Historical anomaly of unipolarity has indisputably ended
Published: May 11, 2023 07:14 PM
Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

There's a heated debate in the US nowadays about the future of global affairs. Some believe that what's been described as their country's unipolar moment is ending and giving way to multipolarity, while others believe that the US remains the world's most comprehensively powerful country by far. Understanding the current state of international relations can provide policymakers with a clear and accurate picture of the world they are dealing with. This knowledge can help them make informed decisions and take appropriate actions. Americans first began worrying that their country's predominant role was fading around the start of the Obama administration, which coincided with the 2008 financial crisis. For various reasons, some related to partisan opinions and others to compelling observations about the evolving world order, these concerns continued through the Trump administration and into the incumbent Biden one, but they were recently exacerbated by the start of conventional hostilities between Russia and Ukraine last year. 

Several factors since then contributed to raising worldwide awareness of multipolarity, which simply refers to the system of international relations where there isn't a hegemon like the US was after 1991 or aren't two superpowers like there were from 1945 up until that year prior to the Soviet Union's dissolution. Perhaps the most visible one concerns the documented fact that only a little more than three dozen countries joined the US in imposing sanctions against Russia and/or arming Ukraine. 

The rest of the world remains neutral in practice despite most countries voting against Russia at the UN General Assembly, which in hindsight didn't signal the change in policy toward Moscow that the US expected at the time. Some states might have been pressured to vote that way while others wanted to peacefully signal their disagreement with Russia for its military operations in Ukraine. Either way, the lack of any subsequently punitive consequences like those that the US demanded spoke volumes. 

This observation is all the more impressive when remembering that many of these same neutral states are comparatively medium- and smaller-sized ones with economies that aren't anywhere near as large as the US'. The importance in pointing this out is to show how surprising it is that the US couldn't successfully pressure them into sanctioning Russia and/or arming Ukraine, which speaks to the very real limits of its influence nowadays. 

China is already the top trade partner of practically every Global South country, which imbues them with the confidence to refuse the US' political demands since their leaders believe that they could weather whatever sanctions it could threaten against them as punishment for their defiance. Meanwhile, India's example of successfully resisting American pressure to sanction Russia and arm Ukraine despite its close ties with the US reassured other states that their own ties with it probably won't suffer as a result either. 

America has a track record of abusing developing countries in myriad ways, including through information warfare, political meddling, and strings-attached loans.

Many of these countries have become deeply resentful of the US after seeing how terribly it treated their beloved homeland, the sentiment of which their leaders sought to channel in strengthening their states' strategic autonomy upon being given the chance to do so. The start of last year's conventional Russia-Ukraine hostilities served as the perfect opportunity to do so in a way that would attract the rest of the world's attention, inspired as they were by independent giants like China and India. 

Besides,  the center of global economic gravity is shifting away from the Atlantic and toward the Asia-Pacific over the past few decades. This is directly due to the rise of those two aforementioned giants, but especially China, whose Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) investments helped the rest of the Global South rise as well in its wake. With economic strength comes political influence, and the BRICS countries of which China, India, and Russia are a part want to reform the world. 

They rightly concluded that the US-led unipolar system only serves that hegemon's interests. Such a system is dictatorial due to the US aggressively enforcing its so-called "rules" onto everyone else, unequal in the sense that the West's economic rise is entirely due to exploiting the Global South, and unjust because international law is wantonly violated by the US. Accordingly, the BRICS are leveraging their economic strength to accelerate reforms aimed at making international relations more democratic, equal, and just. 

All Global South states will benefit once the BRICS succeeds with this noble goal, though expectations should responsibly be tempered since it'll still likely take a lot of time for them to institutionalize their envisaged changes. Nevertheless, the wide awareness of those countries' selfless mission to humanity was another reason why all of the Global South defied the US at once since they wanted to signal their support for the emerging multipolar world order that's rapidly replacing the unipolar one. 

And finally, everyone apart from the most media-indoctrinated people in the West knows that the world was multipolar for ages, thus meaning that the prior unipolar period that began after 1991 with the Soviet Union's dissolution is literally a historical anomaly. Never before was the whole world under the control of a single country, but this happened as a result of unique circumstances, not due to the US being "exceptional" like its leaders ridiculously claim. 

With this in mind, the entire Global South has an interest in returning international relations to their normal multipolar model that was in place for centuries prior to three decades ago, which is but a very brief moment in terms of the historical spectrum. Their leaders saw that the opportunity to speed up the so-called "return of history" appeared last year with the start of conventional Russia-Ukraine hostilities, which unprecedentedly accelerated the global systemic transition back to multipolarity. 

Returning back to the debate that was referenced in the introduction, those Americans who still believe that unipolarity exists therefore aren't accounting for any of the factors shared in this analysis. Upon doing so, the honest ones among them will realize that this historical anomaly has indisputably ended and been replaced by multipolarity, thus restoring balance to international relations. The global systemic transition still continues, however, since the latest manifestation of multipolarity hasn't yet fully formed. 

The author is a Moscow-based American political analyst. This is the third piece of the "Quest for multipolarity" series. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn