Politics loves its historical analogies and today, perhaps, there is no more common a comparison to the Trump presidency than the Reagan administration. Reagan's tenure was marked by his successful competition with the Soviet Union. Does Reagan provide a blueprint for triumphing over modern Russia?
By leveraging the efficiencies of globalization and cultivating ties with prosperous partners, Russia could increase its economic potential and improve living standards for its people. And by engaging more positively with the world, it could gain influence in the forums that matter, such as the G20 and multilateral institutions.
Today's world order is increasingly defined by competition between the United States and a host of major powers, especially China and Russia. Who is America's principal competitor and over what is it competing? What is America’s ultimate objective? And how will it prepare its economy and its society for infinite competition of an indefinite nature?
The United States occupies the central role in a world order that, while under growing duress, remains a central organizing framework in world affairs. There are many trajectories along which U.S.-China relations might evolve if China aims to displace the United States for global pre-eminence.
The Trump administration has taken steps that represent a significant retreat from the norm-based, world order that the United States has championed since 1945. If this shift continues, what might be the impact?
The Trump administration's Africa strategy combines a turn away from counterterrorism as a priority, emphasis on trade, and working to help Africans solve their own problems, all of which could be opportunities for a more positive relationship. The implied prioritization of great power competition, however, suggests the real risk of a return to Cold War-era approach.
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Japan may never be a global leader in a way comparable to the United States. But Tokyo does have the power to provide critical leadership that will sustain key elements of the crumbling international order.
As disputes between Beijing and Washington over trade and other issues intensify, analysts have highlighted domestic factors as reasons why President Xi Jinping may resist compromise. However, China's pursuit of a greater international leadership role likely plays an overlooked, but increasingly important role.
The postwar order seems poised to continue eroding, without a clear alternative in the offing. It has often taken cataclysmic events to inaugurate new eras of geopolitical order, but one hopes that the postwar order will instead be reinvigorated through farsighted statecraft.
Even if America bails on the international order there is plenty of evidence that Europe, China, Japan, and the rest of the developed world will maintain existing multilateral structures and build new ones. The order will survive but may become less liberal, less democratic, and perhaps less peaceful.
As the world enters an era of greater international competition, U.S. policymakers should take care not to underestimate the importance of the postwar system. The order is far from a myth; it is the United States' most important competitive advantage.
As U.S.-China trade tensions continue to rise, many observers are focused on the potential for a full-fledged trade war that could destabilize the world economy. But there are security concerns as well. A China less constrained by and invested in economic ties with the United States could pose a greater challenge to U.S. foreign policy.
In Beijing's estimation, key geopolitical developments have increased the possibility that China will face a power transition with the United States in coming years. In response, Chinese officials are laying the groundwork to manage that transition and ensure a leading role for their country in the emerging international order.
Past efforts to introduce world order have resulted less from foresighted statecraft than from cataclysmic upheavals such as World War II. If the current international system erodes, what might have to happen for a new one to emerge?