Three Powers and World Order

Three Powers and World Order

The World Order in Transition


The Foundation, in collaboration with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is exploring how the three very unequal powers with unequal impacts on the global system  United States, China and Russia – might deal with current tensions, the process of change and their positions vis-à-vis one another in the years to come. These relationships and the outcomes will have a major impact on global political conditions.

The end purpose is the identification of a safe transition from the world order dominated by a single power to a more complex arrangement dictated by shifting power and expectations. This is a tricky process that historically has led to, or been the consequence of war.

Scope and Agenda

The questions we pose are as follows:

  1. What are the United States, China and Russia seeking to achieve in the 21st century?
    • What are their global goals/objectives/strategies?
    • How compatible are these?
    • Can the inevitable conflicts among them be managed in ways that would avoid a major catastrophe and reduce risks?
    • How do and will relationships among the three impact on key aspects of the global order such as geopolitics; military security; global governance and institutions?
    • Given ideological and governance differences, how important is winning support, and even converts, by each to its model?
  1. What are the roles of other significant players, and how can they impact the outcome?
  2. What kind of a world order is emerging out of the present major power rivalries and other developments?
    • What can be the new rules and procedures for rule-making, amending and enforcement?
  1. On what subjects might cooperation be possible, and, by a shared issue and interest, build a better relationship?

The underlying thinking of the project is that world order is never “invented” by well-meaning people, but is always a product of competition among the powerful and active elements in the international system. Currently, the recent global hegemon, the United States, the reigning leader, is fighting to salvage as much of its dominance as it can, while also being constrained by domestic politics and by some withdrawal from multilateral instruments and global roles. The rising power, China, going global, is the principal challenger. The dominant geopolitical goal of China is for economic and technological strength which impacts the dynamics of the relationship. The former defeated rival, Russia, has, somewhat unexpectedly, joined the fray in an effort to carve out a significant role for itself, despite very modest economic weight, due to its geopolitical position; its nuclear arsenal; its historical experience; and the political will of its leadership.

These three powers are the only fully independent actors at the global level. Europe and Japan are U.S. allies who depend on Washington for security and follow somewhat its foreign policy lead; India is still at an early stage of its emergence as a global player. They will all have an impact – and are, along with others, countries in which responses to the actions of the larger players occur and have consequences - but the decisive outcome will be the result of the U.S.-China-Russia interaction.

This program is a joint venture with
the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


  • We are proceeding with research, and a consultative and constructive dialogue that seeks to be:
    • credible to the three interests;
    • candid, realistic and practical; motivated by a search for solutions;
    • inclusive from the outset of effective representation of the three parties;
    • free from domestic criticism within their respective communities, and
    • capable of having a real prospect of impact.