Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Tadae Takubo

【#866】Will America Decline or Come Back?

Tadae Takubo / 2021.12.29 (Wed)

December 27, 2021

There may be three major trends towards the New Year in the international situation. First, the United Nations and other international organizations established just after World War II have become dysfunctional. The previous U.S. Trump administration began to withdraw from international organizations, but the incumbent Biden administration is revising the Trump policy. What the next administration would do is uncertain. Second, China has staged a tremendous rise. It has not only boosted its national power but also demonstrated its reckless attempt to publicly intervene in other nations’ sovereignty, displeasing the rest of the world. Third, the trend of the United States as the most important ally for Japan is uncertain.

China’s greater-than-expected rise

Whether the U.S. will decline or come back some time is uncertain. The U.S. decline has been talked about since the Foreign Affairs magazine’s May/June 2008 issue carried feature stories under the title “Is America in Decline?” Political commentator Fareed Zakaria then denied the U.S.’ absolute decline, while Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass predicted that the international community would transition from “the age of U.S. unipolarity” to “the age of nonpolarity.”

The two commentators might have failed to predict that China would boost its national power to the present extent over such short period and act as a great power. They might have not expected that the U.S. and China would compete squarely with each other while China and Russia would move as far as to get married for convenience.

U.S. trouble is growing serious. The so-called Trump phenomena represented an explosion of social complaints against domestic income disparities and increased racial tensions. The American society is said to reflect confrontation between Democrats and Republicans and between leftist and rightist Democrats, causing Trump supporters to storm into Capitol Hill in final days of the Trump administration. In an apparent manner to ridicule American chaos, China’s Global Times carried a commentary on U.S. decline.

What does U.S. decline mean? In the U.S. where free speech is guaranteed, anti-government opinions and actions are rampant and reported by mass media. We should note that there is no freedom of speech and action to criticize a ruling party in a country where the authorities pleasingly call U.S. disorder as American decline,

Biden’s old age is a matter of concern

What are differences between the Biden and Trump administrations? Remarks by Joe Biden and Donald Trump on China are not very different. However, Biden who will turn 80 next year is bedeviled by an age issue. When asked by reporters how U.S. would respond to a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Biden said, “The idea that the United States is going to unilaterally use force is not in the cards right now.” Even a layman may understand how significant the remark is. I cannot believe that Biden who is well versed in foreign policy issues made such remark.

Vice President Kamala Harris, a nonwhite woman who was said to have been picked by Biden from the viewpoint of American diversity, has failed to gain popularity. Any chaos in the U.S. concerns its allies and pleases authoritarian states. Especially for Japan, the U.S. is a lifeline. We are ushering in a stormy year.

Tadae Takubo is Vice President, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and a professor emeritus at Kyorin University.