Is there a global power shift from West to East?

Saturday 31 October, 10.30am until 12.00pm, Henry Moore Gallery

The current economic crisis has led to calls for a new financial order, a Bretton Woods II. But can US President Obama reshape the world in the way that Roosevelt and Truman did when America was the supreme world power? Or is China ready to take over from America and lead the world? It is less than a century since Britain effectively surrendered its position as a military superpower to the US, having first been eclipsed by American economic power. The UK only hung on to a certain superiority based on assumed cultural pre-eminence and expertise in international diplomacy compared to its brash American cousins. Today, while America no doubt remains the world’s biggest economic and military power by far, it is also clear that its political power is not what it was. Embroiled in two seemingly unsuccessful conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and facing the biggest economic crisis since the Depression, American might no longer seems to translate into a confident projection of power onto the world. When Obama says America is ready to lead once more, we wonder where exactly he wants to lead us, and why he seems to be asking permission.

Although China may raise the odd difficult question about the role of the dollar as world currency and call for reform of the world’s institutions, it by no means seems ready to take up the baton; instead it self-consciously avoids conflict, projecting only ‘soft power’. India looks over her shoulder at China, while Russia, while maybe willing to lead the world, is hardly a credible or popular choice. Are we entering a new period in world affairs in which the old power is crumbling away from within - more unsure of itself and its mission than under any real challenge - and no new power is ready to take its place? What might this imply for international relations? A new form of global parity and co-operation, or a world bereft of direction and incapable of containing local conflicts, scared of its own shadow?

Dr Kerry Brown
director, Lau China Institute, King's College, London; and Associate Fellow at Chatham House

Professor Bill Durodié
head of department and chair of international relations, University of Bath

Dr Tara McCormack
lecturer in international politics, University of Leicester; author, Critique, Security and Power: the political limits to emancipatory approaches

Gideon Rachman
chief foreign affairs commentator, Financial Times; author, Zero-sum World: politics, power and prosperity after the crash

Dr Philip Cunliffe
senior lecturer in international conflict, University of Kent; co-editor, Politics Without Sovereignty: a critique of contemporary international relations.

Produced by
Dr Tara McCormack lecturer in international politics, University of Leicester; author, Critique, Security and Power: the political limits to emancipatory approaches
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