The liberal international order faces an existential threat, warns the UN Secretary-General, and the world is in grave danger of splitting in two.
"I fear a great fracture with the two largest economies on Earth creating two separate and competing worlds with their own dominant currency, trade and financial rules, their own internet and artificial intelligence capacities and their own zero-sum geopolitical and military strategies," Antonio Guterres recently told UN delegates.
"We must do everything possible to avert the great fracture and maintain a universal system."
This system is structured around ensuring a unitary world economy with "universal respect for international law and strong multilateral institutions".
But foreign policy analysts say an erosion of global governance is already underway and it is proving anything but a neat divide.
"Every day the liberal international order seems less liberal, less international and less orderly," says the Lowy Institute's executive director Michael Fullilove.
He cautions against adopting a simplistic narrative that pits an insurgent China against the US.
"I personally think it will be much messier and probably more dangerous than a simple bifurcation," he says.
What are China's long-term intentions?
Dr Fullilove doubts Beijing has aspirations to simply replace America as the global hegemon.
"I think China is probably in two minds. There are certainly elements of the international system they want to change, but on the other hand they are a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, they have a lot of leverage in New York," he says.
So, the continuation of certain elements of the current international system suits the Chinese government's interest, Dr Fullilove says.
Their primary objective, he believes, is to dominate their region.
"They want an Asia that is focused on China. That is China's first and greatest ambition," he says.
"They don't want the United States to completely leave, necessarily, because having the US there is useful, but they don't want to play second fiddle."
And while US President Donald Trump regularly talks up America's military and economic clout, Dr Fullilove says it is clear Washington's interest in the current system of global cooperation has waned.
"He looks at the liberal international order and he sees an enormous scam that has been visited on his predecessors whom he regards as suckers.
"So, whereas every American president since the Second World War has believed in the order, has basically defined American interests broadly, Mr Trump is an unbeliever in the international order and defines American interests very narrowly."
And America is not alone in adopting a less international mindset; with the rise of populist politics other Western powers are also becoming more inwardly focused.
Is history about to repeat itself?
Hans Maull from the German Institute for Security and International Affairs says it's too early to know what kinds of arrangements might eventually replace the existing liberal international order, the system that has largely kept the world in check since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
He talks of a notable erosion of the effectiveness of global institutions, but he says the very diversity of our international governance bodies makes a complete collapse of the system unlikely.
And he says it's important to acknowledge that current superpower rivalry differs significantly from the Cold War era.
"There is a massive amount of interdependence - economically, socially, technologically - between China and the United States and across the whole world. This is a new thing," he says.
"And, of course, we do not have the kind of direct political confrontation over what domestic politics should look like.
"That was an important part of the Cold War, we don't have it in quite the same way between the United States and China."
Avoiding nostalgia and facing up to reality
A major difficulty in assessing the health of the liberal international order lies in defining exactly what it constitutes.
For example, while many in the West would naturally include the International Criminal Court, not every country accepts its legitimacy.
Then there's the issue of compliance.
Both China and the US have ignored international laws when it suited them - China in the case of its construction of armed artificial islands in the South China Sea, and America with its decision to invade Iraq without UN approval.
In fact, while the United States has routinely condemned Beijing for breaching the United Nations' Convention on the Law of the Sea, Washington itself is yet to formally ratify the treaty, despite being one of its original architects.
"One of the things that's interesting about the liberal international order is how liberal it ever was, and whether or not there's a fairly hefty dose of hypocrisy that goes on with a liberal international order," says Sarah Percy, an international relations expert at the University of Queensland.
"There's an awful lot of imposition, there's an awful lot of 'here, have these liberal democratic values and work with them - do what we say but not what we do'."
Dr Percy expects the great powers will continue to ignore or violate international law, but she says the international legal architecture will be imperilled if violations become routine and if middle-ranking, normally law-abiding nations like Australia, Canada and the Scandinavian democracies also begin to follow suit on a regular basis.
Still, she says, it is important to remember there have been many successful instances of international collaboration.
"When we have international disasters like the Fukushima nuclear reactor, or we have a major, major natural disaster, you see people cooperating," she says.
"And you see people increasingly agreeing on things like the prosecution of war crimes.
Simon Chesterman at the University of Singapore agrees.
"States comply with the vast majority of international law, the vast majority of the time," he says.
"It's not because of a threat of coercion, it's because most of the time states realise that it is in their self-interest to have a world governed by law, to have a world that is predictable and stable."
A new framework for international affairs
But Oxford University's Ian Goldin believes it is time for radical change.
He says many international institutions like the UN, the IMF and the World Bank have become "overloaded" with "mushrooming mandates".
What's needed, he argues, is a back to basics approach and a root-and-branch rethink of the very idea of global governance.
Professor Goldin has set out five core principles that he says could and should guide all future global initiatives or collaborations.
The first principle involves overreach, he says, recognising that not every dispute should actually be subject to global governance. Global action should only be required on genuinely global problems.
"We should remove the instinct we have to kick things upstairs. And instead try and solve things with a smaller group of actors at different levels. It certainly doesn't have to be governments always," he says.
The second he terms "selective inclusion" - pinpointing the necessary key players who need to be included to achieve results.
"One should include the people that really have to be in the room to solve that problem, and without whose presence one couldn't solve it," Professor Goldin says.
"For example, if one's dealing with antibiotic resistance, the pharmaceutical companies would be there, and the consumers of antibiotics."
And again, that might not always involve government officials.
The third principle is what Professor Goldin calls "variable geometry".
Efficiency is essential, he says.
"The small island nation of the Maldives, sinking from rising sea levels, should not be included in questions about regulating climate change but must be included on negotiations about mitigating its impacts," he says.
"If small groups of key countries with much at stake are involved, gridlock can be broken."
The fourth principle, says Professor Goldin, is legitimacy.
"We really do need to ensure that the people that are affected by these decisions feel they are part of them and that they are legitimate, otherwise they will rebel against them," he says.
And the fifth and final principle, he says, is enforceability.
"The world is littered with thousands and thousands of treaties and agreements which simply make the people who sign them feel good, become photo-ops, but then there's no enforceability," he says.
In other words, there's no point making agreements that are never going to be followed through.
The paradox of international relations in the 21st century is that while many politicians, academics and analysts believe our governance institutions are straining to cope, there's general agreement that the overall demand for governance remains high.
So too, it seems, does public approval for our major multilateral institutions.
The Pew Research Centre recently surveyed citizens in 32 countries seeking their impressions of the United Nations.
A median of 61 per cent recorded a favourable impression. And there were similar results for other international governance institutions.
So, while dictators, nationalists and the current US President might like to talk down the worth of international institutions, it seems a majority of citizens don't share their negativity.