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LETTER | Declinism of the American empire, perception or reality?

LETTER | For American political scientist Samuel Huntington, the problems confronting the US since the 1980s was a relative economic decline compared to Japan, Germany, and the newly industrialising countries, made worse by high military spending.

It was similar to previous imperial or hegemonic powers such as Britain, France, and Spain.

A Pew Research Center survey on what Americans think the United States will be like in 2050 found that a majority predict a country with burgeoning national debt, widespread social disparity, and a workforce threatened by automation.

A majority also believe the US economy will be weaker, healthcare less affordable, the environment degraded, and Americans having a harder time making ends meet.

Also predicted: a terrorist attack as bad as or worse than 9/11 sometime over the next 30 years. Americans themselves believe “an irreversible decline” has begun in the United States and that the world is entering a “post-American era.”


With public cynicism and distrust toward government and politics continuing to grow, the surreal and grotesque quality of the American system and its fracturing hold on global economic dominance has thrown into question the stability and influence of the American ideology, greatly affected by the impact of two wars, high consumption, and financial crises.

America’s self-defined ideology of democracy and human rights lost all meaning and value since the Iraq War. The international financial crisis, caused by the US' excessive and unchecked consumption, negatively affected the credibility of its economic model.

When US officials and politicians loudly exclaimed about “democracy,” “human rights,” and “market economy”, they could not implement their own mantra and lacked confidence in their own rhetoric.

Reported plans for US House speaker Nancy Pelosi to visit Taiwan could spark one of the most perilous moments in cross-straits relations for decades, and de-escalation could become difficult for US and China.

Domestic chores

America’s list of complaints seems endless - real wages have fallen and growth productivity is down. US companies aren’t globally competitive, jobs are no longer secure, its infrastructure is collapsing, the federal deficit is soaring, and the health system is deteriorating.

Its cities are unsafe. Gun violence is a daily occurrence. The schools are failing.

The gap between rich and poor is widening. With US$41.52 trillion in assets, the top one percent of households control more than 32 percent of the country’s wealth. With just US$2.62 trillion in assets, the bottom 50 percent own a mere two percent.

A 2019 Federal Reserve study found almost 40 percent of Americans “wouldn’t be able to cover a $400 emergency with cash, savings, or a credit card charge.”

The US is no longer the only great power. China’s rise has been breathtaking. Beijing has challenged American preeminence in trade, technology, diplomacy, and military strength, posing the greatest challenge to the US since World War II.

As it stands, the United States is in decline: its vast military power is being challenged by asymmetrical wars, its economic growth is slow, its debt is rising rapidly, and its political system is proving unable to meet these challenges satisfactorily.

While the US is still likely to remain the world's leading power for the foreseeable future, it is being challenged by China, particularly economically, and also by several other regional great powers.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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