Shifting World Powers: New Alliances in Uncertain Times

William Burke-White – University of Pennsylvania

What does the international system of the future look like? Since the end of World War II, the answer has been an international order created by the United States and a coalition of likeminded states. That coalition has advanced a shared global vision rooted in economic liberalization, shared security commitments, and mutual values such as human rights. Today, however, disruptive forces are threatening the post-WWII international order. In a time of international crises ranging from Iran and North Korea to the health of the global economy, it is far from clear whether the international order as we know it can survive.

In the wake of World War II, the US and its allies constructed an international system that provided lasting stability and advanced their interests and values, including open economic flows, a US security guarantee, and core liberal values. Today, that system is under threat from 5 disruptive trends: 1) power shifts from the US to China and others, 2) the rise of populist nationalism around the world, 3) artificial intelligence and information transparency, 4) the rise of non-state actors, and 5) the threat of climate change. In light of these disruptive forces, can post-WWII order continue? Can liberal values survive? If not, what will global politics look like in the years ahead? This talk will conclude with three distinct visions of the global order that may emerge in the decades ahead. What might these different world orders mean for our economy, for our security, and for our values?