Foreign Policy Blogs

The United States, China, and the Middle East Revolutions

It’s hard to throw a virtual rock nowadays at any foreign affairs publication and not find statements of the demise or fall of American power. In many ways, these are accurate statements as American economic power is falling in proportion to some of the rising economies around the world (although it is still top dog by a fair amount). But how about in terms of military, ideological, and political power? I would argue that in these spheres the United States maintains unparalleled influence when compared to other present great powers. The current uprisings in the Middle East showcase the continual relevance of American power, especially compared to its great power competitors. Daniel Blumenthal of Shadow Government notes that….

The unrest in the Middle East reveals, then, two important facts about China. First, talk of its impending global leadership is greatly exaggerated. Second, we should adequately prepare for China’s day of reckoning as well. A tired United States may wish someone else would help manage the global order; wishing is not going to make it happen.

In what ways are the citizens protesting/revolting, present autocrats, and hopeful future leaders of Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, etc. courting the approval/help of China? None, that I can see. What is China saying about these movements in the Middle East? Next to nothing. China seems only concerned as to how these protests might spread to their mainland or oil prices. When you are afraid of your own people, how can you spread your influence around the globe in an effective, all encompassing manner? China does indeed hold great power and influence in today’s international environment, but the events of the Middle East the past few months should give pause to those who say the American moment has passed.

That being said, the events in the demonstrations and revolutions occurring in North Africa, the Arab world, and Iran also demonstrate the limits of American power. I mean, President Obama hosted now former President Mubarak at the White House just a couple months before he was sent to the dust bin of history. The US was not only shown to be caught off guard by the Egyptian revolution, but in many ways, powerless to affect its outcome.

Nevertheless, when trouble arises around the globe, whether it be government’s falling, democracy rising, or pirates rampaging, most eyes invariably look toward America.

Pat Frost, Senior Blogger for the Foreign Policy Association Blog Network



Patrick Frost

Patrick Frost recently graduated from New York University's Masters Program in Political Science - International Relations. His MA thesis analyzed the capabilities and objectives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Central Asia and beyond and explored how these affected U.S. interests and policy.

Areas of Focus:
Eurasia, American Foreign Policy, Ideology, SCO