One year after Capitol riot, is the world entering a ‘post American era’?
Published: Jan 05, 2022 07:14 PM
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.  Photo: AFP

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo: AFP

"We are now living in an age when American dominance is coming to an end, and its security guarantees are losing credibility," writes an article on Russian media RT on the first anniversary of the January 6 Capitol riot in the US. Even if we can't predict exactly when we will enter a "post-American era," the decline of the US will definitely be the general trend.

Just a prelude

The results of a recent poll from The Washington Post and the University of Maryland are alarming: 34 percent of Americans believe violence against the government is sometimes justified. That's quite a disturbing sign for Washington's domestic affairs. It's unimaginable to think that even half of these people might really take violent actions. In this sense, the Capitol riot might be just a prelude.

At the end of June last year, a special committee was established to investigate the "facts, circumstances and causes" of the Capitol riot. However, after more than half a year, no result has come out amid the endless bipartisan tug of war.

The attack on the US Capitol and the aftermath reflect growing division in the US. There are also divergent views on the riot in both the Democratic and Republican Parties. For example, Nikki Haley, a member of the Republican Party, has been openly critical of the Capitol riot. It is afraid that there are even more Republicans supporting the Capitol riot in their hearts. Therefore, it's not surprising that the investigation of the incident faces obstacles.

According to a new poll from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, nearly one-third of Americans doubt that Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election was legitimate. As midterm elections approach in late 2022, accusations of electoral fraud and violence are likely to resurge in every state, especially in some of those in the Midwestern and Southern US. And when election results are disputed, it is anticipated that violence may also increase.

A divided US

Coincidentally, The Wall Street Journal and The Hill respectively published articles on Monday with titles that began with the phrase "to save America." One title read "To Save America, the GOP First Has to Save Itself," the other reading "To save America, we need a council of presidents." 

There is a severe division within the US. Some people think that political polarization cannot be resolved and can only be controlled. But the US has no effective measures for control at all. Take the pandemic fight as an example. It's fair to say that the federal government has "lied flat" and did nothing to stop the spreading.

Biden recently told the nation's governors that there is no federal solution to the pandemic and the next steps in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic had to be taken at the state level. But in fact, many things still need to be done under the leadership of the federal government. The US federal government now appears to be an old man in his twilight years. It looks quite exhausted and helpless to achieve its goals. The US' inaction in both internal affairs and diplomacy is a pretty terrible thing. If I were an American, I would feel that this is a rather depressing time.

The root cause for various problems in the US is the contradiction between different social classes. But with the meddling of US politicians, the contradiction has been turned into a bipartisan issue. Under the so-called political correctness, the class contradiction has been converted into other inexplicable controversies. For instance, can Americans own guns? Should people be vaccinated or wear masks? Behind these controversies are the hardships of the people and their discontent. Both the middle class and the grassroots communities feel increasingly hopeless. Their discontent, as a result, will accumulate, further creating more turmoil in the US. 

The 'post-American era'

The US now is no longer capable of dominating the world due to its internal systemic festering. There was a period of time after the Cold War when the US felt as if it was invincible. Indeed, it did have the capability to fight anyone it wanted then. But this is no longer the unipolar era that the US has enjoyed for the past few decades. Americans may also know in their hearts that that time is gone, as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have weakened their confidence.

Moreover, there are still two countries that have the absolute ability to protect their own sovereignty: China and Russia. In Washington's strategic view, any country other than the US should not have sovereignty. In other words, the US can theoretically eradicate any person or government that it wants. But Beijing and Moscow have made the US lose the ability to do so, as both are engaging in more cooperation to maintain stability in the world.

The end of US hegemony is also proven by the fact that the days when the US could easily bring other countries to their knees by using the stick of sanctions are gone. For example, Washington has been trying to suppress 5G technology from Chinese tech giant Huawei. It did manage to make Huawei lose some of its smartphone business. However, Huawei was not "ended" by the US, and without the former, the latter's 5G technology development is still lagging behind.

The US seemed to believe that it could do anything if it was able to control Huawei. But the reality is that it has neither received any substantial benefit nor caused much damage to China. Instead, the country has set a bad example to the world and lost its credibility.

Judging from the current global situation, it looks that the US is in gradual decline. But such a trend could be slowed if young, strong politicians come to the stage with the right policies. The US is now like a patient suffering from a chronic disease lying in a hospital bed and barely able to open their eyes. 

The future of the US depends on a renewal of the "youth" of US politics. If nothing changes, the US will continue to project that it can't open its eyes in the face of difficulties.

Even though the two-party system has been working well for almost 100 years in the US, there are still some undercurrents. Democratic and Republican Parties can now barely maintain the two-partite system. 

It seems that US politics is a matter of coordination between two groups of people, but in reality, it is much more complicated since the spectrum within both parties is complex. For example, the left-wing of the Democratic Party, including the young Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (also known by her initials AOC), holds opinions that are completely different than those of traditional Democrats.

If we really enter the "post-American era" one day, I think it will be a better time for consultation, and the world will become a more democratic place. We can't predict when that time will come, but we can be prepared for that day. 

The author is a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn