After the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1991 the world become unipolar. The United States of America bestrode the world like the colossus. America pronounced itself the moral leader and even policeman of the world.
There has always been grumbling about American hypocrisy whenever it condemned human rights violations and undemocratic conduct abroad. However, America’s broad commitment to individual liberty, opportunity, democracy and the rule of law has accorded it a great measure of moral authority.
Moreover, America’s phenomenal economic power, its global leadership in education, research and innovation as well as the unmatched scale of its military power have buttressed its global dominance.
The hegemony of the West was both unbridled and unmatched for nearly two decades. America and its European allies could circumvent global collective governance mechanisms like the United Nations, act unilaterally and declare war.
The invasion of Iraq and the decapitation of Saddam Hussein is a case in point. America and the world chose to look aside as Hutu and Tutsi tribes butchered each other in Rwanda. The Arab-Israeli conflict endures, in favour of Israel, because of the inordinate influence of Israel on American foreign policy.
But the world has changed. China rose. Forbes magazine named Vladimir Putin the most powerful man in the world. Brexit happened. A real estate mogul burst onto the scene in Washington. China’s extraordinary economic growth coupled with trade and diplomacy has enhanced its power and influence in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
China’s economic presence in Africa is burgeoning. For instance, in December 2015, President Xi Jinping offered a mouth-watering $60 billion loan and aid package to Africa.
China has emerged as the world leader in combating global warming. China is now pushing America to meet its commitments, and live up to the letter and spirit of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which according to Xi was “hard worn”.
Vladimir Putin keeps European energy in a chokehold. It is alleged that the Kremlin orchestrated hacks into email accounts as part of a campaign to elect Donald Trump. Ties and contacts with Russia by Trump senior aides are now under Congressional investigation.
President Trump has defended Putin against accusations that he is a killer, asking Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly, “What, do you think our country’s so innocent?” Steve Bannon, anti-globalist and Trump chief strategist, and Putin were both for the Brexit vote in the hope that it would weaken and isolate the United Kingdom.
In combination, the complex political process of extricating the United Kingdom out of Europe and the cacophony that has attended Trump’s early days in the White House have left a dangerous leadership vacuum, especially among societies that uphold or aspire to the ideals of liberal democracy.
A new global regime is emerging in which America fades away, staggered by Trumpism and the European Union is irredeemable weakened by Brexit and the rise of nationalism. Will China and Putin emerge as the axis of a new global regime?