How the United States, China, and the former Soviet Union stack up.
Posted BY: | NwoReport
China’s growing power is the single most influential driver of geopolitical change today. Notwithstanding Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, the United States has clearly identified China as its number one challenge. In June 2022, for the first time ever, NATO included China in its Strategic Concept, signaling a radical shift in the bloc’s security outlook.
But how mighty is China really? Measuring and comparing power between nations and across time is an imprecise exercise at best. Nonetheless, we can gain valuable information about China’s current power position if we compare it to the contemporary United States and Cold War-era Soviet Union—and consider three important concepts: polarity, hegemony, and the original definition of a superpower.
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Such a comparison reveals that the United States is a pole, regional hegemon, and superpower. The Soviet Union was a pole and a superpower—but did not have regional hegemony. And although China is a pole in what is now a bipolar U.S.-China system, it is neither a regional hegemon nor a superpower. While these categorizations might read like abstract nuances in a scholarly debate, they actually have major, concrete implications for strategy and policy in the 21st century.
Polarity is simply the number of great powers in the international system. The most common method to determine which powers count as great is to look at key indicators: population, territorial size, resource endowment, economic capability, military strength, political stability, and policy competence. Using these seven indicators, we can see the international system now has a distinct bipolar power structure, with China and the United States as the two poles—similar to the U.S.-Soviet rivalry during the Cold War.
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