Essay: The United States will be the leading power in the world for the foreseeable future

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The flag of the United States

Will the United States be the leading power for the foreseeable future? Or will it be China or Russia? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the United States, China and Russia? What is the future of Europe and terms of its influence on geopolitics?

While I do believe with Professor John Mearsheimer that we live in a multipolar world where the USA, China and Russia are the three major powers[1], I do believe that both China and Russia have some major problems that are not going to go away anytime soon. In this essay, I argue that the United States has a brighter future than China and Russia for the foreseeable future. So while China and Russia will remain major world powers for many years, out of the three major powers, America will remain the strongest power out of the three major powers for the foreseeable future.

We live in a more dangerous world: The 2022 Holberg Prize Debate w/ John Mearsheimer and Carl Bildt: USA, Ukraine, Russia, China and the West

See also: Russia-Ukraine War essays

The flag of Norway.

The Holberg Prize is an international prize awarded yearly by the Norweigan government to scholars for their work in the arts, humanities, social sciences, law and theology, either within one of these particular fields or through interdisciplinary work.

John Joseph Mearsheimer, is an American political scientist and international relations scholar, who belongs to the realist school of international relations and teaches at the University of Chicago.

Carl Bildt served as both prime minister and foreign minister of Sweden.

In 2022, there was a fascinating and very informative Holberg Debate about the Russia-Ukraine War between John Mearsheimer and Carl Bildt. Both gentlemen made some good points and Carl Bildt made some good points from the Western World. With that being said, it's clear that authoritarian Putin is not happy with the idea of a Ukraine that could potentially become more democratic and prosperous over time.

In the debate, both Mearsheimer and Bildt agree that our current multipolar world of the USA, China and Russia as the three major powers is a more dangerous world than the world that existed in the latter part of the 20th century.

The debate expanded my view of the Russia-Ukraine War.

I strongly recommend watching the debate and I cite it below.

For more information, please see: Russia-Ukraine War essays

United States

Map of the United States

The United States has:

1. Two big oceans and a friendly northern neighbor with a big country to help protect it.

In addition, America is shortening its supply chains and producing more things domestically for several reasons and this will give it more security from foreign disruptions. First, due to Covid-19 disruptions in production in China. Furthermore, China is facing an aging populations with a shortage of workers due to their previous one child policy. East Asia as a whole with its subreplacement level of births will also face labor problems in the future as well. As a result, America will face a lower risk of its supply chains disruptions due to countries not being able to keep up with demand or foreign powers militarily disrupting its supply chains. The net result of this is the USA will have a lower need to project its power overseas. The USA having less of a need to be the world's supply chain protector and policeman will cause a less globalized economy and more of an emphasis on regional/local economies.

2. Abundant natural resources

3. The United States is a highly developed mixed-market economy in addition to having the world's largest nominal GDP and net wealth.

Irving Berlin's song God Bless America is a popular American patriotic song written by Berlin in 1918.

4. An above-average constitution with: a separation of powers, a bill of rights and an electoral college that gives sensible rural people influence (It also has some enlightenment ideas which aren't the greatest ideas)

5. A large Christian population (see: Christianity and social stability and Protestant cultural legacies). And Bible-believing Christians have a higher fertility rate than the general population. Peak secularization of the USA is expected to occur before 2050 followed by a period of desecularization (see: United States, irreligion vs. religion and demographics).

6. Many innovative people.

7. A younger population relative to other developed countries and lots of people around the world who want to come to the USA. In addition, both the USA and New Zealand have a unique and favorable demographic in terms of age relative to other developed countries (See: Peter Zeihan's demography series).

8. Strong STEM programs in universities (but with some foolish Darwinian ideas)

9. The world's most powerful military and advanced military technology[2]

United States's downsides:

1. It is a divided nation. A large part of the population is very individualistic/narcissistic/selfish with some immoral/uncivilized/wacky/impractical ideas (For example, Homosexual agenda, pro-abortion, pro-feminism, liberal values, secular values, etc.). In addition, there are U.S. government employees/departments trying to influence other countries to adopt these values through incentives and/or withholding of aid. On a more positive side, it looks like the USA is at "peak wokeness". See: Peak wokeness. Are we there yet? A new conservative age rising

2. The Democrats are corrupt and have some uncivilized/whacky/impractical ideas (Defund the police, etc.).

3. Corruption and over politicization problem in the FBI, CIA, U.S. Justice Department and IRS

4. It has a huge national debt (See: National debt of the United States). If the USA has another Great Depression due to excessive debt, it will have a huge effect on Americans and the world.

