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John Hughes

World to US: ‘You’re No. 2’ – but can China be No. 1?

An international poll shows that the world thinks the No. 1 superpower is losing its cape to China. Debt politics only reinforce this view. But all is not lost. Remember de Tocqueville.

By John Hughes / July 27, 2011



Is America now the world’s No. 2 in the superpower lineup?

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Not yet, but a lot of non-Americans think it is heading that way, according to a new global opinion survey by the Pew Research Center.

Frankly, the Mickey Mouse way in which our politicians in Washington have handled their dysfunctional approach to the debt and budget crisis is hardly reassuring to those questioning the efficiency of our government or the efficacy of the democratic system we commend to others.

The Pew survey finds that in 15 of 22 nations polled, the balance of opinion is that China either will replace or already has replaced the United States as the “world’s leading superpower.” Foreign affairs guru Fareed Zakaria has been talking to his sources in China and says they are agog with amazement at the way the White House and congressional Republicans and Democrats have caterwauled until D-day on a debt-ceiling decision of immense global significance.

It is not that the nations polled by the Pew organization relish the prospect of America’s eclipse. The French, Germans, Spanish, and Japanese, for instance, rue China’s potential as the world’s leading economic power.

But 72 percent of the French, 67 percent of the Spanish, 65 percent of the British, and 61 percent of the Germans see China overtaking the US as the world’s superpower. Even 46 per cent of Americans think China has or will overshadow them. This is up from 33 per cent in 2009.

Populations in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America are less convinced that China is the world’s leading economic power.

However, the prospect of China matching the US in military power is much more disturbing. In Japan and India the prevailing view is that China’s growing military power is not in their interest. Majorities in Western and Eastern Europe, and in Turkey and Israel, share this view.

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