The United States has been the sole global superpower ever since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991.But, in recent years many feel that American dominance worldwide is fading. Russia, and especially China, with an 11 trillion dollar growing economy, seem to be challenging for the lead.

Russia has regained former Soviet Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia in Georgia (2008), Crimea (2014) and parts of Left-Bank Ukraine (2014-2016). It is winning in Syria. China is building airstrips on parts of the East China Sea.

But, these visible symbols of rising power are clouded by weaknesses that will hamper Russia and China. The United States has strong allies in Europe (England, France, Germany, Italy), the Middle East (Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE) and Asia (Japan, South Korea,Taiwan, Australia).

By contrast, Russia has a few quasi-allies in Europe (Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and some far right parties) and India and North Korea in Asia. Russia has developed relations in the Middle East by arming Syria, selling weapons to Egypt, working well with Israel and talking of selling nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

China, which closed all its embassies (save Egypt) during the Maoist Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), has no real allies in Europe or the Middle East. In Asia it has allies in North Korea and the Philippines.

The military gap between the United States and Russia and China is huge. The United States spends over 600 billion dollars a year on the military compared to 100-150 billion dollars by China and 80 billion dollars (and declining) by Russia. The United States is protected from attack by two vast oceans and friendly neighbors in Canada and Mexico. Its navy, with 11 aircraft carriers, has numerous American ports and over 100 bases and ports abroad.

By contrast, Russia, with no warm water ports or defensible borders, has been invaded by the Mongols, Crimean Tatars, Poles, Swedes, French and Germans over the centuries. It has a weak navy with one aircraft carrier and less than a dozen overseas ports. China, which has fought wars with Mongols, England, France and Japan before 1949, also has a weak navy with one aircraft carrier and few overseas ports. It has fought wars with South Korea and the United States (1950-1953), India (1958, 1961), Russia (1960s) and Vietnam (1979). It has a weak navy and one aircraft carrier.

The United States has the world’s leading Silicon Valley. Russia has only one building in Skolkovo in the suburbs of Moscow and China’s large Silicon Valley is not a world leader.

Democracy, capitalism and the rule of law are the keys to American success. Russia and China remain politically authoritarian, state run economies with minimal rule of law. Massive corruption is the norm in Russia and China.

While 2% of Americans work in agriculture and export 150 billion dollars of goods a year, there are 675 million Chinese living in rural areas (48% of population) and 40 million Russians (28% of population). Neither country has undergone an American style agricultural revolution.

Immigration has been a key to multiplying the American population from 4 million people in 1790 to 325 million people today. Emigration has been the rule in Russia and China. Over 10 million Russians have emigrated since 1991 while 25% of Russians are thinking of emigrating. Together with a low birth rate and male life expectancy of 63 years Russia has averaged a decline of 700,000 people most years. A recent Chinese poll showed that 62% of rich people want to emigrate.

Strong universities have been vital to American growth. Over 70% of the world’s best universities are located in the United States. Less than 1% of the world’s top 500 universities are in Russia and 2% of the top 100 universities are in China.

There is the problem of pollution. The United States has been able to keep pollution at a reasonable level. China has such terrible pollution that life is almost insufferable in many major urban areas. Russia has a major problem in its large industrial cities.

Finally, while the United States has advanced retirement systems in place for the elderly, China faces a serious problem in coming decades . It will have hundreds of millions of retired Chinese who, made worse by the one child policy only recently abandoned and impoverished in their own youth, now can be supported by only one child. Russia has a lesser version of this problem.


The United States has its problems, from infrastructure issues and 20 trillion dollar debt to low school performance scores and health care. But, it has many factors that will keep the United States as the world’s only superpower in the next two decades.

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