There is evidence that in the 2030s the United States has a good chance of experiencing another Great Depression and it could be worst than the first one (See: The Coming Great Depression of the 2030s and Top 5 Causes of the 2030s Great Depression). However, just as the United States got through its first Great Depression, I believe it is resilient enough to get through its second one. Of course, I could be wrong and perhaps if such an economic depression occurs, it could be a major factor in the United States breaking up as a nation.

5. Lawless southern neighbor with drug cartels so the USA needs to build a wall on its border with Mexico.

6. Crumbling infrastructure

7. Weak pre-college education system compared to some developed countries with many failing schools

8. It's funding a US/NATO/Ukraine vs. Russia proxy war.

9. There are laws on the books that are unconstitutional due to a legacy of the U.S. Supreme Court being formerly liberal (But the conservative U.S. Supreme Court is turning this around)

George Friedman on the future of the United States. George Friedman is an internationally recognized geopolitical forecaster and strategist on international affairs

George Friedman is an internationally recognized geopolitical forecaster and strategist on international affairs.

Brand Finance's 2022 ranking of the countries with the most soft power: USA ranked #1. The UK, one of the strongest allies of the USA, is ranked #2

Soft power is a nation's capacity to cause others to do things through persuasive/non-coercive means. The American political scientist Joseph Nye introduced the concept of "soft power" in the late 1980s.

Brand Finance, the world's leading brand valuation consultancy, annually list the countries with the strongest soft power.

Brand Finance's 2022 ranking of the 10 countries with the most soft power[3]:

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom (One of the strongest allies of the United States)
  3. Germany
  4. China
  5. Japan
  6. France
  7. Canada
  8. Switzerland
  9. Russia
  10. Italy

China

The flag of China.

See also: Skepticism about China remaining a global power

Concerning China, the American geopolitical analyst and author Peter Zeihan said in 2022, "I do not worry about China at all... I don't think that there is going to be a China for much longer."[4] See: Skepticism about China remaining a global power

China has:

1. Hardworking people and a lot of smart people

2. Fair degree of national unity and nationalism. But as things worsen in China for the reasons given in the weaknesses of China section below, there could easily be more infighting. In 2022, the historian Niall Ferguson indicated that China's population is projected to drop by 50-75% by the end of the century.[5]

3. Good infrastructure

4. Beginnings of the belt and road initiative

5. A large and quickly growing Christian population. See: Growth of Christianity in China

According to Slate, "Protestant Christianity has been the fastest growing religion in China."[6] Evangelical Christianity is especially growing sharply in China.[7] See also: Growth of evangelical Christianity and Protestant cultural legacies

In 2020, The Economist published an article entitled Protestant Christianity is booming in China which indicated:

As for China’s Christians, their numbers continue to grow. The government reckons that about 200m of China’s 1.4bn people are religious. Although most practice traditional Chinese religions such as Taoism, and longer-standing foreign imports such as Buddhism, Protestant Christianity is probably the fastest-growing faith, with at least 38m adherents today (about 3% of the population), up from 22m a decade ago, according to the government’s count. The true number is probably much higher: perhaps as many as 22m more Chinese Protestants worship in unregistered “underground” churches, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Notre Dame. As China also has 10m-12m Catholics, there are more Christians in China today than in France (38m) or Germany (43m). Combined, Christians and the country’s estimated 23m Muslims may now outnumber the membership of the Communist Party (92m). Indeed, an unknown number of party members go to church as well as local committee meetings.[8]

China's downsides:

1. Bad government. The Chinese communists are godless, corrupt, short-sighted and authoritarian. A cult of personality has developed around Xi Jinping and he has eliminated all significant political opposition so now he is surrounded by yes man. So the government is calcified around Xi Jinping's thoughts and less responsive to citizens' concerns and problems. See: Chinese Communist Party and Militant atheism and China and atheism and Atheism and morality and Atheism and leadership

On December 22, 2022, Foreign Affairs magazine noted in their article China’s Dangerous Decline "...China is teetering on the edge of a cliff. Ten years of Xi’s “reforms” — widely characterized in the West as successful power plays—have made the country frail and brittle, exacerbating its underlying problems while giving rise to new ones. ...a growing number of Western analysts—including Michael Beckley, Jude Blanchette, Hal Brands, Robert Kaplan, Susan Shirk, and Fareed Zakaria—have begun to highlight this reality..."[9]

2. China has terrible age demographics. It has the fastest graying/aging population in the world (See: Peter Zeihan's demography series) which will severely hurt its economy (See: Atheism and fertility rates).

