China’s New Role in Transformations of the Present International System



When Soviet Union and its satellite Eastern European socialist block collapsed, many people throughout 1990s had questioned “Is socialism really over?” At the same time, the world loudly heard Father Bush’s victorious claims such as: “America is the Lord of the Universe,”[1] the “American Model” of capitalism, often referred “Washington Consensus” is the answer to the future humanity, and its ideological mission (i.e., “crush or defeat communism”) is finally accomplished! During those triumphantly celebratory years in the West in general, in US in particular, however, among many concerned peoples around the globe, senses of despair, failure, helplessness, and deep concerns for the future humanity had been further deepened in contrary. That victoriously jubilant mood went on for a while about a little more than a decade or so.

As well-known, however, that hilariously festive mood in US didn’t go long.[2] Together with the 9/11 terror attack on US soil (“still unanswered and uninvestigated fully and seemed to have willfully avoided to answer to many answered questions and suspicions”) in 2001 and the following 2003 “much-opposed America’s illegal invasions and wars against sovereign nations such as Iraq by “lying to and deceiving the whole world” (Noam Chomsky), the world seems to have been dramatically changed since then. The former President George W. (son) Bush’s victorious mood didn’t go long either, particularly soon after his ill-famous “Mission-Accomplished” speech on the deck of USS aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln in May 1, 2003.

Furthermore America’s overall victorious mood seemed to have been stopped when its once mighty Wall Street financial system literally collapsed in late 2008. For almost three decades now under the banner of “neoliberal” ideology, launched during the Reagan and Thatcher era, the US and its key allies in the West, particularly their global financial institutions such as IMF and World Bank had repeatedly advocated the aforementioned “Washington Consensus” prescription. However, those advocated and claimed rosy golden promises they had made had not been fulfilled or met at all. Instead most of those colorful dreams the US-led globalization had promised have been either completely lost or proven ill-advised after all, like in the most disastrous cases such as Mexico and Argentina.

Throughout those years of US-led globalization, many in the world have argued and questioned if their prescribed economic and financial policies, under the ideological guise of neo-liberalism, backed by its twin ideology of “neo-conservatism” (neo-con) of Chicago’s Milton Friedman, were based upon deceptive, illusive, coercive therefore disastrous premises, tactics, and strategies (Klein). Predictably, during those 30 years, the Washington Consensus prescription has produced disastrous socioeconomic, ecological, and environmental results around the globe. In that period, the majority populations of the two main pushers, i.e., the US and the Britain themselves had not been prevented from those disasters either. Under the IMF-dictated economic programs and policies which were after all turned out to be essentially disastrous, countries captive to that IMF rule went into some sort of a wholesale collapse, as in the case of Russia during those disastrous Yeltsin era, particularly triggered by the collapse of once mighty America’s financial system (Klein). But, since then, most significantly, the once “only global superpower” seems to have begun its “unstoppable, uncontrollable, and/or unpredictable decline,” as many global scholars and experts like Noam Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson, Naomi Klein, Tom Englehardt, many others like them, particularly Dilip Hiro have predicted![3]

This grim and dark description of the world is based upon its immediate past and the present history which could be collectively remembered in humanity’s common memories as an experience of unilaterally-, illegally-, and arbitrarily-inflicted brutality, destructiveness, and disaster forced upon the great majority of world’s population. These memories unfortunately are not only the past but still the present also. In large part of the world, still helpless situations continue till this very day. Many have questioned if that US-led globalization, together with its (“bully and cowboy style”) militaristic adventurism, was the main cause. The whole globe has helplessly witnessed the above-described daily sufferings and disastrous experiences which seem to have become furthered, particularly during those eight years of the Bush-Chaney Administration. Armed with their arrogant and hypocritical culture of aggressiveness, arbitrariness, and self-righteousness, the mighty military superpower had dictated the whole world for about two decades now. Indeed, then, it seemed as if a doomsday theory about the “end of the world” was about to be realized. Since then, the world has been thrown into another dimension of despair, cynicism, failure, hopelessness and so on. It has come to many as if there was going to be no more hope for the future humanity. Many then asked: Would there be any hope for the future humanity?

China’s New Role in Transformations of the International System

The new but critical role China can and should play may come right into this very historical juncture, probably one of the most historically crucial moments in modern human history, in terms of a genuine “Transformation of the [past and present] International System.” The past and present arbitrary and unruly international paradigm in its fundamental nature this paper argued so far can be termed the unilateral, imperial and, therefore, disastrous paradigm, i.e., in a word, according to Klein’s 2007 book, “Disaster Capitalism.”[4] Why? How come? What on earth that type of disastrous paradigm could have been continued for so long for centuries? Will there be any chance that mutually-destructive paradigm could be overcome within foreseeable future? If possible, how, by which force and on what occasion can that future be practically realized in this new century?

The “peaceful rise” of China in this early part of 21st Century seems to have presented to the world that China, now as an undisputable major global power, together with other responsible major powers, might be able to play some decisively positive roles to produce major historical transformations in the past and present international system:

1. Role to transform the present world of unilateral international system into the new future of multilateral system, or change the present unipolar world into the “multipolar“ one (Hiro);

2. Role to transform the present global financial system which has been captive to the monopolized dollar dominance into the diversification of global reserve currencies;

3. Role to transform the culture of arrogance, arbitrariness, and self-righteousness in international relations into that of mutual-respect, peaceful coexistence, and co-prosperity;

4. Role to transform the era of hegemonism, militarism and imperialism into the new future of harmoniously cooperating and symbiotic (win-win) world;

5. Role to transform the US-led war economy into the global peace economy by someday finally overcoming the bloody, disastrous and thereby doomed to be mutually-destructive war businesses that have been mostly propelled by America’s global Military-Industrial Complexes (MICs).

However, the above-stated goals and wishes seem at the moment still very much far away from being realistically achievable. Will then China be able to play the above-listed very much challenging roles in order to bring about some genuinely transformative changes into the present international system, particularly when China also faces its own huge domestic issues to overcome? How come could those goals realistically be achievable when the present world is still captive to the world of hegemonism, militarism, and imperialism where the aforementioned culture of arrogance, hypocrisy and self-righteousness are still rampant?

The answers to those grim questions, however, seem cautiously positive. Unlike the 1990s and even most recent years during the Bush-Cheney era, those goals might not be always impossible to be tackled with. It seems now more than any other time in modern world history those goals could be eventually achievable, if China, harmoniously together with other major responsible players in solidarity, could more proactively play those above-discussed roles. It’s not absolutely impossible, even if America has not given up its old “imperial ambitions” yet (Noam Chomsky). During and after the November G-20 Summit in Seoul in 2010, this once mighty sole global superpower seems look much weaker than the most recent past. Today, one  of the most distinctive phenomena in this global power reshuffling process seems definitely the “American power in decline,” which is the main reason why many in the world cautiously predict those above-argued genuine transformations in the international system might not be always impossible.

Dr. Kiyul Chung who is Adjunct Professor at School of Journalism & Communication, Tsinghua University is the Editor-in-chief at the 4th Media, English Website of the April Media Group.


[1] Dilip Hiro, After Empire: The Birth of A Multipolar World (Nation Books, New York, 2010), Preface

[2] Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (A Metropolitan Book Henry Holt and Company: New York, 2007)

 [3] Ibid. Tom Englehardt is the Founder and Chief Editor of the progressive web media in US, called  

[4] Ibid.

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