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A stiff test of the limits of American power

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Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, many sober strategic evaluations have said that this will definitely be the American century, or at least half a century of global dominance and influence. This is not a matter of emotional, intellectual, or even personal prejudice.

But it is mainly a question of marked differences in performance and the accumulation of overall power between the US and its strategic competitors.

Indeed, in the last few years, estimates have ceased to be so certain, either because of the accelerated erosion of components and pillars of US superiority, or because of the consistent failures of American foreign policy to solve international problems, or the failure of military interventions, or because early challenges to American influence have appeared, both predictable and expected, like the China challenge, and unexpected, like the one from Russia.

In all cases, we are in the process of comprehensively revising assessments and calculations, especially with respect to issues affecting the management of conflicts of international influence, such as military, technological and economic superiority.

President Joe Biden’s recent visit to East Asia showed that the challenge to US influence is no longer limited to traditional rivals such as China and Russia.

It also began to concern other powers that have difficulty jumping over their threat to the US and its Asian allies, such as North Korea, which resumed launching ballistic missiles just one day after President Biden left the region on a trip in which he promised to rein in Pyongyang.

The fact that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un waited all day to send his message to Washington suggests that Pyongyang is not as impulsive and strategically reckless as some imagine. US intelligence data indicate a willingness to launch North Korean missiles or conduct a new nuclear test in a single visit.

That did not happen, and Pyongyang chose to avoid escalating tensions and simply deliver its message. So this is not the main message for the US, which was more upset and concerned about the launch of Chinese and Russian bombers in a joint exercise in the South China Sea just in conjunction with President Biden’s tour of the region.

The drills show that China continues to demonstrate a willingness for close alliance with Russia, including military cooperation, the US official said. China will not abandon Russia, the official added, On the contrary, the exercises show that China is willing to help Russia defend its east while Russia is at war in the west.

Russia will support China in its territorial disputes with its neighbors to the east and in the South China Sea, he continued. Washington embraced this message during the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) summit of leaders from the US, India, Australia and Japan in Tokyo. This common Sino-Russian symbolic gesture is a declaration of a common challenge to American influence and hegemony.

The question to be answered was the possibility of a Sino-Russian axis or whether the US faced a one-on-one challenge from both powers. In fact, there is no institutional military alliance between Beijing and Moscow. But there is common ground and common approaches.

Their trade and economic partnership is not very deep, and has only intensified in recent years after the Crimea crisis and subsequent Western sanctions against Russia. Also, China does not equally share Russia’s position on the Ukrainian crisis.

One could even see what is happening as the West’s discontent and disruption of its plans for Taiwan, and that it maintains a fine line that prevents it from being economically affected by Western sanctions against Russia because of the war in Ukraine. I think it cannot be argued that there is a Sino-Russian alliance to counter US influence on a global scale.

But there are two separate ways of countering US influence, operating in parallel. But they move in the same direction and have the same goal of undermining American hegemony over the world order.

Here the main challenge to China appears to be Washington, which views Beijing as its main strategic adversary, especially since the latter has not only sent joint exercises with Russia, but has also announced the start of gas exploration in disputed areas with Japan, and has increased tensions on the border with India by building bridges in disputed areas.

These are all messages to QSD leaders who met with President Biden in Tokyo to discuss regional security measures.

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