According to Forbes magazine, as far as the fertility rate of China: "...the Total Fertility Rate (births per woman) dropped in 2021 to just 1.15, far below the 2.1 required for a stable population."[10] In 2022, the historian Niall Ferguson indicated that China's population is projected to drop by 50-75% by the end of the century.[11]

3. A high percentage of uneducated people.

4. Financial soundness lacking in society. Debt and real estate crises of a great magnitude. Opaque accounting system. While it is true that China has more tools than the West to address the matter of its debt crisis, too much debt is a drag on an economy no matter how the burden is distributed by its government.

5. Too many inefficient state-owned enterprises

6. In addition to having a greying population with a subreplacement level of fertility, it has poor prospects to attract new people due to its repressive, surveillance/police state society. In addition, it has a population that does not like foreigners which makes immigration more difficult.

7. Besides having a poor reputation to its repressive society, it's starting to have a bad international reputation due to: debt trap projects to poor nations; wolf-warrior, aggressive foreign policy; human rights violations, unfair trade practices and intellectual property theft.

China banned Winnie-the-Pooh because of the similarities between Winnie-the-Pooh and Xi Jinping.

Xi Jinping is obese. See also: Atheism and obesity

Russia

See also: Essay: Why I am not bullish on Russia's future

The flag of Russia

Russia has:

1. It has national unity with high nationalism

2. Oil and gas

3. A lot of smart people

4. Produces a lot of wheat and agricultural products

5. A large percentage of people with traditional Russian Orthodox ideas

6. Some positive things in pre-Soviet Russian civilization that continues to this day (chess, ballet, etc.).

Russia's downsides:

Every year, 500,000 people die due to alcohol in Russia.[12]

1. Lack of good governance. Lots of corruption and an authoritarian government with the Kremlin surrounded by big walls. Russia has a long history of corruption. Vladimir Putin's corruption is not some surprising fact of history (See: Corruption in Russia: A Historical Perspective). See: Vladimir Putin is a corrupt kleptocrat and an authoritarian

2. Russia's fertility rate of 1.58 births per woman is one of the lowest fertility rates in the world.[13] It's fertility rate is below the replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman.

Demographers estimate Russia will fall from being the 9th most populous country in the world to being the 17th by 2050.[13] And estimates indicate that Russia's population will drop from 2014's 142 million to 128 million by 2050.[13]

Russia will go out swinging (Ukraine, etc.), but its age demographics (which is among the worst in the world in terms of an aging population) and other problems will cause a cultural collapse in Russia in the 21st century (See: Peter Zeihan's demography series and Who will Dominate the Geopolitical System in this Decade?). See: Russia's fertility rate

3. It's poor state of public health (See: Russia's demographic crisis and its state of public health). Many of its men are alcoholics. Every year, 500,000 people die due to alcohol in Russia.[14] This is likely a cultural legacy of the atheistic Soviet Union. See: Atheism and alcoholism

4. Much of its land is in cold, inhospitable areas

5. Poor prospects to attract new people. In addition, many wealthy people and young men have fled Russia (See: Peter Zeihan's demography series).

6. It is bogged down in a war in Ukraine.

7. It is currently a pariah state in the West with many sanctions against it. And many Western corporations pulled out of Russia. Russia may have to resign itself to selling much of its oil/gas in the future at a discount and lower profit margin to countries in the Eastern World such as India and China (I expect the USA to ramp up its oil and gas production in the future via some Republican presidents, but Democrat presidents will cause somewhat of a drag on this process.).

8. Russia's persecution of Russian Protestants (See: Why Russia's religious persecution of Russian Protestants is not good for Russia).

9. According to US Department of State in 2017,[15] Muslims in Russia numbered 14 million or roughly 10% of the total population. Historically speaking, at 10% of the population, Muslims cause problems in society (See: What Islam Isn't - Dr. Peter Hammond).

Demographic projections of Russia's future population

See also: Russia's fertility rate and Demographic projections of Russia's future population

Map of Russia. Approximately 7% of Russia's land is arable and suitable for agricultural production.

