In the past century, world order changes reflected the results of two world wars and the Cold War. The latter ushered in a period of Pax Americana – an unprecedented short era of one country’s – the United States of America’s – global dominance. This period featured a surge in globalization – a process of the global spread of international trade and capital flows, liberal and democratic ideology, and the establishment of universal rules and norms that originated in America and its allies and partners in Western Europe. The system was upheld by the political, financial, economic, and military power of the United States, which was also regarded as the model for others to follow.
Other major global players were either America’s junior allies in NATO and under bilateral treaties – like Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and others, or were nearly completely focused on themselves: either rising rapidly like China; unshackling themselves from former ideological constraints like India; or trying to reconstitute themselves after a crashing fall like post-Soviet Russia. The U.S. global hegemony was not only unchallenged; it was actually welcomed by much of the world, beyond its Western part, and actively exploited by China to rise quickly within the U.S.-led system.