[This article is offered as a comment on "Donald Trump and The Coming Fall of American Empire" , an interview with historian Alfred McCoy about his book: "In The Shadows of the American Century --"]
Many predict that America's role as the Number One superpower in the world will be eclipsed in the near future by the rising influence and economic strength of China. I don't see it that way, and my reasons are based neither upon an unapologetic patriotism, nor an authoritative insider's knowledge of political and economic policies. Perhaps this may be only an exercise in wishful thinking.
America earned the Number One Superpower status as a consequence of World Wars I and WWII with the collapse of the British Empire, which held that position for two or three centuries, and a twice-defeated Germany. The "power" of a nation traditionally consists both of industrial wealth and military might, which historically has allowed it to dominate and subjugate other countries. But a modern "superpower" has other requisites: mainly its position as a model of democracy in an awakening world, as reflected in its internal and external policies; and the respect and trust it gains by practicing those policies, as evidenced by what it contributes to the world, not by what it takes.
After WWII, America financed the reconstruction of Europe, admittedly in self-interest, to prevent the spread of communism and counter the rising power of the USSR. Time after time, both the government and the private sector have given generously for international emergencies; and America has long served as a refuge for oppressed and poverty-stricken peoples. Going back to the Civil War era, President Lincoln was admired throughout the world as a great liberator for abolishing slavery. The Peace Corps and similarly dedicated non-governmental agencies are good examples of American altruism. And for much of the 20 th century, as of now, America's military power was widely - although not always wisely - deployed to protect "friendly" nations threatened by external takeover or revolution.
Somewhere along the line, the aura of respect towards America changed, even though its facade of wealth and freedom is still much admired and emulated. Much as the now defunct USSR represented "the evil empire" to us, today, in the eyes of many people in third world countries, we have become the purveyors of evil and poverty as large corporations representing the extremes of self-interest and unscrupulous capitalistic ventures became more influential in American domestic and foreign policy, e.g.: Iran, Vietnam, Iraq, Chile, Central America, etc.
On this score, China is not qualified or ready to replace America. It seems to be following the same path of self-interest and massive consumption that needs to devour everything in sight to sustain and expand its economy. To do so will necessitate the same kinds of aggressive policies that have cost us favor in many parts of the world. For the foreseeable future, such demands on the world's resources cannot be fully offset merely by green technologies. Inevitably, they can only be met by denying other countries a fair share of material progress while, at the same time, hastening the deterioration of our shared environment.
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