Research Project

Undermining Hegemony. The US, China, Russia, and International Public Goods

2015 - 2018 (Completed) Project number: 240647/F10

Developments in the last fifteen years have driven renewed interest in hegemonic-stability and power-transition theory. The persistence of US-centered primacy during the 1990s produced new arguments for the stability of unipolar orders recent attention to the rise of China has made the dynamics of power transitions a central concern for work on grand strategy and interstate security.

A key question here, is whether states are status quo or revisionist powers. However, theorists of hegemonic orders pay surprising little attention to the power politics of international order itself, and the mechanisms behind a hollowing out of such orders. Our take on these widely discussed issues will therefore be a framework understanding the US, China, and Russia as engaged in a competition to provide public goods in exchange for support.

What is missing from traditional approaches and their views on public goods, is that rising powers have a much broader array of strategies at their disposal than either to challenge or assimilate the hegemon. There can be struggles to challenge the order in itself, without necessarily subduing to or directly challenging the hegemon as an actor. Rather than a direct challenge to the US as a hegemon, we contend that the US hegemonic order itself risks being hollowed out.

Although states may not always intend to hollow out liberal order, public-goods substitution often undermines its rules and norms. It does so with or without directly challenging the power-position of the hegemon. These questions do matter, because such developments are at the centre of contemporary theoretical and practical debates, from discussions over multipolarity, US power, and the rise of the BRICS countries, to Russias annexation of Crimea, and Russian and Chinese bids for the Arctic. The project will deliver empirical findings based on fieldwork and interviews in China, Russia, the United States, Iceland, Greenland, Kazakhstan, Brazil, and Colombia.


Research Council of Norway

Funding program