–submitted by Linn Roth; photo by John Bonsett-Veal
In an insightful and concerning presentation, UW history professor Alfred McCoy outlined some of the history and future direction of the world’s geopolitics and presented a somber view of the future of US global influence. Since the early 1900’s, the US has steadily built up its international preeminence and paid special attention to the “Eurasian” axis, which consists of Asia and Europe, and more recently, Africa. Due to actions begun in the late seventies and guided by Zbigniew Brzenski, National Security Advisor during the Carter Administration, the US made Eurasia the central area of concentration in order to establish and maintain its global primacy. President Obama furthered that effort, but in the last two years, the Trump administration has reversed course on three main pillars of US primacy: NATO, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, and relations with Japan, South Korea, Australia and the Philippines. This entire problem might be further exacerbated by a trade war with China.
Additional signs suggest this concern is well founded. By 2030, projections indicate India and China will grow their Gross Domestic Products considerably more than the US, and China will become the world’s largest economy. Moreover, China now files more patents than the US, has built the world’s fastest supercomputer, and does substantially better in its science and math education programs. As most of us can observe at UW, the majority of technical PhD candidates are foreign born, and therefore likely to return to their home countries with their acquired knowledge.
Furthermore, China has become extremely proactive in attempting to widen its influence throughout Eurasia in a variety of ways. This effort might be epitomized by their ongoing $1.3 trillion Belt and Road program, which cuts right through the heart of Eurasia. In addition, they have become aggressive in taking over ports in Italy, Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and in the conversion of sand islands to military bases in the South China Sea. Given these developments, as well as concerns regarding current US foreign policy, Professor McCoy projects that US hegemony will substantially decline by 2030. The eclipse of US influence should give us all pause for thought, and for those interested in learning more about this critical issue, please see Professor McCoy’s recent book, In the Shadow of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power.