The Hegemonic Siege on American Power: US-China Disputes in the Shaping of the 21st Century World-System

Please cite the paper as:
Eduardo Martínez-Ávila, (2020), The Hegemonic Siege on American Power: US-China Disputes in the Shaping of the 21st Century World-System, World Economics Association (WEA) Conferences, No. 1 2020, Trade Wars after Coronavirus, Economic, political and theoretical implications


The hegemony of the United States is undergoing a process of structural weakness. The 1970s represented an exceptional economic period in the crisis-reconfiguration of the Western economic system. The restructuring of the world-system under the project of neoliberal globalization, the productive delocalization and the accumulation regime with financial predominance, violated the American power. American industries lost dynamism in the accumulation of capital. The intensification of production went to the emerging economies, mainly to the Far East region. The United States developed a fictitious accumulation scheme based on the expansion of the financialised regime. However, China’s high rates of economic growth from the 1990’s onwards surprised Western economies. This stage represented the beginning of the Chinese hegemonic siege on American power, consolidated with the XII Five-Year Plan, 2011-2015.

The contest for supremacy of the inter-state world-system has a place when the hegemonic nation is experiencing a context of structural vulnerability. The articulation of a world-system enters a phase of instability when the financial system assumes the central role in the accumulation of international capital. The hegemonic siege represents a rival states project of dispute for world power. However, to achieve the hegemonic State’s role in the international system, it is not enough to dispute the dimensions that make up power. There must be a definitive blow. An act of confrontation -most of the time, warlike- will end the change of hegemony.

In this way, the article aims to characterize the systemic dimensions in dispute from a historical perspective that defines the Chinese siege hegemonic on American power in the potential conformation of the world-system of the 21st century. In the last decade, China has disputed the first place in the productive, commercial, energy, and technological fields. However, the lack of direct -or indirect- confrontation leads to the fact that the United States maintains the world-system’s weakened leadership. In metaphorical terms, China experiences an economic and geopolitical challenge that consists of the power to break down the “walls” that keep the American “fortress” in place -in military, political-institutional and monetary terms-, to establish a final assault on the power that will transform the prevailing world-system.

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