What is Hegemony?
Hegemony is defined by Leo Chavez as “the system of values, attitudes, morality, and other beliefs that passively or actively support the established order and thus the class interests that dominate it.” This is also described as common sense or the “prevailing consciousness” that is internalized by all peoples. Hegemony exceeds power by itself because hegemony includes domination culturally, economically, and politically. Power alone isn’t enough to be the ruler of the global order.
To be the global hegemon, your country needs to be understood around the world as the dominating country. Your systems, beliefs, and values are pervasive across the globe and your position as the ruler recognized by everyone.
Why would a country want the be the global hegemon? For the country that is the single world power, their “actions and guiding doctrines must be a primary concern for everyone on the planet… [and they] enjoy unusual advantages and freedom, hence the ability to shape the future.” That point about shaping the future is key. The ability to mold the future is the true power because the best way to predict the future is to create it. The future of the world is in your hands.
How the U.S. became the global superpower
The US has, for relative global standards, always been a large actor in global management. As an offshoot of Britain, it benefitted from Western imperialism and allies that ensured the US had significant power even if just a culturally Western advantage. However, the turn of the 20th century marked the start of the US as the global hegemon. The 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, made sure of that. He “seized, and on occasion even manufactured, every opportunity to define that century on his own terms.” During Roosevelt’s presidency:
The U.S. declared war on Spain, expelling it from the Western hemisphere and acquiring Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines; threatened Germany and Britain with war unless they agreed to settle disputes on American terms; supported an insurrection in Colombia to create a new country, Panama, in order to build a canal; and declared itself the policeman of the Western hemisphere, asserting the right to intervene whenever and wherever it judged necessary.
These actions increased the US’s territories while asserting their place with the other global superpowers. Furthermore, it built upon the US’s expansionist history. The US was already had economic power in the world at that point, but Roosevelt wanted the US to have a dominating influence. In a speech, Roosevelt espoused his belief that the US should exert their influence across all societies because “the best that can happen to any people that has not already a high civilization of its own is to assimilate and profit by American or European ideas.”
He unashamedly wanted the US to be an evangelist missionary of Western civilization to the world. This key impact of Roosevelt’s can be attributed to why political scientist Samuel Huntington describes the US as a “missionary nation.”
Roosevelt also began to enforce the Monroe Doctrine set in 1823. The Monroe Doctrine essentially declared the Western hemisphere as “no longer open for European colonization or foreign interference.” Throughout the 19th century, the doctrine was merely talk because the US didn’t have the military means to back the doctrine. But Roosevelt believed the doctrine, “should be treated as the cardinal feature of American foreign policy.”
As a result, he advocated for building up the US navy and stressed the importance for the US to always be able to defend its territory. Joseph Nye writes, “Roosevelt was the first president to deliberately project American power on the global stage.” Consequently, Roosevelt’s steadfast advocacy for a strong military is reflected in how much the US still spends on its military.
World War II
Then, World War II happened, and those events catapulted the U.S. into the number one spot, becoming the hegemon it had strived to be. The aftermath of World War II damaged other rivals while the US gained power. The US was able to gain control over the hemisphere, the oceans, and most territories surrounding it. They also had the large military to defend their position and consequently reorganized the global order in their favor. Noam Chomsky in Hegemony or Survival writes that:
US planners moved quickly to organize the global system, following plans that had already been developed to satisfy the “requirement(s) of the United States in a world in which it proposed to hold unquestioned power” while limiting the sovereignty of those who might pose a challenge.
Up until that point, the US had become the economic superpower but was still not the hegemon with the power to command global management. WWII opened to the stage up for them to claim that spot, which they took and strategically used to shift the global order in their favor.
The US continued to stay strong to their declaration as the global leader into the 21st century. On September 2002, the Bush administration promised that their “forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.” This was in the National Security Strategy the White House released outlining their plan for future security strategy.
Chomsky wrote that this was a proclamation that the US, as the most powerful state in history, would continue “to maintain [their] hegemony through the threat or use of military force.” He continued by saying that this was a declaration that the US believed they had the “right to resort to force to eliminate any perceived challenge to US global hegemony, which is to be permanent.”
Why the World Hates America?
The US’s hegemony hasn’t been accepted without criticism and disdain through. Chomsky wrote that “there has never in history been anything remotely like the near-monopoly of means of large-scale violence in the hands of one state.”
