Since the last world war, some 70 years ago, the US has been the undisputed superpower in the world. Blessed with a fully functioning economic machine, when the rest of the world was trying to rebuild, America simply cleaned up. With the exportation of consumerism, the rest of the world also bought into much of American culture, goods and services. The fifties and sixties were powerful decades for the US and shaped the world for the rest of the century.
It was only through the misery of the seventies and the resurgence of new culture in the eighties that this global dominance began to crack. With the fall of the Berlin wall, the opening of the iron curtain, and the booming global economy of the nineties, new players began to emerge. China had always been blessed with a huge population, but it was through becoming part of the American export machine that it began to grow at immense rates and surpass even the US in economic output.
Meanwhile, the European project that was born out of the ashes of the 1940’s, and kept alive by American support, began to find old strength. The continent has been growing steadily and with the formation of the EU, more and more countries have joined an increasingly powerful economic and political block. With free movement of labour and borderless travel, cultures began to become more entwined and distinctly European in identity.
There are many other strong players, such as Russia or India, but for now they lack economic power. The US, China, and the EU are the current dominant global superpowers. They have roughly the same economic strength and between them, produce two thirds of the world’s output. They also have ample military strength, seats on the permanent UN security council, large urban, educated population pools and inherent cultures that allow them to control great spheres of influence in the world.
It is a new chapter in the history of the world, and the hope is that a balance of power will ultimately lead to lasting peace and further growth and prosperity for everyone. However, we don’t know what is going to happen and how the new political fault lines, alliances and interests will shape the world that is to come. We are also not here to speculate as to who will win, which economic model is better, or what culture will prevail. Undoubtedly though, one thing seems to be quite clear: the absolute dominance of the US in world politics, economics and culture is over. Ironically, it may have taken Trump’s insistence on “America first” that the rest of the world realised it not only can but has to stand on its own feet now. So long and thanks for all the fish (from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy).