American Century and Chinese Century

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The term "American Century" describes the time when the United States of America (USA) ruled the world. Due to its position as the superpower following the conclusion of World War II, the USA had the final say in all social, economic, and political choices (Nye, 2015). Henry R. Luce created the term "American Century" to denote what he believed to be America's position and role in influencing world activity (Nye, 2015). It influenced international relations and determined who could produce military hardware like atomic bombs and missiles. However, some believe that because Asian superpowers have become more powerful, the USA no longer benefits from these advantages (Mead, 2014). In particular, China and Russia have threatened continued role of America in dictating political associations, economic activities and prices of commodities, and cultural relationships (Hartnell, 2017). This positions exude a lot of debate, yet all indications show that American Century is, and still will be in existence.

Reasons Why Analysts Think American Century is Over

Many political analysts consider the withdrawal of the United States from Iraq an indication that America has become powerless over world nations (Kayser, 2015). President George Bush had decided to give up on the war and started to pull out the military. The process was completed by President Barack Obama. Political experts have criticized this move and considered it a coward action (Kayser, 2015). As a result, America is now seen to have lost its political authority, its fundamental source of superpower. In recent years, nations have defied and shown disrespect to America’s position in global governance. For example, in 2014 the government of Russia under President Vladimir Putin Military forcefully annexed Crimea without consulting America (Mead, 2014). Then, Iran made pacts with Syria and Hezbollah to find ways of controlling the economy and politics of Middle East. Still, China had become over protective and violent against usage of its territorial coastal waters (Mead, 2014). All these took place in the glare of United States. It did not take any action. The common perception is that its withdrawal from Iraqi war was due to its inability to influence Middle East anymore. Thus, it could not also have a say in the 2014 happenings. To date, a section of world population sees it as evidence that America is no longer powerful and may be overtaken by China.

Additionally, there exists threats by Russia and North Korea to launch their missiles for use against their enemies (Murphy, 2017). America is their priority adversary. Recently, North Korea launched a hydrogen bomb in the Sea of Japan and America watched without acting. United States has tried several diplomatic talks with North Korea but the latter never complies (Rosen, 2017). In fact, Seok Hyung Hong (Hong, 2017) notes that the US has been defeated by this foe and can no longer control it. US’s political strategies have failed to have an effect on North Korea which calls for change of management tactics. In fact, Hong says that the currently adopted mechanism of pressure and meetings would help the current US president to regain control over North Korea. To support this position, Hong indicated the following:

“I welcome Trump’s North Korea policy of maximum pressure and engagement. Deploying US strategic weapons on the peninsula is a necessary move if we are to restrain Kim’s provocative actions. Such a move, embraced by South Korea, must also be further complemented with strong international sanctions (pp. 14).”

The kind of headache and rivalry which exists between these two countries creates the illusion that America’s superpower role is dysfunctional. Consequently, nations like north China who have economic and political stability may replace American Century if the status quo continues.

Besides, America’s economy has been declining in the recent years and has the consequence of causing America to lose its primacy role (Montgomery, 2014). Montgomery (2014) says, “United States has entered a period of declining economic power and diminished international influence. As the most recent report in the National Intelligence Council’s influential Global Trends series concluded, “[T]he ‘unipolar moment’ is over and Pax Americana . . . is fast winding down” (pp. 121). This notion is professed by economic and political forecasters as a factor contributing the death of American Century. Together with this, the economic development of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Korea) have weakened the stability of America in the international platform as it finds it hard to create order (Lieber, 2014). BRICS define their own terms of commercial activities, trade partners, and industrial decisions which America cannot break into, alter, or otherwise change. The resultant independence of these nations threatens America’s as world’s super power nation (Lieber, 2014).

Thus, China in particular with its high and stable economic growth, and military supremacy creates the highest discomfort to America. This is why some people think that China may take over the former’s primacy.

Factors Supporting the Idea That China Will Take Over American Century

An analysis of China’s position military structure, advancements in technology, and expertise in making weaponry also evidence why it may be the next superpower (Heginbotham, Nixon, Morgan, Hagen, Heim, Engstrom & Libicki, 2015).  China’s military set up is more advanced and technologically complex for any nation in Asia, Europe or America to penetrate, more so, the United States (Glaser, 2015). These combinations of military power enables it to have a strong retaliatory proficiencies. The US can thus simply watch China operate its activities at the fear of the consequences it might have if it attacks China (Glaser, 2015). Coupled with the common perception amongst Americans that China is planning to take primacy from America, more Americans and the government accept it as true and act to protect themselves from the impending war. Glaser (2015) notes that ‘U.S. beliefs about China’s motives and vice versa further favor China’s peaceful rise’ (pp.53). For instance, US controls of certain territories such as maritime routes between it and China has been causing security alarm between them as seen from their reactions. In support of this idea, Glaser further noted the following:

“The United States currently controls SLOCs (Sea lines of communication), which China views as threatening; China’s military buildup is beginning to challenge U.S. dominance in Northeast Asia, which the United States sees as threatening (pp.63).

It is these tags of wars between US and China which some analysts think to give China an upper hand in being a superpower if the US fails to suppress them.

The economic warfare between China and US is another issue of concern. China has a complex, effective, and super cyber technology which it uses in its commercial activities (Brown, 2016). This factor has supported China’s already developed and stable economic status which is currently better than that of US (Huang & Mačák, 2017). In fact, Demchak & Strategy (2017) notes that China’s development in Cyberspace makes it a better party to become the future superpower as it amasses more wealth and use it to influence other nations such as Russia. They noted the following:

“Now well into its rise as the center of economic and demographic power in the emerging post-western world, China has the advantage of an enormous scale in market and resources, as well as a rising momentum internationally as an alternative model and large new ally for existing and rising authoritarian leaders globally” (pp.1).

Political, economic, and security professionals like Chris Bronk argue that cyber technology as used by China makes it the current superpower high chances of replacing America (Bronk, 2016). The rise of China in these three major areas can convince world political power wielders to fret that US is soon replaced from its primacy. However, close scrutiny of the issues in comparing and contrasting the stability of China and its readiness for a century, China still has a long way to go in replacing American Century (LaFeber, Polenberg & Woloch, 2013). 

Why American Century is Far From Over

According to Joseph Nye, an American and Harvard professor, author, and an analyst of foreign policy issues, American Century is alive (Nye, 2015). There are several issues supporting this position. First, he argues that China lacks political appeal to powerful nations, what he refers to as soft power (Zhang, 2017). Although China’s culture, economic growth, and international diplomacy is on the rise, the appeal has one direction. China is attracting African countries such as Kenya and South Africa (Wenping, 2017). These nations are inadequate partners who cannot afford China to rise to power (Akhtaruzzaman, Berg & Lien, 2017). However, America has the longest standing and effective soft power in almost all the seven continents. It trades with Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, and even nations it considers its enemy (Stiglitz, 2015). Additionally, America is older and wiser in this area and will always find ways of circumnavigating challenges brought by china. Similarly, China’s sophisticated military equipment are less in number and power in comparison to those owned by America (Mearsheimer, 2014). They cannot effectively compete with those of America which are modern and more powerful. Mearsheimer says that ‘…The fact is that present ­day China does not possess significant military power; its military forces are inferior to those of the United States” (pp.3).

Economically, China depends on its resources to attract and appeal to nations as a means of exercising soft power (Nye, 2015). On the other hand, America saves on its wealth while it depends on incomes from private individuals and organizations (Nye, 2015). This disparity gives America a stronger backup of economic grounding to exercise soft power. If China exhausts its resources, there are high chances that it will collapse sooner rather than later. It cannot also support a revolution of controlling the whole world through such meager resources (Nye, 2015). Although China boasts of high population which enables its economy to grow, the business and entrepreneurial environment in America is more lucrative to both local and foreign traders. The pays are higher and promotes innovations (Nye, 2015). These factors are positive indications that the economic stability of America has the potential of increasing as China’s grows and it would bar China from overtaking its primacy role in the global arena. Stephen G. Brooks and William C. Wohlforth (2017) noted the following on economic factors for China’s primacy:

“…this is wishful, or fearful, thinking. Economic growth no longer translates as directly into military power as it did in the past, which means that it is now harder than ever for rising powers to rise and established ones to fall. And China—the only country with the raw potential to become a true global peer of the United States—also faces a more daunting challenge than previous rising states because of how far it lags behind (economically) and technologically” (pp.1).

The authors clarify the matter of human perception about China as a rising superpower. They compare China’s situation and Russia’s which failed even before it could see the light of day. According to them, China lacks alliance structure and people should stop believing the notion of Chinese Century as a likely future event.

Misinformed projections also support the position that China may not take global power from America. Popular discussions among the elite and experts in world politics and leadership may be just avenues of spreading hope to China and its supporters that it will be a superpower in this century. The fact that a state has economic growth, makes weaponry, has good international relations, applies technology in its operations, and has high population does not necessarily translate into an ability to attain primacy. United States of America is a stable governance which may exist for the next fifty or more years in the global leadership (Nye, 2016). In light of these factors, American Century is far from over.


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March 15, 2023

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