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How the US Could Lose the New Cold War

Since the United States seems serious about confronting China in an extended contest for global supremacy, it had better start getting its own house in order. Other countries will not want to ally themselves with a power that rests on increasingly uncertain economic, social, and political foundations.

NEW YORK – The United States appears to have entered a new cold war with both China and Russia. And US leaders’ portrayal of the confrontation as one between democracy and authoritarianism fails the smell test, especially at a time when the same leaders are actively courting a systematic human-rights abuser like Saudi Arabia. Such hypocrisy suggests that it is at least partly global hegemony, not values, that is really at stake.

For two decades after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the US was clearly number one. But then came disastrously misguided wars in the Middle East, the 2008 financial crash, rising inequality, the opioid epidemic, and other crises that seemed to cast doubt on the superiority of America’s economic model. Moreover, between Donald Trump’s election, the attempted coup at the US Capitol, numerous mass shootings, a Republican Party bent on voter suppression, and the rise of conspiracy cults like QAnon, there is more than enough evidence to suggest that some aspects of American political and social life have become deeply pathological.

Of course, America does not want to be dethroned. But it is simply inevitable that China will outstrip the US economically, regardless of what official indicator one uses. Not only is its population four times larger than America’s; its economy also has been growing three times faster for many years (indeed, it already surpassed the US in purchasing-power-parity terms back in 2015).

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