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American Leadership in a Multipolar World

LONDON – Giving up the spotlight is never easy. The United States, like many aging celebrities, is struggling to share the stage with new faces, especially China. The upcoming meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank – two institutions dominated by the US and its Western allies – provide an ideal opportunity to change that.

The US must come to terms with the reality that the world has changed. The longer the US remains in a state of denial, the more damage it will do to its interests and its global influence, which remains substantial, if more constrained than before.

The world no longer adheres to the static Cold War order, with two blocs locked in open but guarded confrontation. Nor does it work according to the Pax Americana that dominated in the decade after the Soviet Union’s collapse, when the US briefly emerged as the sole superpower.

Today’s world is underpinned by a multipolar order, which emerged from the rise of developing economies – most notably China – as major actors in trade and finance. The US – not to mention the other G-7 countries – now must compete and cooperate not only with China, but also with India, Brazil, and others through expanded forums like the G-20.