Academic journal article World Review of Political Economy

SMALL STATES AND REGIONAL ECONOMIC INTEGRATIONS IN THE MULTI-POLAR WORLD: Regional Differences in the Levels of Integration and Patterns of Small States' Vulnerability

Academic journal article World Review of Political Economy

SMALL STATES AND REGIONAL ECONOMIC INTEGRATIONS IN THE MULTI-POLAR WORLD: Regional Differences in the Levels of Integration and Patterns of Small States' Vulnerability

Article excerpt

Introduction

Multi-polarity, as an evolving condition, indicates that here are more power centres than before and that this trend will very likely continue. Among the several theories that explain the contemporary world political economy, the theory of uneven and combined development (UCD) about the dominant and contender states' struggle is considered most suitable for explaining the patterns of dominance and challenging that same dominance in the world economy (see Desai 2013, 2-3, 10-11). It frames our understanding of the reactions of small states to the dominant and contender states distributed across the world's regions in our multi-polar world.

After the bipolarity of the Cold War era and its geostrategically constrained alliances, and the perceived unipolarity of the post-Cold War era, which briefly lent credibility to visions of the unipolar world and the "benevolent hegemony" of the United States ("the unipolar moment" of C. Krauthammer and neoconservatives), we are now living in the age of multi-polarity. It can be studied through the framework of geopolitical economy, as the discipline of multi-polarity (Desai 2015, 2-3). The term geopolitical economy signifies the full integration of economic, political, and military dynamics between states in ways that elude not only international relations but also international political economy to generate a more accurate understanding of multi-polarity and its history. In this understanding of international affairs, the dynamic interaction of chief dominant and contender states would provide the framework for the understanding of other international interactions.

The contemporary world is a world of multiple powerful actors on the global level, as well as on the regional level, with conflicting interests, economic difficulties of large number of economies, and the inability of "international community" to "manage" the world's most intense conflicts or rivalries.

While the term superpower was current during the Cold War, this category is losing its only remaining member, as the United States declines and the emerging powers rise into the great power category. The likely candidates for places at the high table are obvious: the United States, China, India, Japan, Russia, and the EU make up roughly half the world's people, account for 75% of GDP and 80% of global defence spending (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute 2008). Then there are Brazil and Germany of course, as contenders as well, as SIPRI Yearbook 2008 mentions. The meaning of the dominant and contender states in this report is not the same as in geopolitical economy, which designates the United States as the dominant state, and China, Russia, India, and Brazil as the (main) contenders.

The National Intelligence Council Report, Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds,1 points out that by 2030, no country-whether the United States, China, or any other large country-will be a hegemonic power. The empowerment of individuals and diffusion of power among states and from states to informal networks will have a dramatic impact, largely reversing the historic rise of the West since 1750.

This does not mean that the rise of one or the other is inevitable; one or more of these may prove unable or unwilling to act as a great power (Toje 2010, 4).

According to Wallerstein,

We are at the stage where all the centers are seeking to maintain relatively good relations with all the other centers. This is of course impossible in any medium term, but this is a fair description of the current policies of the multiple eight to ten centers. In addition, none of these centers is internally unified in a very stable fashion. (Wallerstein 2010, 191-92)

For example, in South America, Brazil promotes regional integration through Mercosur and Unasur. China is also broadening its relations with the states of Southeast Asia through regional initiatives such as ASEAN+1, which has succeeded in establishing a free-trade zone between China and the ASEAN states. …

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