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» Why The U.S. Remains The World's Unchallenged Superpower
Why The U.S. Remains The World's Unchallenged Superpower
11/24/2013 @ 9:36AM 114 385 views
By Jonathan Adelman
The frequent chatter about the inevitable decline of the United States has become almost an unchallenged shibboleth. Every week more bad news about the United States seems to confirm this notion. The country seems ungovernable with a hyper-partisanized Congress, a 16-day government shutdown, the weak economic recovery and the vast NSA spy scandal. In an international study, Americans ranked 11th in happiness and a discouraging 24th in economy. Another study of 8th graders found only 7 percent of American students rated advanced in mathematics compared to 47 and 48 percent in Singapore and South Korea. Our President, according to a Forbes power rating, even comes in second behind Vladimir Putin.
Yet, the United States is the world leader and likely to remain there for decades. It has the greatest soft power in the world by far. The United States still receives far more immigrants each year (1 million) than any other country in the world. The United States leads the world in high technology (Silicon Valley), finance and business (Wall Street), the movies (Hollywood) and higher education (17 of the top 20 universities in the world in Shanghai’s Jaotong University survey). The United States has a First World trade profile (massive exports of consumer and technology goods and imports of natural resources).
It is still the world’s leader for FDI at 180 billion dollars, almost twice its nearest competitor. The United States, spending 560 billion dollars a year, has the most powerful military in the world. Its GDP (16 trillion dollars) is more than twice the size of China’s GDP. As the first new nation, it has the world’s longest functioning democracy in a world filled with semi-democratic or non-democratic countries. Its stock market, at an all time high, still reflects American leadership of the global economy.
Furthermore, who is going to challenge the United States for global leadership? The Europeans? The Japanese? The Russians? The EU today has 12 percent unemployment – reaching 26 percent in Greece and Spain – almost zero economic growth, a declining population in many of its member states. The Japanese are suffering from a declining and rapidly aging population, lack of immigration, a Nikkei Index that is still more than 20,000 points below the level of 1988 and debt that equals 240 percent of GNP. Not to mention a weak economic growth in a last two decades. While Russia may have grabbed the headlines for hosing the forthcoming Olympics and Edward Snowden, it’s no super power. Russia has a trade profile of a Third World country, a GNP the size of Canada, which is less than 15 percent of the United States GDP, no soft power, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Wall Street or highly rated universities.
What about China or India? While both have made great strides in the last several decades, they also suffer from serious problems. China has 650 million people in the often-impoverished countryside and a GDP/capita ($6,100) in 87th place in the world that is barely 12 percent of American GDP/capita. China suffers from massive official corruption, one party Communist rule, lack of creativity and grotesque social stratification. Its massive air, water and soil pollution problems kill 1.2 Chinese a year. It will likely be 2050, as its leaders often admit, before China becomes a thoroughly modern country.
As for India, 830 million people (almost 70 percent of the population) live in the largely poor countryside where over 160 million people have no access to water, electricity or sanitation. India leads the world with the greatest number of illiterate individuals – 35 percent of all women are illiterate. No less than 25 percent of the population has no electricity. India has a weak infrastructure, GDP/capita ($1,500) at 138th place in the world that is barely 3 percent of the American figure and massive corruption. Finally, its rapid population growth (180 million people added in the last decade) bodes poorly for its future.
As the old political saying goes, you can’t beat someone with no one. And, right now, there is no one on the horizon that will overtake or even seriously challenge the United States, however ailing, for at least the next decade or two.
Jonathan Adelman is a professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.
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