America’s total medal count right now exceeds those of China by four, but their gold medal count falls far below those of the PRC.
There is no guarantee that this lead will hold, as even fivethirtyeight admits that the PRC has vastly exceeded expectations, receiving six more medals than expected, relative to the United States, who have won seventeen less medals than expected.
If it does, though, or if the PRC even overtakes the United States in terms of total medal count, then post-olympics, there may be a large psychological reckoning as many sports fans and those who still buy into the concept of American exceptionalism may have to face the rising threat of Chinese dominance.
The United States for decades, especially after the fall of the Soviet Union, has been the dominant global hegemonic power, whose population and its relative political economic power were generally reflected in medal counts. The United States hasn’t lost in terms of total medal counts since the era of the Soviet Union, which itself was our primary rival and was always considered a nearly equivalent superpower status state whose size and power reflected the US, while China, still, has never been seen in such terms. While the PRC has overtaken the United States in terms of total gold count before, this would be their first time overtaking the United States in overall medal count, and to some may represent a fundamental shift in the power structure, as China vies for superpower status in the international system overall to rival the US.
While itself meaningless, the loss would be deeply symbolic, especially for a athletics fanatical US.
If this does happen, America would be wise to heed this warning, and end the political gridlock and complacency in the highest echelons of power. It must meet the threat of China head on with a denial of Chinese designs to dominate the Southwest Pacific, a plan to combat their aims to rewrite the rules of the global order with its takeover of the international organizations, including the Human Rights Council, and aim to strengthen its core. This means not only through spending on infrastructure and education and universal healthcare to ensure social stability and opportunity through growth, but a renewed focus on societal advancement rather than the misplaced crude cultural debates that constitute a civil war utterly weakening America’s ability to respond to external threats.
The world is changing quickly, and if America aims to remain at the zenith of its power structure, it must work tirelessly in realization of the very concrete rivalries that not only aim to threaten its reign, but the international system and all of the constitutive norms that it has constructed since the end of World War II.
Staff writer: Ari B