Great Power Rivalry | Model Diplomacy
A great power is a country that
has accumulated or simply possesses a critical mass of capacity–economic above all,
but economic then often translates into military, diplomatic, and other forms. And essentially at any moment in history, one can usually pinpoint several countries
that have achieved something of a critical mass. There is great power rivalry.
There’s also great power cooperation. They coexist in this world. After the Napoleonic Wars, you had
the Congress of Vienna, which brought together the principal
powers of that era. And even though they agreed on some things and
disagreed on others, they set up some rules for international relations. Throughout much of the 20th century,
the great powers were at loggerheads, and it led to two world wars.
Later on in the 20th century, you only had two great powers, and
that resulted in four decades of Cold War. We’re now at a moment of history when
there’s only one truly great power, which is the United States.
And let me just be clear: even though the United States is great, there are still limits to what the United States can accomplish. And then there’s a number of
medium-sized powers out there: China, Japan, India, Russia, Europe. But this is a somewhat uncharacteristic
moment in history where the United States is, if you will, first among unequals. We’re fortunate to live in a world
where the United States does not face a great power rival. No one in his
right mind would want to live in a world where the United States faced, on a
day-to-day basis, a great power rival like Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan or
the Soviet Union. Indeed, one of the complicated
features of this moment of history is unlike the Cold War, when it
was easy to identify the principal threat to the United States, in some ways
now it’s much more complicated to come up with a way of identifying and
more important assessing the threats. One way to think, though, about foreign policy
and diplomacy is to see that the weight of this balance in great power relations turns out to be more cooperative
than combative. If the United States and China, just to take the most obvious pairing, end up as
a Cold War, akin to the U.S.-Soviet relationship, neither country will benefit, and I would
see it as a real failure of American and Chinese
foreign policy and diplomacy. That’s one way to think about
the diplomatic challenge for the century.