The USA and China are the two greatest powers in the world. 

They outclass all other countries. 

In the 2018 State Power Index* the United States is at the forefront of the ranking, scoring 16.65 points out of 100 possible.

But look at the effect of China’s quiet rise!

China is running second with 14.0 points.

To see why the unipolar power that America exercised from 1945 is coming to an end let’s apply smart power and go through the relevant powerapps (you can read all about these: here.

We take a look at developments since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991. How has the relationship between China and the United States changed in the powerapps of economic, military, land, people, culture, energy and diplomatic power? Well, look at this:

What you see is that China’s quiet rise is obvious to see in massive increases in its economic, cultural/educational and energy power.

But does that mean the end of the American century? 

Well, in 1991 the US beat China 5-2 in the powerapps.

In 2018, China is beating the US 4-3.

Taking each relevant power app in turn:

Economic power: CHINA HAS RISEN

  • You’ll see the 2018 USA result does not presage the immediate end of the American world mainly due to the improving condition of the US economy.
  • However, between 1991 and 2018, China made the biggest gains in terms of its capital—its economic indicator rose by a massive 12.8 points. It is already the largest economy in the world according to purchasing power parity.

Power result: 1-0 to China. The United States has already lost the economic top slot 


  • In the military sphere (military spending, weapon production, size of the army, etc.) it is the US that comes out on top. Its result of 31.03 points is more than four times the number of points scores by China—8.21 points.
  • US and China are atop the list of countries spending the most on their armies. Washington and Beijing spent EUR 529 billion and EUR 189 billion, respectively. 

Power result: 1-1. The United States maintains its military might but China is rising fast. 

Energy power: CHINA WON’T SUFFER 

  • In 2018 China produced the most energy and, at the same time, also meet these needs by itself—the country has 9.69 points in this index. 
  • The US is second (7.60 points) 

Power result: 2-1 to China. The US has lost out to the energy powerhouse that is China. 

People power: CHINA IS DYING

  • In terms of the potential generated by the population and its demographics, the most powerful countries in the world are China (17.2 points) and India (16.2 points).  The USA is on 4.0 points)
  • Between 1991 and 2018, 36 per cent of countries experienced a fall in people power. Their demographic burden (the number of people 65+ compared to the population of productive age 18-49 years old) worsened. The country that aged the most was China (down 2.5 points.

Power result: 3-1 to China. Despite its massive population, demographic change might weaken China

Diplomatic power: XI IS A MAN WITH A PLAN

Diplomatic power rewards countries that have a strong representation from major international structures.

Power result: 3-2 as the United States barely maintains its diplomatic power to a China increasing its global soft power.


The most culturally influential country is the United States (21.4), China is on its heels (20.7). 

Power result: 3-3

So the tie is broken only by China’s size which means that Land power tips the power balance to China. 4-3.

Conclusion: In terms of economic and energy hard power, the US has so far been bested by China. In cultural and diplomatic soft power, China has closed the gap. Only in military terms does the US remain hegemonic. The American century is over. 

*Our thanks to our friends at State Power Index who have provided the data and the graphics.