Commentary: The Threat of a China-Centric New World Order

Xi Jinping

Writing in the January/February 2022 issue of Foreign Affairs, the Hoover Institution’s Elizabeth Economy explores Chinese President Xi Jinping’s efforts to shape the international order by “fundamentally transforming the global system” to reflect Beijing’s interests and values. The leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), she explains, seeks nothing less than to replace the U.S.-led post–World War II global order with a “China-centric order with its own norms and values.” To understand what is at stake here, let’s talk geopolitics.

Since the end of the 19th century, the world has been what the great British geopolitical thinker Sir Halford Mackinder called a “closed political system.” The end of the age of discovery ushered in a post-Columbian world where, in Mackinder’s words, “Every explosion of social forces, instead of being dissipated in a surrounding circuit of unknown space and barbaric chaos, will be sharply re-echoed from the far side of the globe, and weak elements in the political and economic organism of the world will be shattered in consequence.” The events of the 20th century confirmed Mackinder’s observation — through two world wars and one cold war, the center of the world’s geopolitical landscape shifted away from Europe to North America and Asia. At the end of this “long war,” which lasted from 1914 to 1989, the formerly Euro-centric international system was at first temporarily replaced by America’s “unipolar moment,” which gradually receded with the emergence of today’s bipolar geopolitical contest between the United States and China. 

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Commentary: The Nature of the Chinese Threat

It is almost impossible to describe adequately how absurd the partisan abrasions of American politics appear after listening to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s virtual address earlier this week to the inevitable World Economic Forum at Davos. A more unlikely setting could not be imagined: Davos is a dingy, cold, little town inhabited by grumpy German Swiss with inferior hotels and restaurants and one of the few benefits of the coronavirus pandemic is that Davos is now virtual and the rigors of its Spartan, humorless, relentless globalism may be moderated somewhat by the comforts of home. 

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