Search
memorial day parade washington dc
Tyler Whitsett, a First Lieutenant cadet with the Civil Air Patrol United States Air Force Auxiliary helps to hold up a large American flag prior to the start of the National Memorial Day Parade on May 25, 2015 in Washington, DC.  Matt McClain—The Washington Post/Getty Images

These Are the 5 Reasons Why the U.S. Remains the World's Only Superpower

May 28, 2015

A ‘superpower’ is a country that wields enough military, political and economic might to convince nations in all parts of the world to do things they otherwise wouldn't. Pundits have rushed to label China the next superpower—and so have many ordinary Americans—but the rumors of America’s decline have been greatly exaggerated. In the key categories of power, the U.S. will remain dominant for the foreseeable future. These facts show why America is still the world’s only superpower, and why that won’t change anytime soon.

1. Economics

China’s economy is growing at an impressive rate. But it’s not just the size of an economy that matters—it’s also the quality. According to the World Bank, GDP per capita in the US was $53,042 in 2013; in China it was just $6,807. In other words, little of China’s dramatic economic growth is finding its way into the pockets of Chinese consumers—the byproduct of an economy driven by massive state-owned enterprises rather than private industry. China’s headline growth may be higher, but it’s the U.S. economy that’s allowing its citizens to grow along with it.

And crucially, the American economy remains the bedrock of the global financial system. Over 80% of all financial transactions worldwide are conducted in dollars, as are 87% of foreign currency market transactions. As long as the world continues to place such faith in America’s currency and overall economic stability, the U.S. economy remains the one to beat.

(World Bank, Mon€¥ $ Ban£ing)

2. Military

America’s military superiority remains unrivaled—full stop. The US accounts for 37% of global military spending, and spends more than four times what China, the world’s No. 2 spender, does on its military. The U.S. dominates across land, sea, air and space. America’s Middle East misadventures gave the U.S. military a black eye, but the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan speak more to the changing nature of warfare than declining U.S. military superiority. Terrorists and guerilla fighters give conventional military powers fits by design. The U.S. must ultimately learn to scale down to better meet those challenges. Nevertheless, while conventional military strength might not deter terrorists, it still does a terrific job of deterring hostile nations.

(International Institute for Strategic Studies)

3. Political Influence

Political power comes in many dimensions. For the U.S., foreign aid is an effective way to cement its political clout globally. In 2013, the U.S. doled out $32.7 billion in financial assistance; second was the UK at $19 billion. Turns out that money buys strong political cooperation from countries in need.

But in order to have political power abroad, you must first have stability at home. The U.S. has the oldest working national constitution in the world, as well as strong institutions and rule of law to accompany it. While far from perfect, the governing document created by America’s founding fathers has evolved along with its people. The numbers show the enduring attraction of this system: 45 million people living in the U.S. today were born in a foreign country. That is more than four times higher than the next highest country. For many people around the world, America remains the ideal place to start a new life.

(Washington Post, PolitiFact.com, Pew Research Center)

4. Innovation

Of the 9 largest tech companies in the world, 8 are based in the U.S. Give the growing importance of the technology sector, that’s a big deal. For decades America worried about energy dependency, yet today America is the world’s No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas, in large part due to the development of hydraulic fracturing, a product of public research and private energy. America’s research universities and scientific institutions are best in class, allowing the nation to focus its ingenuity where it’s needed most. And America is spending the money to keep its comparative advantage intact: 30% of all research and development dollars are spent in the U.S.

(Bloomberg, Bloomberg, US News, National Science Board)

5. Culture/Lifestyle

In 2012, Americans spent $370 million on pet costumes. Earlier this year the Fury 325 opened up in North Carolina, claiming the title of world’s tallest rollercoaster—until 2016, when the next ‘giga’ coaster is scheduled to open in Orlando, Florida. In the most recent Charities Aid Foundation survey, Americans ranked #1 internationally when it came to helping strangers. These stats may seem disconnected, but together they point to the fact that Americans continue to enjoy a quality of life unmatched by the rest of the world. When you combine this with America’s strength across the board in economics, military, political influence and innovation, it is no wonder that the U.S. enjoys its privileged position in the world today. Superpower indeed.

(TIME, The Guardian, Charities Aid Foundation)

See the U.S. Military's Last Days of Combat in Afghanistan

A U.S. soldier waits for a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade to land after an advising mission at the Afghan National Army headquarters for the 203rd Corps in the Paktia province of Afghanistan
VIEW GALLERY | 25 PHOTOS
A U.S. soldier from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment waits for a CH-47 Chinook helicopter after an advising mission at the Afghan National Army headquarters for the 203rd Corps in the Paktia province of Afghanistan on Dec. 21, 2014.Lucas Jackson—Reuters
A U.S. soldier waits for a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade to land after an advising mission at the Afghan National Army headquarters for the 203rd Corps in the Paktia province of Afghanistan
U.S. soldiers from 3rd Cavalry Regiment flag a car to stop to be screened for explosives near forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan
A crew member climbs into a U.S. Blackhawk helicopter before it takes off following a mission to take Brigadier General Christopher Bentley to inspect an Afghan National police installation in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan
A U.S. soldier from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment is watched as he fires a squad automatic weapon during a training mission near forward operating base Gamberi, in the Laghman province of Afghanistan
U.S. soldiers in Dragon Company of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment watch rounds explode downrange during a mortar exercise near forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan
A U.S. soldier from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment uses the optic on his rifle to observe Afghans in the distance, near forward operating base Gamberi, in the Laghman province of Afghanistan
U.S. soldiers from 3rd Cavalry Regiment interact with men selected to be biometrically screened near forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan
Humvees for the Afghan National Army are lined up waiting for parts to be repaired at the Afghan National Army headquarters for the 203rd Corps in the Paktia province of Afghanistan
U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment take part in a Christmas Eve celebration with soldiers from the Polish army's 21st Mountain Brigade on forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan
U.S. soldier from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment relaxes in his quarters after taking part in a mortar exercise on forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan
U.S. soldiers play volleyball at forward operating base Fenty in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan
U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment wait in line to get food during a Christmas day lunch at forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan
U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment greet their Afghan police counterparts during an advising mission to an Afghan police station constructed by ISAF near Jalalabad
U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment fire a 120mm mortar during an exercise on forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan
U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment listen to a translation of an advising meeting at an Afghan National Army base near forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan
A U.S. soldier from Grim Company of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment sits in an MRAP vehicle as he prepares for an early morning mission at Forward Operating Base Fenty in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan
A mortar flies out of a tube during a mortar exercise for U.S. soldiers in Dragon Company of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment near forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan
Lieutenant McDonald prepares a platoon of U.S. soldiers from Grim Company of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment at Forward Operating Base Fenty in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan
U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment watch "Die Hard" projected onto an outdoor wall as part of Christmas Day celebrations on forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan
REUTERS PICTURE HIGHLIGHT
U.S. soldiers from Grim Company of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment walk down the street near an Afghan police checkpoint during a mission near Forward Operating Base Fenty in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan
A U.S. soldier from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment walks through an Afghan police station constructed by ISAF near Jalalabad
U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment prepare for a mission at Forward Operating Base Fenty in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan
U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment load into a CH-47 Chinook helicopter for an advising mission to an Afghan National Army base at forward operating base Fenty in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan
A U.S. soldier carries a backpack to a shipping container during preparations for leaving Afghanistan
A U.S. soldier from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment waits for a CH-47 Chinook helicopter after an advising mission at the Afgha
... VIEW MORE

Lucas Jackson—Reuters
1 of 25
All products and services featured are based solely on editorial selection. TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.