Two issues are addressed. Is a shift from U.S. primacy to a multipolar global power structure likely? If so, is it likely to be peaceful or conflictual? Discontinuities could disrupt linear trends but by 2050, China, the US, the European Union, and India are likely to be the four largest economies. Asian integration will reinforce Asia's increasing global economic share, suggesting the prospect of an Asian century from the mid-21st century, ending U.S. economic primacy. U.S. military primacy is massive and more durable than U.S. economic primacy, but the power conferred by it is limited in scope. A peaceful power shift is most likely because of four mutually reinforcing factors. Firstly, nuclear deterrence makes the consequences of major power conflict catastrophic, so political solutions are the only viable modes of dispute resolution. Secondly, complex interdependence based on economic integration confers major benefits from peaceful commerce. Thirdly, norms and practices in East Asia over three decades of peace are reinforced by East Asian Summits and other forums for peaceful dispute resolution, confidence building, and security cooperation. Fourthly, human agency is inherently unpredictable, but a gradual power shift need not involve existential conflict over vital Chinese, EU, Indian or U.S. interests.
|Keywords:||Asian Century, US Primacy, Power Shift, Interdependence, Cooperative Security|
Senior Lecturer, School of Communication, International Studies and Languages, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, Australia