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The United States and rising powers in a post-hegemonic global order

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Abstract

The changing geopolitical landscape is fraying the fabric of US hegemony and compromises the current structures of global order tied to US supremacy. Emerging powers from the ‘developing’ world, such as China, India and Brazil, are increasingly challenging the US-based order through their individual and collective actions on economic and development governance. They see themselves as lacking a significant stake in the system and have different values than traditional US allies which tend to be advanced liberal democracies. This article examines how the US is attempting to manage the challenge to its position of primacy in the global order. The main argument is that the US has been slow to recognize this threat and is still ambivalent about how to tackle it. It appears that at this stage the US wants to share the burdens of governance with emerging powers, encouraging them to play the role of ‘responsible stakeholders’. At the same time, however, the US does not wish to relinquish its ability to act unilaterally or to be the main voice in established institutions, such as the UN Security Council or the International Monetary Fund. For this reason, the US has preferred to encourage the involvement of emerging countries in governance through informal settings like the G20, while resisting or being at best lukewarm about the reform of formal governance structures. The article concludes that if the US continues to pursue this strategy global order is likely to become more fragmented, with formal institutions increasingly losing their power and relevance; this, in turn, will diminish US power and influence.

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