Demographers estimate Russia will fall from being the 9th most populous country in the world to being the 17th by 2050.[13] And estimates indicate that Russia's population will drop from 2014's 142 million to 128 million by 2050.[13]

The Jamestown Foundation's 2022 article Russia’s Demographic Collapse Is Accelerating notes:

Aleksey Raksha, an independent Russian demographer and perhaps the closest Russian counterpart to the late US expert Murray Feshbach, provides the most comprehensive discussion of these developments. He relies exclusively on the first results of the latest census, which were released earlier this summer (Vedomosti.ru, April 8), and a broader selection of demographic data that Rosstat, the Russian government’s statistical arm, has now released (Rosstat.gov.ru, August 2022), making it far harder for his words to be dismissed. The situation he outlines is devastating (Svoboda.org, August 9).

During the first five months of 2022, Russia’s population fell by 430,000, which far exceeded the figure for the same period in 2021 and one that points to another decline of more than one million people for 2022 as a whole. The 2021 figure reflects both the relationship of births and deaths among the permanent population and the size of migration flows. Last year, in-migration partially compensated for the greater number of deaths as compared to births, but this year, it has not. Instead, increased out-migration has contributed to the total population decline. The opening of the country to in-migration after the pandemic may lead to a slight improvement in the second half of 2022, but that will not be enough to compensate for the indigenous decline continuing into 2023 and throughout the coming decade (Osnmedia.ru, July 26).[16]

The journalist Isabelle Khurshudyan's 2020 article In Siberian coal country, signs of Russia’s shrinking population are everywhere. It ‘haunts’ Putin. notes:

A United Nations demographic report last year calculated that the “pessimistic” outlook for Russia is that the population will fall to 124.6 million by 2050 and to 83.7 million by 2100.

Raksha, the demographer, expects a bigger drop next year in another potential consequence of the pandemic. One indicator: Registered marriages this year through July were down 23 percent compared with the same period last year, according to Rosstat.

The pandemic made things “unpredictable, and in such situations, people delay birth,” said Raksha, who worked for Rosstat until this summer. Putin’s solution: promising tax breaks for larger families and stipends for those who have kids.[17]

Bloomberg News reported on October 18, 2022:

Plans by Putin’s government had set the goal of starting to reverse the decline in the population in 2022 before growth should resume in 2030. Yet weeks before the mobilization was announced in September, an internal report drafted for a closed-door meeting showed officials were already concluding those targets were unrealistic.

Citing the consequences of the coronavirus and migration outflows, the report instead proposed a revision that envisaged a decrease of 416,700 people in 2030.

Should military operations continue in the coming months, as expected, Russia may see less than 1.2 million births next year, the lowest in modern history, according to Igor Efremov, a researcher and specialist in demographics at the Gaidar Institute in Moscow.[18]

Russia's demographic crisis and its state of public health

Adam Gwiazda's article Demographic crisis in Russia states:

The state of public health is one of the most extreme aspects of the demographic crisis in Russia. As a result of the AIDS epidemic, alcoholism and the dreadful state of health care, in the years 2005-2015 the mortality rate in Russia was three times higher among men and twice as high among women as in other countries with a similar level of social and economic development. More than half of the deaths of Russians aged 15-54 were caused by alcohol abuse after the collapse of the USSR. It should be noted that even the increase in the income of the Russian population by about 80 per cent in the years 1999-2008 did not result in a decrease in the mortality rate. High Russian mortality is the result not only of “normally” treatable diseases, such as tuberculosis, but also of lifestyle: drinking vodka, smoking cigarettes and AIDS. Every year, 500,000 people die due to alcohol in Russia. This applies to both women and men. The drug problem is also huge, as the prices of drugs are lower than in Western countries.

Russia is also unable to cope with the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases and cancer, which are the main cause of death. The problem is not only the lack of sufficient funds for health care (until mid-2005, about 4.2 per cent of GDP was allocated for this purpose, while in rich European countries it was on average 8-10 per cent of GDP), but also the country’s unfavorable social and economic situation, relatively low position of health and a long life on the Russian list of priorities, poverty, lack of responsibility for one’s own health, and bad habits.[19]

Russia's low fertility rate, aging population, projected working population and its potential impact on its economy

Russian woman in a dress.

Russia's population is expected to age significantly over the next few decades.[20]

The World Bank's article Searching for a New Silver Age in Russia: The Drivers and Impacts of Population Aging states:

Over the next few decades, Russia’s population is expected to age significantly. Some of this aging will be due to the increasing life expectancy, which is a significant achievement. However, this trend, together with low fertility and the retirement of large numbers of people born in the 1950s are expected to reduce the working-age population by as much as 14 percent over the next 35 years.

