The myth of American decline

China's rise is not America's fall

Declinist narratives about the fall of America have proliferated in recent years as domestic challenges have intensified and China’s influence has grown. But don’t dismiss American power just yet, argues political scientist Joseph Nye – it has risen from difficult times before, and is well-placed to do so again. This article is based on Joseph's new memoir 'A Life in the American Century'.


In February 1941, just before World War II,  TIME/LIFE publisher Henry Luce baptized this “the American Century.” For eight decades, I have lived in it as an academic as well as a public intellectual.  With five years as a political appointee in the State Department, Pentagon and Intelligence Community, I spent enough time in Washington to witness American power up close, and occasionally play a part in it.

Some say that the American century is over. But are rumors of American decline greatly exaggerated? Yes and no. Decline can be relative and absolut

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