These factors have collectively fed into a narrative of national ennui and

These factors have collectively fed into a narrative

This preview shows page 72 - 73 out of 107 pages.

denounced the pursuit of free trade and globalization, and who promised—on the stump, at least—major changes in American foreign policy was elected president in 2016. These factors have collectively fed into a narrative of national ennui and decline that is more pronounced than at any time since the 1970s. Yet if this narrative is not baseless, it is overstated. For the idea that the era of American primacy has passed —that we are now entering or have already entered a truly multipolar world— is far from the truth. By virtually all key measures , the U nited S tates still has substantial, even massive, leads over its closest competitors . In 2016 the U nited S tates claimed a nearly US$ 18.6 trillion GDP that was almos t US$ 7.5 trillion larger than China’s , and it possessed a per capita GDP (a crucial measure of how much money a government can extract from its citizens to pursue geopolitical ends) roughly four times that of China. In the military realm, U.S. annual defense spending was still nearly three times that of China as of 2015—a reminder that although China is closing the gap on Washington i n certain respects , the overall gap remains significant indeed. 25 In fact, America’s global lead is probably far bigger than indicated by simple numerical measures such as GDP and percentage of global military spending . GDP is a commonly used but problematic way of comparing U.S. and Chinese economic strength. It is merely a snapshot, rather than a fully explanatory measure of how wealth accrues over time; it does not account for factors such as the damage that China is doing to its own long-term economic potential through the devastation of its natural environment; it understates important U.S. advantages such as the fact that American citizens own significant minority shares in foreign corporations. By a more holistic measure of national economic strength —“ inclusive wealth,” which takes account of manufactured capital, human capital, and natural capital —the U nited St ates was still roughly 4.5 times wealthier than China as recently as 2010. Add in the enormous long -term economic problems that China faces —from declining growth rates , to a massive asset bubble, to a rapidly aging population —and forecasts of coming Chinese economic supremacy become more tenuous still. 26 The U.S. military lead is even more extensive . As a recent study by Stephen Brooks and William Wohlforth concludes, although China’s ongoing military buildup presents significant , even severe, regional challenges for the United States, at the global level there is still simply no comparison . The U nited S tates possesses massive advantages in high-end power-projection capabilities such as aircraft carriers, fourth- and fifth-generation tactical aircraft, nuclear-powered submarines, AWACS, and heavy unmanned aerial vehicles. These advantages have been amassed over decades, through enormous and accumulating investments, and so it will take decades —if not longer— for China to come close to matching the United States.
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