Written by Frank Li
Is the U.S. the only superpower on earth today? Yes! But how long will the U.S. domination last? Not more than two more decades, in my humble opinion! Why? Three main reasons:
- History: The world has never been dominated by one country for very long. Instead, it has always been led by multiple countries. The current period of U.S. domination will prove to be no exception (American Exceptionalism).
- Competition: A country may lead the world for a while, just as the U.S. has been doing after WWII, but it always fades because of competition – Others learn from the leader to become better.
- Self-destruction: Self-destruction can be even worse than external competition. America has been grappling with the inherent problems of democracy. For example, both career politicians and career welfare recipients are parasites. Together, they have been destroying America inside out, with no relief in sight!
I believe the world has been, and will continue to be, led by three countries: the U.S., China, and Russia. I label them as the “three new kingdoms“, because of the striking similarity to the “three old kingdoms“.
1. The three old kingdoms: a definition
Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia about the “Three Kingdoms”:
The Three Kingdoms (AD 220-280), a tripartite between the states of Wei (Chinese: 魏), Shu (蜀), and Wu (吳), followed the loss of the de facto power of the Han dynasty in China, ushering in the start of the Period of Disunity. To further distinguish the three states from other historical Chinese states of the same name, historians have added a relevant character: Wei is also known as Cao Wei (曹魏), Shu is also known as Shu Han (蜀漢), and Wu is also known as Eastern Wu (東吳). The term “Three Kingdoms” itself is something of a mistranslation, since each state was eventually headed not by a king, but by an emperor who claimed legitimate succession from the Han dynasty. Nevertheless, the term “Three Kingdoms” has become standard among sinologists.
The Three Kingdoms period was one of the bloodiest in Chinese history. A population census during the late Eastern Han dynasty reported a population of approximately 50 million, while a population census during the early Western Jin dynasty reported a population of approximately 16 million.
For more, read: Three Kingdoms.
2. The three old kingdoms: a highlight
The Three Kingdoms is one of the best documented, most exciting, and best filmed (Three Kingdoms TV Series) stories in human history! For example, it is far better than anything I have seen about ancient Rome. Unfortunately, it’s in Chinese. So allow me to give you a highlight in five points:
- All three kings of the three kingdoms wanted to be the King (or Emperor) of China.
- They fought among themselves via various wars, but the “national” strategy for the two smaller kingdoms was the same: we must gang up against the big guy, because “if one of us is destroyed, the big guy will then destroy the other”.
- Leadership was everything, with the king having the ultimate responsibility and accountability! A self-made king was a great man by definition. However, he often had one paramount goal: leaving a great legacy behind. Because of that, he often rushed to achieve an “impossible” goal (e.g. “unifying China in my lifetime”), which often resulted in a disaster. On the other hand, a king by inheritance was often not very good.
- A war was too important to be left to a general, who was often too obsessed with winning the war but failed to fit it into the national strategy. For example, when two allies attacked an enemy and started chasing the enemy’s general, your general might want to kill him to declare victory and make history. However, your national strategy might require that your general just chase him to the other side and let your ally kill him, so that the enemy would later revenge against your ally, not you.
- Self-destruction was sometimes more damaging than anything external.
3. The three new kingdoms
After WWII, the world was divided into two parts: the West and the East, with the Cold War between them. Furthermore, China’s Mao was too big to be truly a part of the East led the USSR. So China was actually on its own as a third party.
These three “kingdoms” have been “fighting” (or competing) against one another since then, with the U.S. in the dominant position for much of the time.
3.1 1950s and 1960s
Throughout this period, the USSR and China stood against the U.S. Initially, they stood together (e.g. the Korean War). Later, they stood separately (e.g. the Vietnam War), because of the differences between them.
President Nixon saw something very valuable in China: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
At that time, the #1 enemy of the U.S. was unquestionably the USSR. To end the Vietnam War and to ultimately win the Cold War, the U.S. needed China. President Nixon not only saw it (what a great visionary!), but also made it happen (what a great rainmaker!). For more, read: Barack Obama vs. Richard Nixon.
Relations between the U.S. and China advanced. China continued its reforms, with a booming economy, but refused to embrace democracy.
