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The issue of governance in the international system is of great concern o many actors since states are mainly concerned with their national interests. Scholars of foreign observe that actors at the global level cooperate mainly because of selfish interests. This implies that states do not combine forces to achieve collective goals as many would thing.
It is noted that the international system is anarchic, as well as brutal since powerful states determine global affairs, especially in matters related to politics and economics. The perceived weak states are known to fight for their survival through economic and political influence in the third world, but scholars still question their achievements.
James Rosenau and Amitav Acharya are some of the scholars who have conducted extensive studies to establish whether the perceived weak states, particular those in Asia, have any role to play as far as leadership and global governance are concerned. This article conducts a comparative study to establish the views of the two scholars.
The global system is currently facing a number of challenges, including political problems, environmental issues, security challenges, globalization, developmental issues, and terrorism. Amitav Acharya questions whether Asia can be trusted with leadership and governance. The scholar analyzes power ambitions and global governance in the twenty-first century. On his part, James Rosenau looks at the governance in the twenty-first century from a different perspective.
In his view, governance in the modern international system is characterized by potent tension, reflective incongruity, and mystifying paradoxes. In this regard, Rosenau notes that actors in the international system try to pursue unity in the highly uncontrollable society in order to realize consistency and ensure stability.
The two scholars agree that the international system is anarchic meaning that powerful states control major societal affairs, such as politics and economics. Even though Asia is trying to influence the lives of people in the global society, Acharya observes that the world is yet to recognize its contributions. In this regard, Asian states are doing everything under their control to ensure that their power is felt globally.
The scholar observes further that major Asian powers, such as Japan, China, and India, are demanding recognition not only in the region, but also in the global arena. Since time in memorial, the Asian states are concerned with ending colonialism and diminishing the power of the western states.
Modern Asian states are preoccupied with the idea of complaining about western governance, affirming their autonomy and egalitarianism, and in some cases, demanding for compromise and financial aid from the western countries1. Unfortunately, Acharya suggests that China is the only country concerned with its image globally owing to the fact that the global community doubts its role, even though it has been registering spectacular economic growth rates.
The views of many Chinese are that the international system is multi-polar as opposed to unipolar since many states control economic and political affairs. China has risen to the status quo power position, as well as social state.
Unfortunately, Acharya believes that the rise of China to global power has not offered any alternative leadership and governance. This is attributable to inexperience and the fear of backlash from other leading world powers. The view of Acharya on the rise of China is that the world is economically multi-polar, but politically unipolar.
Rosenau discusses the issue of anarchy and conflict in a similar way as Acharya. However, Rosenau’s definition of governance and leadership is a bit different from that of Acharya. Based on his definition, governance is more than the formal institutions and organizations that are often utilized in the running of global affairs2. Overall, the role of the internationally established institutions, such as the United Nations, is critical to governance and conflict resolution.
Rosenau suggests that there is no universal authority that is concerned with managing the global affairs, which means that the international system is anarchic and full of tension. States exist according to the Hobbestian state of nature where life is brutal, short-lived, and nasty. In other words, states play a zero-sum game where one’s lose is the other’s gain. The international system does not have a legitimate government (a leviathan) that can oversee the management of global affairs.
He talks about the emergence and evolution of states whereby global powers resurface and develop with time based on the prevailing state of affairs. Just as Acharya, Rosenau is of the view that the creation of the new world order is a myth that politicians and pundits only talk about to satisfy their interests. In many cases, the idea of the emergence of the new world order is simply meant to prevent large-scale war and violence.
The concept can never be used to suggest that economic development could result to improved governance. Based on this, the two scholars concur that the emergence of China as one of the world’s economic powerhouses does not suggest anything as far as global governance and leadership is concerned.
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Rosenau and Acharya vary greatly concerning the history of states as far as governance is concerned. Acharya’s historical analysis of the Asian states reveals that Japan conformed to the developmental aspects of the west while China tried to revise the existing structure unsuccessfully. On its part, India has little to do, but simply to adapt to the new ways of doing things. Just after the Second World War, Japan came up with a policy that helped it develop by imitating the western countries.
Even though Japan was opposed to the activities of the western countries as far as the control of the Asian region was concerned, it had nothing to do, but to comply with the policies of the superpower. China saw it wise to revise the global social structure by resorting to communism as an alternative economic development ideology of the Asian region. India, as well as other South-East Asian states, was willing to cooperate with the west in order to preserve its independence and spur economic development.
Since the region was divided into various sections with different philosophies, it was very difficult for a new governance system to be created. In the modern international system, Acharya suggests that the development of regionalism has ended conflicts in the Asian region3. The three major antagonists in the Asian politics seem to be adopting the Japanese ideology of conformism. Therefore, a new global governance system cannot be established.
Rosenau attributes lack of an alternative global governance structure to interdependence and proliferation4. Globalization affects the way states relate in the sense that it sustains a system that is universal. Unlike Acharya, Rosenau talks about the forced relationships among states whereby an individual cannot exist in isolation. Based on this, member of the United Nations is ever increasing, with new states joining the organization on yearly basis owing to the benefits associated with it.
Acharya, Amitav. “Can Asia lead? Power ambitions and global governance in the twenty-first century”. International Affairs, 87.4 (2011): 851–869
Rosenau, James. “Governance in the Twenty-first Century”. Global Governance, 1.1 (1995):13-43.
1Amitav Acharya, “Can Asia lead? Power ambitions and global governance in the twenty-first century,” International Affairs, 87.4 (2011), 857.
2James Rosenau, “Governance in the Twenty-first Century,” Global Governance, 1.1 (1995), 23.
3Amitav Acharya, “Can Asia lead? Power ambitions and global governance in the twenty-first century”, International Affairs, 87.4 (2011): 869.
4James Rosenau, “Governance in the Twenty-first Century,” Global Governance, 1.1 (1995), 27.