FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

America and the Rise of the Chinese Century

Photograph Source: The White House from Washington, DC – Public Domain

News of America’s global supremacy and victory as well as demise are often premature.  In 1942 journalist Henry Luce described the coming years as the American Century.  And it looked like he was right despite some setbacks.  Yet coming out of the coronavirus and the Trump presidency, this time maybe the end of the American Century is near and the emergence of the Chinese Century is here.

We will bury you!” This was a famous claim made in 1956 by USSR Party Secretary Nikita Khrushchev.  It did not happen.  The USA went on to win the Cold War and after 1991 with the breakup of the  Soviet Union it appeared that America was the sole surviving super power and would dominate the world politically, economically, and militarily.  Francis Fukuyama boldly pronounced in a 1989 article the end of history whereby the USA had emerged as the last surviving superpower and that there was no competing supernarrative to America’s version of democratic neo-liberal capitalism.

It appears 30 years later no one told the Peoples’ Republic of China this.

The world that the USA faces today under President Trump is very different from the world of 1945 (after WWII or the Great War), 1956, or even 1991.  Trump’s approach to foreign policy in terms of his disdain for multi-lateral agreements such as NATO, his downplaying of diplomacy, and his rejection of pursuing human rights, democracy, and a turn against immigration have diminished the US politically.  The America First approach to the world has meant a retreat in the US from the global stage, hurting the ability of the country to pursue its foreign policy objectives.

This retreat has created a void potentially to be filled by China.   Moreover, the world in 2020 is different from 1945, 1956, or 1991 when the US economy was by far the largest in the world.

In 1945 the US GDP was four times larger than the next closest country with about 40% of the world GDP.  Even in 1960 the US GDP was 40% of the world.  No one else was close. Today in 2020 the US GDP is 14.9% of the world GDP, in 2024 it will be just 13.8%.  China’s GDP in 2020 is 19.2% of the world and in 2024 it will be 21.4%.  The European Union in 2020 is 15.8% of the global GDP.  The US just does not have the global economic dominance and soon perhaps China will.

Presently the US still dominates the world in its military budget, but China is growing and there are questions about America’s willingness to use military force, diplomacy,  or even honor treaty obligations such as NATO.  China and the US are now rivals, and it is unlikely that this changes with the 2020 American elections.  These two countries are locked in a new Cold War.  It is a war that will look different from the USSR/USA one, but still America and China are adversaries more than friends.

In effect, with or without Trump as president, the US is at a global turning point in terms of its status in the world.  Its handling of the coronavirus has further eroded confidence in America as it has shown its inability and unwillingness to be a global leader and addressing the problem.  Cutting funding to the World Health Organization is merely one sign of the loss  of leadership.

All this opens a window, this time for a rival such as China to transform the American Century into the coming China Century.  This time the communists might win the new Cold War.   And it appears that there is little sign that Trump is capable or prepared to confront this challenge.

Trump’s verbal attacks on China and blaming it for the coronavirus are not productive but no surprise.  Four years ago, he ran against immigrants and foreign countries and in favor of a brand of ultra-nationalism.  His recent attacks on China fit into that rhetoric.  In addition, blaming China for the coronavirus problem in the US is consistent with a pattern of shifting blame to other nations or people for his failures.  China is the scapegoat for his mistakes, merely a distraction.

Trump fails to realize that the US needs China and vice versa.  China is a source of inexpensive consumer and other goods the US wants, as well as a source of credit.   Trade with China has mostly been mutually beneficial.  This rhetoric does not help the US but it might help Trump personally with his political base.

The best-case scenario for US-China relations is one of mutual economic dependence.  Making the two economically dependent on one another helps to ensure the two share many interests and it reduces the likelihood that one would jeopardize a relationship that could lead to war or serious economic damage to both economies. Think of the old Cold War containment policy with economic interdependence.  At some point the US economy will be smaller than China’s and the time is now for the US to forge an interdependence to prevent Chinese dominance.

Trump cannot change his rhetoric toward China.  Attacking China benefits him politically with his base and is consistent with blaming immigrants or others for the US or his personal problems.  He is struck with his rhetoric and politics.  If Trump were re-elected do not look to see a change. Trump is not the type to shift from appealing to his base and China will economically be even more of a perceived threat to the US as its economy grows again and the US stagnates.

