US-China relationship, Great Powers, non-state actors, 21st century

Interview by: Leonhardt van Efferink (October 2011) Tags: US-China relationship Great Powers non-state actors 21st century Sino-Russian alliance Third World War prediction United Nations Security Council

Dale Walton

Dale Walton

Dale Walton book cover

Dr. C. Dale Walton is a Lecturer in International Relations and Strategic Studies at the University of Reading. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Hull.

His research interests include strategic relationships and security in Asia, geopolitics and the changing geostrategic environment, and U.S. military and strategic history.

This interview is about Dr. Walton’s most recent book, “Geopolitics and the Great Powers in the Twenty-first Century: Multipolarity and Revolution in Strategic Perspective”. It focuses on the decline of U.S. unipolarity and the emergence of eastern Eurasia.

He also is the author of “The Myth of Inevitable U.S. Defeat in Vietnam” and a co-author of “Understanding Modern Warfare”. His forthcoming “Grand Strategy and the Presidency: Foreign Policy, War, and the American Role in the World”, will be released in early 2012.

More information on his work can be found here:

Website of Dale Walton

The world order III – the future

What kind of world order do you expect to emerge in the 21st century and why?

I have long expected that multipolarity will re-emerge, with several great powers competing for influence — and, hopefully, also cooperating to maintain global prosperity, deal with failed states, and address other issues.

“These great powers almost certainly will include the United States, India, China, Japan, and Russia. The European Union certainly would be one of them, if it were to pursue a truly unified foreign policy — this, however, seems increasingly unlikely.”

These great powers almost certainly will include the United States, India, China, Japan, and Russia. The European Union certainly would be one of them, if it were to pursue a truly unified foreign policy — this, however, seems increasingly unlikely.

“‘Eastern Eurasia’ is a meta-region that is basically comprised of East, South, and Southeast Asia. Eastern Eurasia is the center of the geopolitical system — the center of the global struggle for power — during the Post-Columbian Epoch.”

There also may be other great powers, too — for instance, Brazil seems to be a plausible long-term candidate. Medium powers, such as South Korea also will be key actors in the system.

Importantly, the geographic center of this system will be what I prefer to call ‘Eastern Eurasia’: a meta-region this basically is comprised of East, South, and Southeast Asia. Just as Europe was the center of the global geopolitical system during the Columbian Epoch — the center of the global struggle for power — Eastern Eurasia is the center of the geopolitical system during the Post-Columbian Epoch.

What will be the role of non-state actors in the 21st century world order?

That’s very difficult to say. I think that much will depend upon further technological developments and how political communities respond to those developments.

“Some kinds of non-state actors are likely to be increasingly important: transnational religious organizations and certain kinds of NGOs (such as those representing diaspora and other minority communities), for example.”

I do, however, think that some kinds of non-state actors are likely to be increasingly important: transnational religious organizations and certain kinds of NGOs (such as those representing diaspora and other minority communities), for example. Large multi-national corporations and global media outlets are already quite powerful, and I expect that to continue—although I would hasten to add that corporate and media power is no sure guarantee against great power wars.

“I do not, however, expect the United Nations to have a much more important role than it now has. Indeed, I expect that it will become less important, as the Security Council increasingly does not reflect the real distribution of power amongst states.”

Some international organizations, mainly those concerned with economics and trade, also will continue to be important. I do not, however, expect the United Nations to have a much more important role than it now has. Indeed, I expect that it will become less important, as the Security Council increasingly does not reflect the real distribution of power amongst states, and reforms that would correct that problem appear unlikely.

Moreover, in any case, it is too open a forum for the most serious sort of diplomacy; the Wilsonian concept of open diplomacy simply is unworkable. Diplomacy is an art form that is best practiced privately, not in a circus ring surrounded by crowds of hecklers.

“I do not expect the century to be defined politically by terrorist groups and their actions. Terrorism certainly is not going away. Indeed, I entirely expect that new ideologies will arise in this century, and some of those ideologies will be violent, so we may even see new and important terrorist groups that are not based on Islamism. “

I do not expect the century to be defined politically by terrorist groups and their actions. Terrorism certainly is not going away. Indeed, I entirely expect that new ideologies will arise in this century, and some of those ideologies will be violent, so we may even see new and important terrorist groups that are not based on Islamism. It is even possible that one or more terrorist groups will perpetrate nuclear or biological weapons attacks with truly horrifying results.

“In the 21 century, enormous social, technological, and economic change is going to occur globally, and a new multipolar international system will be born.”

However, that will only be, taking the long view, a small part of a century in which enormous social, technological, and economic change is going to occur globally, and in which a new multipolar international system will be born.

What are the most likely scenarios for the relationship between the US and China?

“My hope is that both the United States and China will be key actors in a basically peaceable system of the sort that I alluded to above.”

My hope is that both the United States and China will be key actors in a basically peaceable system of the sort that I alluded to above. In such a system, the great powers frequently would cooperate in ways that would serve the common good, rather like the Concert of Europe—a Global Concert, so to speak. I think that this is an eminently attainable goal, if both Washington and Beijing seek it.

“Unfortunately, I also can easily image scenarios in which the two countries have a progressively more sour relationship. I think the worst realistic case would be the development of a close Sino-Russian alliance that was unfriendly to Washington and assertive in the Asia-Pacific.”

Unfortunately, I also can easily image scenarios in which the two countries have a progressively more sour relationship. I think the worst realistic case would be the development of a close Sino-Russian alliance that was unfriendly to Washington and assertive in the Asia-Pacific. That would, quite rightly, frighten other powers, and I could easily image war eventually occurringunder such conditions.

“Indeed, if the great powers generally act in a moderate and responsible way, a Third World War is very unlikely. Whether the great powers actually will be prudent, however, is beyond prediction — we will have to see how history unfolds.”

Unlike some very thoughtful authors, such as Martin Van Creveld and John Mueller, I do not think that great power war has more-or-less become impossible. However, I also do not believe that great power war is not inevitable until the conditions prevailing in this century. Indeed, if the great powers generally act in a moderate and responsible way, a Third World War is very unlikely. Whether the great powers actually will be prudent, however, is beyond prediction — we will have to see how history unfolds.

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