UGCC chapter 6 Post-Cold War Cooperation, Conflict, Flashpoints
The Post Cold War era is the period in world history from the Collapse of the
Soviet Union in 1991 to the present.
It has mostly been dominated by the rise of globalization (as well as seemingly
paradoxically, nationalism) enabled by the commercialization of the Internet and
the growth of the mobile phone system. The ideology of postmodernism and cultural
relativism has according to some scholars replaced modernism and notions of
absolute progress and ideology.
It has seen the United States become by far the most powerful country in the world
and the rise of China from a relatively weak third world country to a fledgling
superpower. It has also seen the merging of most of Europe into one economy.
Environmentalism has also become a mainstream concern in the Post Cold War era;
global warming entered public discourse in 1988 after a very hot summer which
burned down 40 percent of the forest land in Yellowstone National Park. Recycling
has become common place in many countries and cities over the past 30 years.
During most of the latter half of the 20th century the two most powerful states in
the world by far were the United States (formed in 1783) and the Union of Soviet
Socialist Republics (formed in 1917). These two federations were called the world's
Faced with the threat of growing Japanese, German and Italian fascism and a world
war, the western Allies and the Soviet Union made an alliance of necessity during
The alliance between the USA and USSR was simply against a greater common enemy and
the two countries never really trusted each other. After the Axis was defeated
these two powers became highly suspicious of each other because of their vastly
different ideologies. While the Americans valued consumerism and individual
liberty, the Soviets valued communism and wanted to eventually create a stateless
and equal society.
This struggle, known as the Cold War, lasted from about 1946 to 1991, beginning
with the second Red Scare and ending with the August Coup when hardliners
temporarily ousted Gorbachev's government, causing the Soviet Union to implode.
The collapse of the Soviet Union caused profound changes in nearly every society in
the world. Much of the policy and infrastructure of the West and the Soviet Bloc
revolved around the capitalist and communist ideologies respectively and the
possibility of a hot war.
The fall of communism formed an existential threat for many institutions. The
United States Military was forced to cut much of its expenditure, though the level
rose again to comparable heights after the War on Terror started in 2001.
American power has allowed the United States to project its force into any part of
the world, and the Washington consensus has largely made NATO a puppet government
of the United States.
Socialist parties around the world saw drops in membership after the Berlin Wall
fell and the public felt that free market ideology had won.
The end of the Cold War also coincided with the end of Apartheid in South Africa.
Declining Cold War tensions in the later years of the 1980s meant that the
Apartheid regime was no longer supported by the West as a bulwark against communism and they were condemned with an embargo. In 1990 Nelson Mandela was freed from
prison and the regime made steps to end apartheid, which were on an official basis
completed by 1994 with the new election.
Libertarian, neoliberal, nationalist  and Islamist  parties on the other
hand benefited from the fall of the Soviet Union. As capitalism had "won", as
people saw it, socialism in general declined in popularity. Socialist Scandinavian
countries privatized many of their commons in the 1990s and a political debate on
modern institutions re-opened.
The People's Republic of China, already having moved towards capitalism starting in
the 1970s and facing public anger after the 1989 killings in Beijing moved even
more quickly towards free market economics in the 1990s. McDonalds and Pizza Hut
both entered the country in the second half of 1990, the first American chains in
China aside from Kentucky Fried Chicken which entered 3 years earlier in 1987.
Stock markets were established in Shenzhen and Shanghai late in 1990 as well. The
restrictions on car ownership were loosened in the early 1990s, causing the bicycle
to decline as a form of transport by 2000.
The move to capitalism has increased the economic prosperity of China, but many
people still live in poor serf-like conditions, working for companies for very
small pay and in dangerous and poor conditions. Pollution has also gotten much
worse, killing over a million people per year  and the Chinese government has
not relaxed its restrictions on freedom of speech.
The end of the Cold War allowed many technologies that were formerly off limits to
the public to be declassified. The most important of these was the Internet, which
was created as ARPANET by the Pentagon as a system to keep in touch following an
impending nuclear war. The la