A U.S. Navy F/A-18 launches from the USS Carl Vinson in an undated handout picture released in November 2014.
U.S. NAVY / HANDOUT VIA REUTERS

After two and a half decades, is the United States’ run as the world’s sole superpower coming to an end? Many say yes, seeing a rising China ready to catch up to or even surpass the United States in the near future. By many measures, after all, China’s economy is on track to become the world’s biggest, and even if its growth slows, it will still outpace that of the United States for many years. Its coffers overflowing, Beijing has used its new wealth to attract friends, deter enemies, modernize its military, and aggressively assert sovereignty claims in its periphery. For many, therefore, the question is not whether China will become a superpower but just how soon.

But this is wishful, or fearful, thinking. Economic growth no longer translates as directly into military power as it did in the past, which means that it is now harder

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