The U.S. worked hard to defeat the USSR and succeeded! The USSR disintegrated in 1991, and became Russia plus several separate countries, thus ending the Cold War.
After the Cold War ended in 1991, the U.S. was the only super-power left standing. However, instead of promoting peace, the U.S. aggressively promoted democracy throughout the East (and more), pushing NATO eastwards right to Russia’s front door. Russia was unable to respond to Democratic Imperialism, because of its tanking economy.
Additionally, because of the loss of its biggest enemy (i.e. the USSR), the U.S. needed new enemies to keep its war machines going (America: A Culture of War). China became an obvious target, with various issues from communism to human rights.
In short, throughout this period, the big guy (i.e. U.S.) just beat up the two little guys (i.e. Russia and China), with little resistance.
A great tragedy befell the U.S. on September 11, 2001. Instead of asking the right questions and facing the truth (Ron Paul on 9/11: Ask the right questions and face the truth), the U.S. launched the War in Afghanistan in 2001 and the Iraq War in 2003. In other words, the U.S. started self-destructing big time, while taking the eyes off the ball.
Which country benefited most from these two wars? China! China just moved ahead without much distraction from the U.S. and soon became the second largest economy. For more, read: What’s The Real Cost of The Iraq War?
What about Russia? It regained its footing after the collapse of the USSR and became the eighth largest economy on earth (List of countries by GDP).
Time will prove that 2014 is the year that fundamentally changed the dynamics and balance between the three new kingdoms!
What happened in 2014? Ukraine! The U.S. just mishandled it, totally (A Pseudo Conversation between President Obama and Ukraine PM)! As a result, Russia signed a huge gas deal with China on May 21, 2014 (U.S. Outmaneuvered By Russia In China Gas Deal)!
What was so special about the deal? Three facts:
- It was under negotiation between China and Russia for almost 10 years, without an agreement until 2014, when the U.S. goaded Russia into signing!
- The deal is for 30 years and is worth more than $400B!
- The deal was done in the Chinese Yuan, not the US Dollar, which was another gigantic step toward the creation of the Chinese Yuan as a major alternative reserve currency to the US Dollar! For more, read: Money and America.
Most significantly, the deal has cemented a close Russia-China alliance for the next three decades, at least! As a result, a new chapter for the three new kingdoms has begun, and it’s extremely unfavorably to the U.S.! Unfortunately, most Americans, including President Obama most likely, do not even know it!
For more, read: The America That Can No Longer Think, Politically.
The world is too big and too complex to be dominated by any single force, be it a country (e.g. ancient Rome or the U.S.) or an ideology (e.g. communism or democracy). Instead, it has always been, and will continue to be, led by multiple countries with multiple forms of government. How many? Three has been a good number!
Practically speaking, the world of the three new kingdoms today is no bigger than ancient China of the three old kingdoms, especially in terms of communication and transportation.
While the three old kingdoms fought for control/influence via military wars, wars are hopefully no longer an option for the three new kingdoms, because they all possess nuclear weapons, which can destroy any country anytime. So the three new kingdoms are left with one way to compete for control/influence: commerce.
Who has the best hand in commerce among the three countries of the three new kingdoms? China, especially with the spectacular gas deal done recently!
What about Russia? Putin will prove to be a great president for Russia. For more, read: Top 10 American Misconceptions about Russia. Here is another perspective: What Russia Could Look Like in 2035, if Putin Gets His Wish.
As the most powerful country of the three new kingdoms, the U.S. must adjust and change. However, I am not sure it can or will, thanks to democracy for its inflexibility and its ineffectiveness! Consequently, unless my advice is heeded, democracy will destroy the U.S. in the same way as it destroyed ancient Rome: too many takers, but not enough makers!
For more, read my book: “Saving America, Chinese Style”!
Once again, the Three Kingdoms is one of the best documented, most exciting, and best filmed (Three Kingdoms TV Series) stories in human history! The TV series, with 95 episodes, has more than 130 million views already and it’s still only available in Chinese. Hopefully one day it will be translated into English. However, by then, it may be too late for the U.S. – the U.S. may no longer be the biggest guy of the three new kingdoms!
Although the power will undoubtedly shift, the three new kingdoms will likely continue to exist and my analogy between the three old and the three new will continue to be valid.
The old is new; the new is old!