Cold wars and proxy warfare have always influenced the world politics as every country is in the race to win the superpower label that can project its dominating power and influence anywhere in the world. Perched on the canvas of influence, the modern-day conflicts between superpowers are fought in the fields of propaganda and subliminal messaging rather than battlefields. The last two decades have seen a spike in the cold war posturing between China and the US. The latter has ratcheted up the narrative in the world of social media, it has become obvious that the play is in motion, yet it requires online strategies and tactics to stay in the race.
There is usually some compelling argument by each side to convince their adherents of their authority rather than fulfilling its responsibility. It is an established adage that when two elephants fight, only the grass gets trampled, that applies to foreign theatres of wars like the Middle East and Afghanistan these days. Like a bull in a China shop, reigning carnage with impunity, the United States gets away with pulling off any unilateral stunt abroad while sanctioning others. Sometimes however, the cloak and dagger conceal a different paradigm behind the veil. Data from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis showed that the US’ GDP declined 3.5 percent in 2020 on a yearly basis. The record decline is the first negative reading since the financial crisis in 2009 and the lowest since 1946. The UK-based Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) had stated that China’s skilful management of Covid-19 would boost its relative growth compared to the US and Europe in coming years.
The superpower possesses a powerful military force that could benefit the rest as well, but the US spends more on national defence than China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil – combined. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which tracks the numbers on military spending from year to year, the top five military spenders were the US, China, India, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. The United States is the world’s biggest military spender, and China is a distant second on the list. In 2019, the US remained the world’s top military spender by far, at about $649 billion. China was second at about $261 billion.
Addressing the climate change is a collective responsibility especially for one that claims to be a superpower. All countries, including developing ones must address climate change. Early climate negotiations at the United Nations recognized a shared responsibility for climate change that relied on developed countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Developed countries are responsible for most of the greenhouse. The United States has been burning coal, oil, and natural gas far longer, with just over 4 percent of world’s population, it is responsible for almost a third of the excess carbon dioxide that is heating the planet. China is responsible for less than a sixth. The 28 countries of the European Union, taken as a group, come in just behind the United States in historical emissions. China has four times as many people as the United States, but the Chinese still burn far less fossil fuel on average than Americans. Keeping these facts in mind it was claimed that the large American role in causing climate change brought on an even bigger responsibility to fight it, with an obligation to send billions of dollars abroad to help people in poorer countries. But President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from a 195-nation agreement on climate change in Paris in 2015. The decision to walk away from the accord was a momentous setback, in practical and political terms, for the effort to address climate change.
With a stable homeland and a superior economy, the United States has always crossed the line of error repeatedly, without suffering much in return. Only a powerful country could engage in a war as insidious as that in Iraq or Afghanistan creating the worst global crisis yet maintaining its stance as the wealthiest state and keeping its allies. It can willingly involve itself in any part of the world. Most countries are too weak to settle issues in their own neighbourhoods and must spend most of their time doing damage control around their borders. Just as China can not ignore the disunion in Taiwan, rebellion in Hong Kong or any of the 10 countries that presently claim Chinese territory – Russia, can not ignore NATO or EU expansion. As a superpower, the United States has a bigger margin to decide on what issues it wants to be a part of.
Immunity from damage also applies to US citizens. The US government can effectively protect US citizens and their rights abroad. The United States stability compels other countries to invest or even finance its dues as dollar is the world’s capital currency. The dominant position the US holds in the world economy attracts smart people from all over the world that revives its workforce.
The facts make it obvious that America is more interested in keeping its title rather than fulfilling its duties as a result of that title. In 1906 Winston Churchill said, “Where there is great power there is great responsibility,”. The quote is so eminent mostly due to the wisdom behind it. People and nations believe that once they have some form of power, they can usually master it over people and abuse it. However, the connection between power and responsibility needs to be carefully set out. United States has enjoyed the status of a superpower for quite a long time and can justify the exercise of its power by showing the use to which it can be put in solving the political and economic problems of the world, not aggravating them.
(Wajeeha is author of two books)