In sum, the basic structure of the international system is in an ongoing state of evolution, whereby what was once a unipolar structure defined largely by the “American Unipolar Moment” is now evolving into a bipolar structure defined by two basic poles, namely, the United States and China. And as mentioned before, although some have argued that the basic structure is evolving into a “multipolar” system, there is no clear evidence to suggest that this is the case. There is no evidence to suggest that other powers would emerge which in turn could match the hard power of countries like the United States and China.
Moreover, there is no evidence to suggest that a multipolar system would be less anarchic and chaotic than a unipolar system. But what is clear is that a unipolar system is in fact unstable, due to the hegemonic actions and policies of the unipolar power which in turn leads other countries to band together in order to challenge the unipolar power. Thus, it is very much likely that the basic structure of the international system is evolving into a bipolar structure rather than a multipolar structure.
With the basic structure of the international system in mind, one is then compelled to fill in the gaps, and this requires a great deal of detail and nuance, in addition to cognizance of the reality that many things are in a state of flux. One should perhaps begin with the United States, where the American state is in survival mode after decades of corruption and war and after facing a populist onslaught led by Donald Trump. Thus, the American state has two major challenges and on two fronts. For one, the American state must meet its economic and security obligations to other states and thus preserve its global interests, all while fending off a populist onslaught at home. Thus, the utmost priority for the American state at the moment is survival by virtue of overcoming a populist onslaught, so that it can meet its economic and security obligations to other states and in turn preserve its global interests.
Europe is essentially holding two watermelons in one hand, in the sense that it relies very much on the United States for security, all while looking towards Russia, the Middle East, and Asia for commerce and trade. Thus, Europe is very much walking a tightrope, and it is not clear how long Europe can walk this tightrope going into the future. In terms of the Middle East, there is a ‘Cold War’ of sorts going on between Iran and Israel, involvement in which is neither advantageous nor beneficial for the two major poles of the international system, namely, the United States and China. But bringing Iran into the community of nations by dropping economic sanctions will perhaps assuage some of the concerns that people have regarding Iran’s nuclear activities. The plight of the Palestinian people is also something that the United States and other major powers in the international community must bring up to Israel in the spirit of upholding basic international rules and norms.
Finally, there is China, which is developing into a parallel pole vis-à-vis the United States in the international system. China extends more influence into Southeast Asia than any other major power in the world, and it has made global economic and social development its key priority. China’s major demand from the West is a clear interpretation of the “One-China Policy” forged during the Cold War, which China is perhaps entitled to based on the principle of territorial sovereignty in international law. And in the end, an adversarial approach towards China on the part of the United States would be “counterproductive,” and eventually the complexity and dynamics of the China-U.S. relationship will prompt some sort of cooperation and partnership between the two poles of the international system. To conclude, Africa and Latin America may end up becoming battlegrounds for competition between America, China, and Russia. But competition between the major powers in battlegrounds such as Africa and Latin America may perhaps translate into facing limitations that these major powers will probably encounter in terms of the influence they have over these small countries. We shall see.