In 1913, Argentine political leader Manuel Ugarte told Woodrow Wilson that Latin American countries “have become open season for the vilest of instincts that in the United States itself are not condoned since they violate notions of public responsibility and opinion… as a result of such behavior, the United States has gradually become the most unpopular nation among us.” Former White House Coordinator for Security Planning, Samuel Huntington, wrote that the US is “becoming the rogue superpower, [considered] the single greatest external threat to their societies.” TIME magazine ran a poll in 2003 where “more than 80 percent of the respondents in Europe regarded the US as the greatest threat to world peace.” And Newsweek wrote that a “war with Iraq, even successful, might solve the Iraq problem. It doesn’t solve the American problem. What worries people around the world above all else is living in a world shaped and dominated by one country – the United States.”
It would be ignorant to believe the US gained all this power without the blood of millions. The US believes it has an inherent right to be the economic powerhouse, the global policeman, and to maintain their global hegemony. That is a right is something China seeks to challenge.
The Rise of China
The Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, said that he saw the 21st century as a “contest for supremacy in Asia” and to “be wary of China.” With the events that have unfolded in the last year, he seems to be right.
The Century of Humiliation
China used to be the dominant country during the powerful Qing Empire and had been for a millennium. The Qing Dynasty, which was the final dynasty in China, lasted from 1644 to 1912. They were the eastern-most point of the Silk Road that the British India Company and Dutch East India Company relied on for trade. Europeans loved Chinese silks, porcelain, and tea however China severely limited their trade through one port in Canton and honestly didn’t have an interest in European goods. Therefore, China only accepted silver for their goods which Europe ran out of very quickly.
However, the British East India Company found a loophole with opium. Because they wanted tea so badly, they started to illegally smuggle opium into China to intentionally addict the Chinese population. By the 1830s, it is estimated that 90% of young males were addicted to opium. This troubled the Qing government and China went to war with Britain and France in two opium wars. China was defeated twice and had to cede Hong Kong to Britain, open ports for trade, give special rights to foreigners in the trade ports. They also had to stand by and watch as Britain increased their opium sales and sent Christian missionaries to Chinese people as further punishment.
This is described as the “century of humiliation” by Chinese people and immediately knocked China off the world stage until 1949 when Mao Zedong won the Chinese Civil War and created the People’s Republic of China.
Recently, China’s position in global economics is the aspect most people know about in relation to contemporary global power. By 2008, China had:
…quadrupled since the launch of market reforms in the late 1970s and, by some estimates, will double again over the next decade. It has become one of the world’s major manufacturing centers and consumes roughly a third of the global supply of iron, steel, and coal. It has accumulated massive foreign reserves, worth more than $1 trillion at the end of 2006.
China focused on becoming the manufacturing powerhouse of the world. They built their power by solidifying China as one of the key players in the global economic order. But these were the numbers a decade ago.
Now the numbers are even more impressive. In relation to the US, “China has not only surpassed the US but also now accounts for roughly 18 percent of the world GDP, compared to just 2 percent in 1980.” The massive economic growth has translated to half a billion Chinese people being lifted out of poverty which is the “greatest leap to overcome poverty in history.” Furthermore, “40 percent of all the growth around the world has occurred in just one country: China.”
This growth has meant that the Asia continent is now richer than Europe in accumulated private wealth with Asia projected to “surpass North America around 2020 with China as the main driver of wealth accumulation.” The growth is not going to stop either. Economists predict that:
China’s economy will be a full 50 percent larger than that of the US by 2023. By 2040 it could be nearly three times as large. That would mean a China with triple America’s resources to use in influencing outcomes in international relations.
By nearly all measures, China is the number one economic leader in the world and will continue to be. But it’s still not enough for President Xi.
Xi has created a couple of plans to “Make China Great Again” all which are described under the China Dream. Allison says it “combines prosperity and power – equal parts Theodore Roosevelt’s muscular vision of an American century and Franklin Roosevelt’s dynamic New Deal.” His vision is not just to be number one in economic terms, which China already is, but in to be number one in defense, science, technology, and culture.
His goal is simple, to return “China to its position, held for most of recorded human history, as a major world power.”
One of Xi’s plans is called Made in China 2025. It focuses on “raising the quality and technological sophistication of Chinese products.” Huawei is the paramount player in the Made in China 2025 plan since it is already the second largest cellphone producer. Number one is the Korean company, Samsung, with Apple in third.
While, in part, the plan is to boost the reputation of Chinese-made products, it is also a strategic move that makes China less reliant on Western technologies. James H. Nolt, a China specialist for the World Policy Institute, said that “China considers [tech independence] a national security requirement because it doesn’t like foreign companies harvesting vast quantities of data about Chinese citizens and transactions to use for any purpose whatsoever.”
Unsurprisingly, the distrust is reciprocated in the Western hemisphere. The US, Australia, Canada, Japan, and the EU have voiced concerns about China using their tech to surveil their citizens and have banned providers from selling Huawei products.
