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The international arena is inseparable from social actors, their behavior, culture, and expectations. We’ve come a long way since the European concert that brought together princes and dynasts with the same mindset and culture. Today, the politics of diplomacy are perpetually hostage to the density of globalization and the complexity of—sometimes clashing—narratives. The end of bipolarity had fueled the illusion that the United States remained alone on its hegemonic pedestal, a posture which, as we established earlier, has been extremely rare throughout history while, until 1989, the proceeding aspiration only manifested on a diarchic basis, versus the Soviet Union and with it. We also saw that, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the unipolar illusion lasted little more than three or four years. After examining the illusions and setbacks of hegemonic power, this chapter turns to the three stages of the American reaction and the appeal and limits of soft power. The author then considers the frustrated Russian empire, the European Union’s lost opportunities, the emerging countries frustrated expansion, and finally turns to China and questions its discretion and assertion.
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