Rivals aren't enemies. Enemies aren't rivals.

This “is China the enemy?” stuff in the press is silly. China is not an enemy but a rival for geopolitical leadership. That’s an important distinction.

Does that matter? Yes. There is a game theory aspect to geopolitical ranking, such that we do enjoy benefits of leadership. We already speak the language of global commerce; we issue debt denominated in our own currency, at favorable prices; and we have outsize geopolitical influence.

China’s victory in this rivalry is almost inevitable: because of the huge population, they need attain only the GDP per capita of Mexico to take the global #1 position in aggregate GDP.

So what is an American geopolitical strategist to do? How could China dominance be delayed or prevented (if that were even desirable, which is a different question). Well, you could try to cause China to be broken up, to slow down its growth, or to speed up your own growth.

The first two require interfering with the rival’s internal politics, which would almost certainly turn rival into enemy. It’s a really bad idea to make an enemy of your biggest rival, as Japan and Germany learned in the 1940s.

So the only viable alternative is to improve yourself: increase your own growth and/or population to retain the lead as long as possible.

For example, note that China’s population growth rate is slowing, while America’s isn’t. With clever management, the U.S. may be able to increase GDP per cap by 4% between now and 2050, at which point we’ll have 600 million people. If China by then has a mature growth rate and population of only 900 million and falling, then U.S. dominance might be extended by 100 years or more.

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