[Giovanni Arrighi died June 2009]
A. Fathollah-Nejad (AFN): Has the West to fear China?
G. Arrighi (GA): I don’t think so. I mean I think that is not the question to say that the Chinese are sincere when they say that they are for a peaceful ascent, that they are against hegemony […] I think that’s also part of the Chinese tradition. And that goes quite […] on the basis of a very simple calculation: China has nothing to gain by being militarily aggressive and everything to lose. The only thing it [the West – AFN] has to fear is the redistribution of power and there’s no reason why this should translate into an aggressive China.
AFN: What about the rest of the world: Has it a better outcome with a Far-Eastern hegemony led by China?
GA: Well, the Chinese don’t want to talk about hegemony. But let’s put it this way: I think that the rest of the world, particularly the South—but also the North—should be better off by a multipolar world, where there are also economically not just one locomotive like the United States, but where are more than one. And at this moment, certainly in East Asia—including Japan—it is the Chinese who is driving the recovery and keeping the expansion go on. So I think the rest of the world is probably better off. But the qualification is that this would be more the case if the Chinese don’t imitate the energy-wasting and energy-consuming pattern of consumption of the West. If they develop more or less a sort of energy-saving kind of techniques, then that would be the best. Who knows!
AFN: The greatest obstacle to far-Eastern domination seems to be a Sino-Japanese partnership. Is this realistic for the future?
GA: It’s very hard to tell. I mean both the Chinese and the Japanese have always privileged a kind of alliances or relationships with the United States than between one another. But again, it depends on what the United States will do in the Far East. […] Japan will go along with an aggressive U.S. stance towards the continuing Chinese growth. So it’s possible, but for now it’s not likely, maybe it can be more likely in the future.
AFN: Was has the dispossessed South to do to change its present situation?
GA: I think the most important thing is to create and strengthen South-South links. They don’t need to de-link from the North, they just have to strengthen mutual links and go on operat[ing]—what they are already doing [...] more or less—, and that will probably change the situation in the South.
AFN: Some say that now there are a lot of tensions among Western countries when it comes to imperialism. Others say that it is for the sake of stabilization of their world domination. What is your favorite argument?
GA: I think that they are any dangers of so-called inter-imperialist rivalries between the United States and Europe. The question is really how Europe and the United States—jointly or separately—relate to the South and East; whether they accommodate the emergence of new so-called poles and powers, or whether they want to keep things as they are. Because that’s probably the most dangerous thing: the attempt to […] prevent economic rise of China […] This can only lead to military adventures worst than Iraq.
AFN: Thank you very much.
Giovanni Arrighi (b. 1937, d. 18 June 2009) is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute for Global Studies in Culture, Power and History at Johns Hopkins University. His main interests are in the fields of comparative and historical sociology, world-systems analysis and economic sociology. His current research focuses on the causes and consequences of inequalities in the wealth, status and power of nations. Arrighi uses a variety of approaches that combine quantitative and qualitative methods of analysis as well as different temporal and spatial units of analysis. He hopes to identify the kind of strategies that are most likely to neutralize the negative effects on human welfare of the polarizing tendencies of global capitalism.
For his much acclaimed contribution ‘Hegemony Unravelling (Parts I and II),’ published in the New Left Review (No. 32, March/April 2005) see http://www.kapitalismus-reloaded.de/arrighi.pdf.
Ali Fathollah-Nejad (b. 1981) is a political scientist; currently a Ph.D. researcher in International Relations at the universities of Münster (Germany) and London (School of Oriental and African Studies); author of The Iran Conflict and the Obama Administration: Old Wine in New Skins? (in German, Potsdam University Press, 2010); in the framework of the same conference, Fathollah-Nejad was involved in organizing the international workshop on Power Structure Research entitled “Investigating Power and the Whereabouts of Wealth”; his homepage is fathollah-nejad.com.