Date of this Version

April 2002

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

This is an electronic version of an article published in Australian Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 56, No. 1, 2002, pp. 83-98.
Australian Journal of international Affairs is available online at:
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[Extract] China and the European Union may be expected to emerge as global power beneficiaries of American coalition-building in the 'war against terrorism'. Both, in past incarnations, had been civilisational superpowers in their own right, and often this entailed the ancillary possession of impressive military and economic power. But both had also been eclipsed by the 20th century's superpowers of nuclear terror: the United States and the Soviet Union. By the turn of the 21st century, only one such superpower prevailed. This reductive process in the number of great powers and qualities required for their recognition (the term 'superpower' was introduced with the acquisition of large nuclear arsenals) was challenged by the historically defining events of 2001. Low-tech terrorism, employing suicide strikes against New York and Washington on September 11, rendered the remaining superpower's nuclear arsenal a mere 'paper tiger'; terrorists without state affiliations swam like the proverbial fish in water. Chinese metaphors from 20th century revolutionary warfare seem strangely apt in the 21st century's borderless conditions. 'We live in a globalised political era,' American analyst Tony Judt (2001) observed after the terrorist acts. 'It is not just the financial markets that know no frontiers . . .'



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