One Belt, One Road
The other major plan of Xi’s is his One Belt, One Road project. OBOR is described as the modern equivalent of the Silk Road and through a network of railways, pipelines, and grids would link potentially more than 60 countries. It’s a “multi-decade, multitrillion-dollar infrastructure project… [that] promise[s] to integrate the countries of Eurasia [and] reflect a vision in which the balance of geostrategic power shifts to Asia.” It would go beyond just infrastructure and economics though by facilitating “policy coordination, trade and financing collaboration, and social and cultural cooperation” between the many countries.
The aspect that has made the most news is China’s investment in countries on the African continent. Many have wondered why China is investing in Africa, what their motives are, and if China is trying to colonize Africa in the same way Europe did.
Leaders in Africa have called the infrastructure project a win-win. The President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, spoke “Where the old railway was built by force and violence against the wishes of those whose land it divided, the new railway is built by consent and partnership. Both between ourselves and China. And between the governments which will prosper and profit by it.” What African leaders hope to gain from this project is improved infrastructure, industrial development, and more jobs for local communities.
However, people have drawn attention to the idea that China could use these new relationships to exploit Africa’s natural resources or place African countries in debt they won’t be able to pay, leaving them subordinate to China.
Xi’s plans also seek to improve the environment with sixteen of the thirty-three target areas about improving the environment. Xi has laid out many different plans that intend to push China’s growth in nearly all sectors such as economics, technology, production, foreign affairs, and the environment. His China Dream seeks to improve China as a whole with the underlying motive of displacing the US from their number one position.
That being said, the US is not going to give up their number one spot without a fight. A fight that foreign affair theorists predict could mean the next major war.
Part II will be published on Saturday, December 22nd.
 Leo Chavez, The Latino Threat: Constructing Immigrants, Citizens, and the Nation (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013), 41.
 Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival (New York, Metropolitan Books, 2003), 4.
 Graham Allison, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydide’s Trap? (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2017), 90.
 Ibid., 90.
 Theodore Roosevelt, “The Expansion of the White Races: Address at the Celebration of the African Diamond Jubilee of the Methodist Episcopal Church,” Washington D.C., Jan 18 1909, www.theodore-roosevelt.com/images/research/speeches/trwhiterace.pdf
 Samuel Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?,” Foreign Affairs 72, No.3 (1993), 22.
 Joseph Nye, Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013), 23.
 Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival, 149.
 White House, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, released 17 September 2002.
 Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival, 3, 11.
 Ibid., 3, 36.
 John Hassett and Braulio Muñoz, eds., Looking North: Writings from Spanish America on the US, 1800 to Present (Tuscon: University of Arizona Press, 2012) 46.
 Samuel Huntington, Foreign Affairs, March-April 1999.
 Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival, 41.
 Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek, 24 March 2003.
 Allison, Blackwill, and Wyne, Lee Kuan Yew, 2.
 Kallie Szczepanski, “The First and Second Opium Wars,” ThoughtCo. ThoughtCo, Oct 25, 2017, https://www.thoughtco.com/the-first-and-second-opium-wars-195276, accessed Dec 18 2018.
 Kallie Szczepanski, “The First and Second Opium Wars,”.
 Graham Allison, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydide’s Trap?, 113.
 G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs, January-February 2008.
 Graham Allison, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydide’s Trap?, 10.
 Ibid., 15.
 Ibid., 12.
 Ibid., 15.
 Ibid., 216.
 Ibid., 108-109.
 P.H. Yu, “China’s rise will continue, whether the West likes it or not,” South China Morning Post. South China Morning Post, May 8, 2018, accessed Oct 21, 2018.
 Graham Allison, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydide’s Trap?, 123.
 Charlie Campbell, “It’s Hard to Overstate How Big a Deal the Huawei CFO’s Arrest Could Be,” TIME. TIME, Dec 10, 2018, http://time.com/5475127/huawei-meng-wanzhou-arrest/, accessed Dec 17, 2018.
 Charlie Campbell, “It’s Hard to Overstate How Big a Deal the Huawei CFO’s Arrest Could Be,”.
 Graham Allison, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydide’s Trap?, 125.
 Tian Jinchen, “’One Belt and One Road’: Connecting China and the world,” McKinsey & Company. McKinsey & Company, Jul 2016, https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/capital-projects-and-infrastructure/our-insights/one-belt-and-one-road-connecting-china-and-the-world, accessed Dec 18 2018.
 Yun Sun, “Inserting Africa into China’s One Belt, One Road strategy: A new opportunity for jobs and infrastructure?” Brookings. Brookings, Mar 2, 2015, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2015/03/02/inserting-africa-into-chinas-one-belt-one-road-strategy-a-new-opportunity-for-jobs-and-infrastructure/, accessed Dec 18, 2018.
 Graham Allison, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydide’s Trap?, 124.