A decline in Russia’s working-age population will certainly pose serious social and economic challenges – but it can also offer important opportunities.

Pessimistic forecasts about the impacts of aging often assume that current behavior and institutions will continue unchanged in a future, older society. For example, since the early 1990s, increases in the working-age population have accounted for about one third of the growth in per capita GDP. Over the next few decades, without changes in individual behavior and government policies, a rise in the dependency ratio could reduce growth by 2 percentage points per year.

One important channel is savings, which could plunge if lifecycle-based savings rates remain unchanged as Russia’s population ages. Aging could also substantially increase spending on health care and pensions, leading to protracted deficits that boost today’s debt-to-GDP ratio of 20% of GDP to over 100% by 2050.

A more optimistic view is that individuals and firms will adapt to aging, and that policies can promote and speed up this adaptation process.[21]

An excerpt from the abstract for the 2016 journal article Aging in Russia published in the journal The Gerontologist states:

Russia has always been at an intersection of Western and Eastern cultures, with its dozens of ethnic groups and different religions. The federal structure of the country also encompasses a variety of differences in socioeconomic status across its regions... Social policy and legislation address the needs of older adults by providing social services, support, and protection. The retirement system in Russia enables adults to retire at relatively young ages—55 and 60 years for women and men, respectively—but also to maintain the option of continuing their professional career or re-establishing a career after a “vocation” period. Though in recent years the government has faced a range of political issues, affecting the country’s economy in general, budget funds for support of aging people have been maintained.[22]

What about Europe?

Europe is in decline and will remain so for some time (See: Decline of Europe).

Summary

The United States will probably be the strongest country for the foreseeable future due to the weakness of China and Russia.

Also, please note: All empires/countries eventually fade in power, fall or break up. The essay is not titled "The United States will be the leading power in the world forever" nor is it titled "The United States will be the leading power in the world until Jesus returns".

Major power politics in the 21st century for the foreseeable future

John Mearsheimer's view

John Joseph Mearsheimer is an American political scientist and international relations scholar, who belongs to the realist school of international relations and teaches at the University of Chicago.

Peter Zeihan's view

Peter Zeihan is an American geopolitical analyst and author.

Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order by Ray Dalio

Raymond Thomas Dalio is an American billionaire investor and hedge fund manager.

See also

External links

References

  1. The 2022 Holberg Debate w/ John Mearsheimer and Carl Bildt: Ukraine, Russia, China and the West
  2. Who has the biggest military? Breaking it down by active and reserve members., USA Today
  3. Global Soft Power Index 2022: USA bounces back better to top of nation brand ranking, Brand Finance website, 2022
  4. Energy at the End of the World | Part 4 | Demographics | Peter Zeihan
  5. Niall Ferguson on the projected drop of China's population in the 21st century
  6. When Will China Become the World’s Largest Christian Country?, Slate
  7. In China, a church-state showdown of biblical proportions
  8. Protestant Christianity is booming in China, The Economist, Sep 15th 2020
  9. China's dangerous decline, Foreign Affairs magazine, December 22, 2022
  10. China’s Demographics: It Gets Worse, Forbes magazine, Oct 12, 2022
  11. Niall Ferguson on the projected drop of China's population in the 21st century
  12. Demographic crisis in Russia by Adam Gwiazda, 2019
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 Russian fertility rates fall to record lows on the back of a deteriorating economy and sanctions pressure, bne IntelliNews, 2022
  14. Demographic crisis in Russia by Adam Gwiazda, 2019
  15. RUSSIA 2017 INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT.
  16. Russia’s Demographic Collapse Is Accelerating by Paul Goble, Jamestown Foundation website, 2022
  17. In Siberian coal country, signs of Russia’s shrinking population are everywhere. It ‘haunts’ Putin, Washington Post by Isabelle Khurshudyan, 2020
  18. Putin’s War Escalation Is Hastening Demographic Crash for Russia, Bloomberg News, October 18, 2022
  19. Demographic crisis in Russia by Adam Gwiazda, 2019
  20. Searching for a New Silver Age in Russia: The Drivers and Impacts of Population Aging, World Bank, 2022
  21. Searching for a New Silver Age in Russia: The Drivers and Impacts of Population Aging, World Bank, 2022
  22. Aging in Russia by Olga Strizhitskaya, PhD,The Gerontologist, Volume 56, Issue 5, October 2016, Pages 795–799, https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnw007