Booklist | Josef Joffe, ‘The Myth of America’s Decline,’

Is this the end of American supremacy? The publisher-editor of German Die Zeit argues against Fareed Zakaria, Parag Khanna, and others that despite political gridlock and a host of problems, the US is still no. 1 for the foreseeable future.

Joffe, an eager neologist, calls these models “modernitarianism.” He grants that China has advantages that Japan and earlier “tiger” economies lacked. Its reserve army of labor is bigger. And it has a large military. But Joffe is not impressed. Demographically, China is at risk of stagnation, with ever more dependent retirees and ever fewer people of working age. And the United States, with a war budget of around $700 billion (excluding spending on veterans), still accounts for over 40 percent of world military spending. Even if we assume a doubling of China’s $100 billion military budget, slow demographic growth “will not soon enable the Middle Kingdom to unseat the greatest military power the world has ever seen.”

Nor can China match the United States in education. It can send its promising young scientists to top American universities. But most foreigners who get Ph.D.’s in science and engineering in this country tend to stay at least five years, Joffe says, including 92 percent of Chinese and 81 percent of Indians (a striking statistic that helps explain this book’s strong pro-immigration bias). Whether you measure by entrepreneurship or by research and development, China has been unable to develop a free-standing tech culture. Contrary to predictions of government-led innovation being a “way station” on the road to a free-­market economy, the share of state enterprises in the Chinese economy has grown in recent decades. Meanwhile, the share of Chinese-built parts in the high-tech products it assembles and exports has fallen.

via ‘The Myth of America’s Decline,’ by Josef Joffe – NYTimes.com.

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