As much as Trump wants to make America great again, his policies are not helping and it is also not clear that  he can do much to reverse a trend even if he wants.  America is 78  years into its Century, it may be coming to its close soon.

 

More articles by:

David Schultz, Professor in the Department of Political Science at Hamline University and editor of the Journal of Public Affairs Education (JPAE). His latest book is Presidential Swing States:  Why Only Ten Matter.

July 09, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
COVID-19 Exposes the Weakness of a Major Theory Used to Justify Capitalism
Ahrar Ahmad
Racism in America: Police Choke-Holds Are Not the Issue
Timothy M. Gill
Electoral Interventions: a Suspiciously Naïve View of U.S. Foreign Policy in the Post-Cold War World
Daniel Falcone
Cold War with China and the Thucydides Trap: a Conversation with Richard Falk
Daniel Beaumont
Shrink-Wrapped: Plastic Pollution and the Greatest Economic System Jesus Ever Devised
Prabir Purkayastha
The World Can Show How Pharma Monopolies Aren’t the Only Way to Fight COVID-19
Gary Leupp
“Pinning Down Putin” Biden, the Democrats and the Next War
Howard Lisnoff
The Long Goodbye to Organized Religion
Cesar Chelala
The Dangers of Persecuting Doctors
Mike Garrity – Erik Molvar
Back on the List: A Big Win for Yellowtone Grizzlies and the Endangered Species Act, a Big Loss for Trump and Its Enemies
Purusottam Thakur
With Rhyme and Reasons: Rap Songs for COVID Migrants
Binoy Kampmark
Spiked Concerns: The Melbourne Coronavirus Lockdown
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela is on a Path to Make Colonialism Obsolete
George Ochenski
Where are Our Political Leaders When We Really Need Them?
Dean Baker
Is it Impossible to Envision a World Without Patent Monopolies?
William A. Cohn
Lead the Way: a Call to Youth
July 08, 2020
Laura Carlsen
Lopez Obrador’s Visit to Trump is a Betrayal of the U.S. and Mexican People
Melvin Goodman
Afghanistan: What is to be Done?
Thomas Klikauer – Norman Simms
The End of the American Newspaper
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Merits of Medicare for All Have Been Proven by This Pandemic
David Rosen
It’s Now Ghislaine Maxwell’s Turn
Nicolas J S Davies
Key U.S. Ally Indicted for Organ Trade Murder Scheme
Bob Lord
Welcome to Hectobillionaire Land
Laura Flanders
The Great American Lie
John Kendall Hawkins
Van Gogh’s Literary Influences
Marc Norton
Reopening vs. Lockdown is a False Dichotomy
Joel Schlosberg
“All the Credit He Gave Us:” Time to Drop Hamilton’s Economics
CounterPunch News Service
Tribes Defeat Trump Administration and NRA in 9th Circuit on Sacred Grizzly Bear Appeal
John Feffer
The US is Now the Global Public Health Emergency
Nick Licata
Three Books on the 2020 Presidential Election and Their Relevance to the Black Live Matter Protests
Elliot Sperber
The Breonna Taylor Bridge
July 07, 2020
Richard Eskow
The War on Logic: Contradictions and Absurdities in the House’s Military Spending Bill
Daniel Beaumont
Gimme Shelter: the Brief And Strange History of CHOP (AKA CHAZ)
Richard C. Gross
Trump’s War
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Racism May be Blatant, But the Culture He Defends Comes Out of the Civil War and Goes Well Beyond Racial Division
Andrew Stewart
Can We Compare the George Floyd Protests to the Vietnam War Protests? Maybe, But the Analogy is Imperfect
Walden Bello
The Racist Underpinnings of the American Way of War
Nyla Ali Khan
Fallacious Arguments Employed to Justify the Revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s Autonomy and Its Bifurcation
Don Fitz
A Statue of Hatuey
Dean Baker
Unemployment Benefits Should Depend on the Pandemic
Ramzy Baroud – Romana Rubeo
Will the ICC Investigation Bring Justice for Palestine?
Sam Pizzigati
Social Distancing for Mega-Million Fun and Profit
Dave Lindorff
Private: Why the High Dudgeon over Alleged Russian Bounties for Taliban Slaying of US Troops
George Wuerthner
Of Fire and Fish
Binoy Kampmark
Killing Koalas: the Promise of Extinction Down Under
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail