Friday, April 29, 2011

Is U.S. Hegemony being challenged by BRICS?

In order to elaborate on this headline, I must first ensure that readers understand what is meant by U.S. Hegemony. Today, many consider the United States of America to be a global hegemon. Not as a brute power or dominant leader mind you, but rather that the majority consider the U.S. as being a global leader achieved through consensus from the majority of nations rather than a leader through force. So considering that U.S. hegemony was reached through elements of power -politics, economics, and culture -exerted over other nations, the U.S. requires the consent of the majority of nation-states to keep its status. Accordingly, given today’s media coverage on changes in political, monetary, and cultural trends of regional powers such as BRICS(Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) , is U.S. hegemony being challenged by BRICS? To see if there is validity in this question, let us look at the monetary and cultural components of power.

Monetary Hegemony
BRICS encompass over 25% of the world's land coverage and 40% of the world's population - and hold a combined GDP (Purchasing Power Parity) of circa $20 trillion. On almost every scale, they have the potential to be and are becoming the largest entity on the global stage. They are among the biggest and fastest growing emerging markets. This rising hegemonic powerhouse has officially held two summits -2009 and 2011- where their focus was oriented toward future collaboration, discussing their roles in global affairs, and most importantly their intentions to reform financial institutions, even suggesting the controversial need for a new global reserve currency. Many Americans view statements such as this as absurd, but is it really that hard to take seriously considering that China alone holds over $1trillion in U.S. treasury securities and the growth and strength in their economy. Looking at U.S. hegemony and arguments of U.S. GDP and military still surpassing China’s –it’s concerning for U.S. National Security and Defense when Chinese foreign reserves now equal over 50% of their GDP and the U.S. has to debate whether or not to increase its debt limit. Makes you wonder how long we can afford the costs associated with simply maintaining the most superior fighting force in the world for the greater good. And, it’s almost sad that the disconnect between domestic politics and global economics is jeopardizing U.S. hegemony, where domestic politics is letting the security of a nation be tied up in the “good faith and trust in the U.S. dollar”. Domestic politics may be the U.S.’s biggest enemy. Its faith rests in the assumption that the U.S. earns enough a year to make a minimum payment on its credit card. Although, when you’ve maxed out all your credit cards, are asking mother may I to your credit card company (members of BRICS) to increase your credit card limit, but then tell your credit card company that you’re actually still the one who makes the decisions and are really the one in control. Many economists share this concern, to include Goldman Sachs’s global economist Jim O’Neill whom has a fascinating and daunting thesis on the rise of BRICS with many statistics to support this concern.

Cultural Hegemony
The use of language can serve as a means of creating and applying hegemony. With the U.S. disseminating information through its media to the global public and holding dominance over the internet, the U.S. is, intentionally or not, practicing its influence over other cultures. These influential institutions have subtly used language to frame a message. Now consider the changes in demographics, the rise of the “social media revolution” and BRICS accounting for over 40% of the world’s population -it doesn’t take long to envision how BRICS’ cultural demographics will challenge U.S. cultural hegemony.

If BRICS chooses to embrace the phenomenon of language and media to influence thought not only within their countries, but also across their regional societies and seeing that BRICS is embracing globalization through their own terms, what do you think this will mean for U.S. hegemony, or is the rise of BRICS merely the move to preserve the balance of power in international relations? At first glance, it appears that the U.S. is on a concerning course –where “the ship” is sailing at its flank speed and if the U.S. doesn’t consider new azimuths and doesn’t consider charting a new course, it will reach rough waters and possibly run aground on the shores of BRICS.

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