which describes how great powers strive for becoming a regional hegemony and ultimately compete for world hegemony. Professor Mearsheimer is also a military historian who is versed in the modern history of the rise, fall and struggle of empires. Hence, he uses historical examples as evidence to describe how big nations strive for regional hegemony then world hegemony. He cited the European history where empires rose, fought, and collapse, in particular the British empire growing to dominate the world. There was also the Japanese Imperial power which rose in Asia as a hegemony with the desire to conquer China, Asia, and then the world but failed. He prescribed the U.S. as a big nation expanding in America as a regional hegemony (Monroe doctrine was its strategy to fend off other powers so she can dominate South America). The two world wars benefited the U.S. allowing her to become a superpower striving for a global hegemony against the Soviet Union, an opposing hegemony. The bipolar hegemony struggle between the U.S. and the Soviet Union lasted four and half decades and ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990. During that time and forward, China quietly rose economically. The realists interpreted that as a mistake the liberals made believing that China would turn to democracy (controlled by the U.S. like Japan) as China's economy got better. (Mearsheimer regarded China’s rise as caused by an incorrect U.S. liberal policy with a hegemony goal nevertheless.) Essentially, Mearsheimer believed that China was marching onto the road to becoming a regional hegemony aiming to be a global hegemony in competition with the U.S. eventually becoming a bipolar hegemony conflict. This author, although accepts hegemony theory to some extent, he does not agree with Professor Mearsheimer's assessment of China. This author will offer an alternative interpretation later.
Mearsheimer’s hegemony theory above is plausible and convincing with the support of modern history. Many people including this author, being conservative and realistic about international relations, do agree with Professor Mearsheimer’s arguments and buy into his hegemony theory. The U.S. liberals deny the U.S. hegemony behavior by facade it with hypocritical liberal slogans and actions. (such as democracy, freedom and human rights.) Thus, what the U.S. did in South America, toppling governments that are in disagreement with the U.S., is touted as the people's liberal movement - the people seeking democracy and freedom. In reality, most South American governments are essentially under the thumbs of the U.S. with little to show for achievement in terms of improving their citizens' welfare. The growth of per capita GDP in South America compared poorly to Europe and Asia offers a strong argument. The recent rise of socialist governments in South America is clear evidence. Mearsheimer also interpreted the U.S. Middle East policy, especially the Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria wars inflicted by the U.S., as hegemony actions not as liberals claim as a democratic movement. The present U.S. Administration under Biden are liberal Democrats but they have stirred up the Russian-Ukraine war under the strategy of expanding NATO (a hegemony strategy) and heightened the anti-China actions by creating AUKUS, QUAD+, and pushing NATO into Asia. This author agrees with Professor Mearsheimer’s interpretation of the current U.S. Russia and China policy as hegemonial but he will offer a different opinion on treating Russia and China as the same type of hegemony rival. Tracking Russia's history does give ample evidence to support Mearsheimer’s prescription of the U.S.- Russia conflict as a hegemony struggle (particularly considering the behavior of the Soviet Union). However, China is a very different country with a unique culture, this author will offer a different perspective about China – it is not a hegemony rival to the U.S.
China is a country having 56 ethinicities, but they appear to the world, especially the Western world, as a homogeneous group of people (their appearances, common language, and similar customs.) When the West is agitating against the Taiwan Strait as the most dangerous place on Earth, the Westerners have a hard time telling the Mainland Chinese and Taiwan Chinese apart. So is Hong Kong Chinese, look the same just like Mainland or Taiwan Chinese with a strong common bond in culture. The Chinese people are cultivated over a long history to appear homogeneous yet keep their differences (four to five thousand years) and have a very distinct political culture. There were a few wars that could be characterized as hegemony wars by Mearsheimer's definition, but, by and large, people live by their land not so concerned about who is in control of the government so long the government is caring not slaving the people. The Chinese people are more democratic in their mind, thinking, philosophy and relationship with the ruling authority than in forms such as citizenship labels and ways to cast a vote. A profound Chinese political philosophy believes that People’s thinking is like water, fluidic, which can uphold a boat (the government) but can also topple a boat as well. People’s thinking is in their minds and transmitted by their words. No government can control people’s minds, especially their thinking on the fundamental level - how do they feel about their lives? This fundamental political philosophy eliminated the hegemony thoughts and cultivated a harmonious co-existence and tolerant communal culture.
Assuming China will behave like a hegemony, like the Soviet Union, the Nazi Germany, the Imperial Japan or the United States to fit Mearsheimer’s hegemony theory is baseless. Chinese history is different from Western history, it has much longer time and more evidence showing that the Chinese attracted other people to join them rather than interested in hegemony expansion. China never went beyond mid-west Asia nor hopped over the ocean to conquer Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, or Indonesia. China’s rise in economy is a natural result due to its diligent population and rich advanced culture. China’s rise in the military is a response to the pressure from the West, the hegemony forces and the century humiliation it suffered from invaders. The hegemony behavior of the U.S. making Japan as the watchdog of the U.S. is the biggest mistake, instead of resolving the sin and hatred created by Japan onto Chinese and Asian people, the U.S. condoned the hegemony deeds Japan made and justified the U.S. own hegemony behavior (against the Soviet Union and now China). Creating a poppy fake democratic government in Japan but allowing the spirit of Imperial Japan to live on is the most hypocritical democracy the U.S. ever created. The Japanese government may follow the U.S. hegemony strategy to target China, but the Japanese people know China is not a threat to Japan (throughout all Chinese dynasties, China never invaded Japan only the other way around). This truth eventually will prevail despite of the whitewashing effort by the right-wing Japanese government on Japanese textbooks.
Although Mearsheimer is trying hard to warn people that the current bipolar hegemony conflict may lead to a devastating nuclear war, unfortunately, the current U.S. Administration and many Americans are locked into the hegemony theory. (Mearsheimer was too convincing by using modern history) Professor Mearsheimer ought to delve into Chinese history regarding their unique 'anti-hegemony philosophy'. Given that nuclear war is mutually destructive and possibly ends humanity, we must find an alternative to hegemony behavior. The U.S. and China with a giant ocean in between must and can co-exist in harmony. Instead of arguing how hegemony theory worked in the past 150 years, we must be wise enough to offer an anti-hegemony theory to work for mankind.