Did you know that, when given a choice between China and America, 81% of Japanese said that having the United States as the world's leading power would be better for the world?
Because it consists of voluntary arrangements among sovereign countries, international relations requires leadership and subordination.
Countries can only be led if they agree to it. The lead partner-subordinate partner arrangement can be collective — such as the EU or UN — or country to country.
For decades, America has dutifully led the global order. It rebuilt a war-ravaged Europe; reunified Germany and created a prosperous, integrated Europe; stopped Saddam's army from marching on its neighbors; prevented war from breaking out on the Korean Peninsula; contained Ebola in West Africa; and many other small, persistent acts that were only possible because of other countries’ willingness to follow America’s lead.
Now, though, the prevailing narrative is that a rising China is challenging American leadership. All nations must now decide what country – what system – to follow.
But if public opinion is a market (it is), the question of what country should lead the world is not much of a contest. America dominates — everywhere — by large margins:
- In South Korea, 73% prefer American leadership over Chinese
- In Australia, 72% prefer American leadership over Chinese
- In Canada, 71% prefer American leadership over Chinese
- In Kenya, 65% prefer American leadership over Chinese
- In Germany, 58% prefer American leadership over Chinese
What’s most interesting about these findings, though, is not that countries want America to lead. That’s not entirely surprising.
Yet many countries want America to lead the world despite seeing China as the world’s leading economic power.
In fact, the latter may drive the desire for the former. Countries around the world are pushing back against China’s heavy-handed economic campaign.
Whether in sports or international relations, leadership must be earned. Followers — those volunteering to be led — must feel like they are treated with fairness, respect, and commitment. Despite current American politics, bullies cannot reign forever.
For decades, America earned its role as the global leader. It would be a hell of a thing to give up voluntarily.