Power Shift? Power in International Relations and the Allegiance of Middle Powers
Within the last two decades, China has been the most seriously debated emerging power seen by academics, politicians and large parts of the public alike to be able to effectively challenge the dominant position of the United States of America (US) in global as well as Asian-Pacific affairs. Indeed, after having enjoyed a brief moment of global unipolarity following the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Washington’s current situation has changed remarkably. Some points are particularly worthy to be mentioned. To begin with, the world’s former hyperpuissance (Hubert Védrine) has to recover from the worst global economic crisis since 1929. The US unemployment rate is up to almost 10% (far away from the 4% in 2000), its federal budget deficit is estimated to reach 1.4 trillion USD in 2011 (Younglai 2011) and total outstanding public debt skyrocketed to 14.7 trillion USD in September 2011 (US Treasury 2011). Secondly, the US continues to be heavily engaged in large military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military missions in these two war-torn countries do not only continue to cost US tax payers much money and account for the death of hundreds of US soldiers and local civilians, but – more important from a strategic perspective – have bogged down the US military for some years to come. Finally, Washington is confronted with an increasingly assertive and economically rising China in Asia-Pacific, a region that according to high-ranking US politicians has “become more closely interlinked than ever before” (Obama 2009) with the fortune of America, “is a key driver for global economic growth” (Kirk 2009) and a place, “where much of the history of the 21st century will be written” (Clinton 2010).