Samuel Huntington, the American political scientist presented his theory of the clash of civilizations under the title “Clash of Civilizations and the Restructuring of the World Order” in 1993. This theory caused a wave of controversy in the international political milieu of that period. The conflicts that followed the Cold War would not break out between countries Nationalism, which differ in terms of politics and economy, but those that are culturally damaged, as culture is the main engine of human conflict. Based on the theory of the clash of civilizations that Huntington created in 1993, thousands of articles and research papers are created either on defence or to criticise the theory. One of the articles about the clash of civilizations is Graham Allison’s “China vs. America: Managing the Next Clash of Civilizations”. In this article, Allison criticizes Huntington’s “The Clash of Civilizations” taking China and America as examples of the nature of different clash between nations which is not directly related to cultural or civilization issues. This essay is going to synthesize the abovementioned articles in light of understanding the nature of the clash between nations. In general, the cultural clash between civilizations is an inevitable clash but it is not the only motive behind the clash between the west and the east after the cold war.
The United States and the Soviet Union lived in a state of conflict and tension in the wake of the First World War, specifically from the mid-1940s until the early 1990s. The competition between these great powers was so great that it was described as an undeclared war or the so-called ‘cold war’. This kind of war was embodied in the seek to gain weapons, keeping industrial progress and engaging in the development of technology, as well as racing to space. The Cuban missile crisis between The Soviet Union and the United States is one of eh examples about the cold war in which no military interference was done but rather trials to keep the political power on. The Cold War contributed to the emergence of several newly emerging terms, most notably the term clash of civilizations. The concept of the clash of civilizations refers to an idea created by Western countries in the midst of a great challenge that arose between them in proving their respective development in different spheres of life, whether economic, social, technological or even political. After the fall of the Soviet Union, a new clash has been created between the United States and the Far East countries, mainly China. In this respect, Huntington states that China and many other Asian countries, succeeded in keeping the nature of their civilizations surviving from the far past into the present days. In other words, China or Japan, for example, has reserved their civilizations and traditions uncontaminated or spoiled all over history. Huntington sees that the west, represented by the United States, is no longer controlling the policies of the world as new powers emerged in Asia and the Middle East. Asian civilizations have become more powerful in various economic, political and military spheres, and the Islamic world has become a real force, a threat factor to the civilizations that are bordering it. Huntington states that “If cultural commonality is a prerequisite for economic integration, the principal East Asian economic bloc of the future is likely to be cantered on China” (Huntington. 28) referring to that cultural clash could be changed into armed one. On the other hand, Graham Allison claims that “The Chinese empire saw itself as the centre of the civilized universe” (Allison. 82), which refers to the fact that China does not consider what is going on between Asia and the United States as a clash of civilizations but rather a war. Allison builds his opinions over historical elements the most important of which is that the Chinese civilization is very old if compared to that of the United States. In other words, Allison sees that the clash is not that of civilizations as Huntington sees but is that of ideologies and political benefits.
One more point is that the rash towards military strength and gaining more power refers to that the clash between nations is no more cultural but rather a continuity of the cold war. Both Huntington agree that China hurries to gain as much weapons as it can from different resources whether from the United States or Russia. Currently, China has its own nuclear program and is manufacturing its own weapons. China’s foreign policy is characterized by constant monitoring of the international situation, as a prelude to playing a major international role that makes it the “centre of the world” again, but the Chinese dream is wracked by economic and political obstacles led by The United States. China has established its strategic options for achieving the great central kingdom that ruled Asia for centuries. The human factor plays an important role. China’s population is more than one billion, which qualifies it to be a large market that absorbs local and international goods. That, for Huntington, is the reason why China seeks military power. He states that “Centrally important to the development of counter-West military capabilities is the sustained expansion of Chinas military power and its means to create military power” (Huntington. 47) which clarifies that the nature of the so-called clash of civilization turns into strategies related to national security. Allison comes with another idea about China’s military developments as he sees that China knows well that it cannot face the United States militarily but such military force can give it strategic strength. He states that “Beijing will treat military force as a subordinate instrument in its foreign policy, which seeks not victory in battle but the achievement of national objectives” (Allison. 89). That is to say, the nature of the clash between civilizations is not merely cultural or for issues related to civilization especially during the Cold War but rather a clash between power and dominance. In other words, China can never become a threat for the United States in the current situation but gaining weapons is message to the United States that China can protect itself.
Huntington states that clash of civilizations on cultural bases is even more dangerous than the older one which is the clash of ideologies whereas Allison states that civilization is a means for the bigger political clash. Huntington assures that incidents taking place around us in the Arab nations, for example, explain how difficult the clash of civilizations is. The incidents of September 11th and the consequences of this event changed the map of the world as it showed Muslims as terrorists and killing people is part of the Islamic culture. This is faced by a wave of refusal of people of other civilizations who think that Muslims are not so but the media showed them to be so. However a wide range of people become having the picture of the beard Muslim who carries bomb belt around his west and who is ready to bomb other and kill himself. What makes this picture about the Muslims civilization even worse is Arab Spring and ISIS who were presented by some media as representing the Muslims’ civilization of killing and cutting heads off and so on.
On the other hand, Allison assures that the clash of civilization in the current days is an excuse of the greater clash of power seeking. The west, represented by the United States, is no longer controlling the policies of the world as new powers emerged in Asia and the Middle East. Asian civilizations have become more powerful in various economic, political and military spheres, and the Islamic world has become a real force, a threat factor to the civilizations that are bordering it. Huntington presented a set of statistics showing the decline of Europeans for the total number of the world’s population in comparison to the number of Asians and Muslims. This shows that there are new scales to measure the strength of nations other than military force or decision making power. For example, the discovery of oil in the Middle East area changed the political map and let the Arabs, mostly Muslims, be great players on the political issues. To stop and weaken this power, some Islamic strict groups like Al Qaeda or ISIS were introduced to make the cultural view about Muslims in the West even worse.
In conclusion, both articles of Huntington and Allison deal with the clash between nations but from different perspectives. Huntington assures that the new clash between nations is not based on ideology but rather on culture and civilization. On the other hand, Allison assures that the new clash between nations is based on the race for for power which can sometimes be coated with the cover of civilization and culture. In general, people differ in their opinions and views but the most important is that this difference must not be hatred or discrimination.
Allison, Graham. “China vs. America: Managing the Next Clash of Civilizations.” Foreign Affairs, vol. 96, no. 5, 2017, pp. 80–89.
Huntington, Samuel P. “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs, vol. 72, no. 3, 1993, pp. 22–49.