There is only one Superpower – By Hasan Rizvi

1 May

There has been talk of late that the United States is in decline. The BRIC states (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are being looked at now as the world’s custodians, particularly in regards to economy. It is true; the United States isn’t what it once was. The world’s powerhouse, I would argue, hasn’t declined but rather other countries have risen. Recently Goldman Sachs released a study which claimed that by the year 2025, China would have surpassed the United States and will be the largest, most successful economy. That study itself is misleading. While China’s GDP may certainly surpass that of the United States, its GDP per capita, which I deem more important, will not.

China’s overall GDP, today in 2012, stands at around $6 Trillion, while the United States stands at around $14 Trillion. Goldman Sachs’ claim that the Chinese will overtake the Americans may indeed prove to be correct, however, what we should rather focus on is the GDP per capita.

As of today, the GDP per capita of China stands at around $10,000 while the GDP per capita of the United States stands at a whopping $40,000. On the individual level, the Chinese have a lot of time before they overtake the United States. Collectively the Chinese will prove to be stronger, however individually it is the Americans who will remain ahead. Now, it is important to understand and realize that large portions of China remain underdeveloped and that a large number of Chinese are farmers.

It is also important to realize that the Chinese have a policy which will also ultimately damage them. The policy I am referring to is the One-Child Policy. This policy will, in the long run, bring down the youth population who are considered the drivers of any economy and instead leave China with a much older demographic. The US on the other hand doesn’t need to worry about that.

America has produced some of the best minds in the last 20 years; we see that on a daily basis. The device upon which you’re reading this article was probably thought about in the US and then later on built in China. This here represents the economic bond the two nations share. Many argue that devices such as iPads and iPods can instead be built in the US, which in turn would create jobs and further strengthen the economy. Starbucks have recently opened a factory in the American state of Georgia, so that would suggest it is possible. Multi-nationals, however, unfortunately tend to prefer working in areas with weak labor laws as well as disastrous human rights records. Also, there is the cheap labor that is exploited. Will morals and values surpass money and greed? Highly doubtful.

With regards to foreign policy, the Americans have been quite careless in the recent past, to say the least. These acts have damaged their image abroad, particularly in the Muslim World. However, recently we saw a change in tactics and that was most visibly obvious during the NATO intervention in Libya during the uprising. The United States decided not to take charge but instead ‘lead from behind’. The French instead were seen as the champions of democracy here to save the world. Joseph Nye coined the term ‘smart power’, meaning, a combination of hard power and soft power. Nye argues for the need of a strong military as well as strong partnerships and deep alliances which can help American influence. Hillary Clinton recently too has said the foreign policy of the Obama Administration will center around smart power. The Arab Spring provides a golden opportunity for the US to rebrand itself.  This could be the real game changer. Throughout history we have seen the United States involve itself in conflict and create enemies, which in turn bankrupts the treasury and causes economic chaos. If the United States plays its cards right and uses more smart power than hard power, it could very well sustain itself financially as well as bolster its image abroad which in turn would soften the beast, so to speak.

I’m extremely critical of the United States on several fronts, however I am not ignorant. The world has a lot to gain from it and the sooner we realize that, the better. The United States still has the strongest military and it still has the highest number of nuclear warheads at its disposal. It is still regarded as the custodian of liberty and freedom and will for at least another 50 years be the driver of the world economy. Whether you like it or not, the United States of America is here to stay and that brings to mind a famous chant that engulfs football stadiums throughout the US: ‘There is only one Superpower!’

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One Response to “There is only one Superpower – By Hasan Rizvi”

  1. Víctor Julio Galicia May 1, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

    I have to agree with Hasan, the US will be (if we can say) leading the world for a while, and we will not see the debacle most people think, not because of the BRIC huge growth.

    What our wold will experience in the short term is the addition of powerful forces to the international scenario, countries left behind before but leading now along the big ones.

    In the mid to long term, we may see the US sharing its leadership with these countries, which will probably be powerful as America is today, at least in economics, but it doesn’t mean America will be any weaker, it has all the potential in the world to continue growing.

    The US still possess the cultural monopoly, it’s just everywhere.

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