Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has been the lone superpower that, if it’s so willing, can exert preponderant influence over the global, geostrategic, and geopolitical order. In a true sense, a bipolar or multi-polar world order whereby the U.S. is of equal status and influence with another “pole” or “poles” does not really exist.
America’s economy is the world’s largest, nearly two times larger than China’s, and is rapidly approaching close to 4 percent growth, accounting for roughly a quarter of the global economy. But the size of the economy is not the only thing that matters. Its quality remains unrivaled too, with both a normal GDP per capita, and median household income nearly 10 times that of China’s. The U.S. dollar is the default currency in more than 80 percent of global financial transactions, without any real possibility of being replaced in that role in the foreseeable future. It’s a structurally diverse, predominantly private, entrepreneurially-driven, and market-oriented economy that earns the world’s unswerving faith and confidence, which in turn draws the largest foreign capital inflow. In other words, the United States is the world’s lone economic superpower.
The United States also has the world’s strongest and most lethal military force, with a defense budget greater than the next ten largest defense spenders combined. The U.S. retains dominance on land, at sea, in air, and space, and possesses a nuclear arsenal that can strike and destroy targets anywhere in the world. The U.S. Navy alone has more aircraft carriers than the rest of the world combined, with a nuclear-powered super carrier class without any meaningful rival on the horizon. On top of its unmatched military hardware, the U.S. also has a global military alliance system to rely upon when international, multilateral, or proxy actions are called for. No other nation in the world can enjoy the command and alliance authority of the U.S. military.
This American unipolar dominance also manifests itself in America’s leadership in innovation, science, technology, research and development, and education. Nine out of the top ten largest tech and information companies in the world belong to the U.S. which also dominates in the number of Nobel laureates and top research universities, making the country the ultimate incubator of the world’s most accomplished scientists and innovators.
The unipolarity enjoyed by the United States is also reflected in America’s unparalleled soft power. Its founding principles of liberty, equality, human rights, and the rule of law has made the nation the ultimate destination for more immigrants than any other country. It’s the world’s oldest, most trusted, and most stable democracy. It sets the standards for global information exchange, social media interaction, and e-commerce through giant companies such as Facebook, Wikipedia, Amazon, YouTube, Google, and Twitter. The U.S. leads globally in virtually all major cultural strands, including cinema, music, sports, mass media, and television.
However, if a superpower refuses to recognize or take pride in its own greatness, it runs the risk of developing a chronic strategic hesitation to use its superpower strength to benefit its national interest. In a world vandalized by multiculturalism, whereby all nations and cultures are soothingly regarded as of equal value, talking about an unrealistic and non-existent bipolar or multi-polar world order will only help nullify America’s unique position to make the world safe for democracy and untenable for tyranny and dictatorship.
Miles Maochun Yu is a professor of East Asia and military and naval history at the United States Naval Academy (USNA). His books include OSS in China: Prelude to Cold War (Yale University Press, 1997) and The Dragon’s War: Allied Operations and the Fate of China, 1937–1947 (Naval Institute Press, 2006). He is the author of many scholarly articles on China, military and intelligence history, and newspaper columns. His numerous awards include the USNA's top researcher award, U.S. Navy Special Action Award, and U.S. Navy Meritorious Service Award. Since 1996, he has been an editorial consultant to Radio Free Asia. He has been a contributor to various media outlets including The Wall Street Journal and PBS News Hour. For seven years (2011-2016), he wrote a weekly column "Inside China" for the Washington Times. He received a doctorate in history from the University of California, Berkeley, a master’s degree from Swarthmore College, and a bachelor’s degree from Nankai University.