The United States narrowly passed China on the final day of Olympic competition in the gold medal count. The tight finish is an apt metaphor for what’s happening on the global stage. America is still in the lead, but China is a serious and growing threat. In the ancient, original Olympics, there was only first place … and then everyone else. You either won, or you lost — second place was a tie for last place.

Geopolitics among great powers often follows the same rules. Carthage disappeared after scoring second place to Rome. France secured a miserable second place to Hitler. China and Korea suffered as second place to Imperial Japan. It will be a global disaster if America ever comes in second place to China. And yet, that appears to be where we are headed. 

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