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The end of the lone superpower

08 May 2012, 11:55

I’ve always maintained that the United States’ rule as supreme superpower would come to an end economically, rather than militarily.

When you consider the world’s history, it’s always notable that the time frames of any superpower, or subsequent world ruler, is becoming shorter and shorter.

Initially, the Egyptians, Romans and Greeks had their time, and were the benchmark in all that was progressive and successful for thousands of years.

More recently, the Spanish, British and a number of other European nations filled this gap, albeit only for a couple of hundred years.

The British were more successful than the others due to their willingness to wage war when they wanted something, often culminating in tensions on the European mainland even though the dispute raged in other parts of the world.

One of the reasons was the strategic military position Britain had in relation to the rest of Europe, being more impenetrable due to them being an island; something even the modern Germans learnt on the hard way.

When political pressure in favour of de-colonization started to emerge in the 20th century, the Britt’s had the brains to render their conquered lands back to the locals... on their terms.

Sure, they always had a war or military incident raging somewhere in the world, but that is a natural appearance considering the amount of ground that had to be defended.

The Americans saw this, and used the same principle by applying economics. In contrast to the British and Romans, their rule was but for a couple of decades.

Isn’t it notable that two of the largest, industrialised economies in the world today are Germany and Japan?

Both countries were conquered by the Allies, which mostly included the Americans, 60 years ago, and considering the fact that especially Germany was almost completely destroyed, their current position as the backbone of Europe is quite phenomenal.

Germany and Japan’s single largest gain was a strong economic host in the U.S.

True, their ability to manufacture any product that would be superior to the competition may have played a part in their recent development, but a large trading partner still had to sell these products to someone, and the newly established American middle class fit the bill perfectly.

In a sense, the U.S colonized the “manufacturing cream of the world”, bolstering their economy with what would eventually become two of the world’s top five economies.

Interesting history lecture, but so what?

So everything...

These days, everyone is on the China bandwagon and the anabolic economic growth it has.

Economic forecasters predict it surpassing the U.S in a macro-economic sense by 2020, and then India surpassing China again by 2050.

All this is of course based on current growth patterns, which could change at any stage, especially considering the current climate.

The fact remains that China is more dependent on the continued success of the U.S economy, than the other way around, and this situation will continue for years to come.

What the U.S essentially achieved then, was to bind the Chinese to them, preventing another Cold War from ensuing.

The problem China and India also has, is that none of this translates to the man in the street with them, simply due to the sheer numbers of people they boast. It would be impossible to get their respective (Gross Domestic Products) GDP’s per capita  close to Western figures in the decades, possibly centuries to come, which will frustrate their growth at some stage.

Essentially, we are witnessing the end of the lone world superpower, as more and more wealthy countries are trading interactively of one another. It is for this reason alone that greedy decisions, and over evaluations in the U.S house market, brought the entire world to its needs, reminding us all of how vulnerable everyone in the world economy is.

In short, China will only join the superpowers, as it already has, and not become the “Dragon that rules the world” as so many have feared them to become.

In time, I believe that even this country could join the ranks as a regional superpower, which, it essentially already is. I honestly don’t think S.A is going to the dogs as so many Doom Prophets would advocate.

However, I do think we are massively under performing at the moment, and that we could vastly improve, given the correct leadership; not just politically, but economically as well.

The days where the fate of the world rests in one man’s hand, at the push of a red button, is soon becoming numbered, marking the end of the era for one country to rule the rest of the world as it saw fit.

The irony is that the more we are intertwined with other economies, the more independent we also become at the same time. A contradiction in terms, I know.

To be dependent and independent at the same time?

The answer is not so simple, as certain dependencies pre-suppose independence in another front. The bottom line is, you need to be independent enough to call your own shots, but dependent enough to matter; to be missed when you’re not there.

Some of these changes have become more evident recently, such as our presence in the U.N Security Council and the growing importance of the G20, as opposed to the influence the G8 wielded on its own for years.

Whatever the changes of the future, you can bet the title the American President carries as “world’s most powerful man” will at some time be shared by others in the same bracket, pre-supposing the end of the era of lone superpowers, and dawn of the new world order.

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