It has become conventional wisdom in national security circles (and among some of the regular commentators on this blog) that the United States is on the decline–economically, socially/culturally, and perhaps even militarily. This is made even more stark by comparison to China’s meteoric rise over the last couple of decades.
But is it true? Hat tip to Daniel Drezner’s blogging at Foreign Policy for highlighting the recent work of Michael Beckley, a Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He frames the issue in the most recent issue of International Security:
Two assumptions dominate current foreign policy debates in the United States and China. First, the United States is in decline relative to China. Second, much of this decline is the result of globalization and the hegemonic burdens the United States bears to sustain globalization. Both of these assumptions are wrong. The United States is not in decline; in fact, it is now wealthier, more innovative, and more militarily powerful compared to China than it was in 1991. Moreover, globalization and hegemony do not erode U.S. power; they reinforce it. The United States derives competitive advantages from its hegemonic position, and globalization allows it to exploit these advantages, attracting economic activity and manipulating the international system to its benefit. The United States should therefore continue to prop up the global economy and maintain a robust diplomatic and military presence abroad.
You can read the entire article here: http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/files/Chinas_Century.pdf
Drezner adds some positive points of his own (fleshed out in his blog post):
1) The United States is successfully deleveraging.
2) Manufacturing is on the mend.
3) A predicted decline in energy insecurity.
For some strange reason, I am guessing that these views haven’t been aired at any of the recent Republican primary debates….