The Rise and Fall of Hegemonic Powers: the USA, China and the Rest

Overview and aims

The 20th Century was one of transformation and transition, with the older European powers being eclipsed by the USA and Soviet Union. Today the USA is being challenged by the rise of China as the existing political order is once again reshaped. This module aims to explore and critically analyse how hegemonic powers have risen and fallen. It will also look in detail at the continuing changes in contemporary international relations as the result of the increasing influence of key emerging states, especially Brazil, Russia, India and China (often referred to as the BRICS).

By the end of the module you should have an overview of recent changes in the global political order, focusing on hegemonic power politics and the literature and theories surrounding this.

Module content

The module is divided into three segments. The first part will give a brief overview of shifts in global hegemonic power in the 21st Century, in particular looking at the relevant theories that explain these changes. The second examines the changing world order that existing and aspiring superpowers have to work within, as transnational organisations and businesses challenge their dominance. This will focus on how American hegemonic power is coming under mounting strain, politically, economically and militarily. The final part will look in detail at the aims and actions of individual states, in particular their foreign policy goals and how regional and global factors impact upon these policies. Also, how they compete and sometimes act together in pursuit of their overall strategies.

Module topics

  • An introduction to theories of hegemonic power and explaining change
  • Changes in the international system: the rise of transnational organisations
  • The rise of China and its foreign policy goals
  • The USA and China: cooperation or conflict
  • India: assessing its impact on international relations
  • Russia: assessing its impact on international relations

Learning outcomes

After studying this module you should be able to:

  • systematically identify, critique and analyse the relevant actors and institutions at work within the current global system
  • analyse the decline and fall of hegemonic powers to form complex explanations, predictions and policy prescriptions
  • critically analyse the relationship between the USA and China
  • critically analyse the rise of the other BRICS countries and their impact on international relations

This module will help you gain the skills and qualities to:

  • communicate effectively and fluently in writing using e-learning technologies
  • gather, organise, evaluate and deploy data, evidence, arguments, assumptions and information from a variety of primary and secondary sources to produce advanced and critical knowledge
  • follow academic conventions with rigour and consistency

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