According, and as can bee seen via their graph below. To Stratfor, the 21st century is the beginning of the North American century. This might be odd, considering that we call the 20th century the American century. But what they are referring too is not the most powerful nation at any given time. But where the axis of world politics turns.
When viewed in this light the graph makes more sense. Britain didn't cease to be the worlds most dominant power in 1848, however, its ability to control and direct the course of European politics, which was the axis of the world during this point and time, did change. Once Germany united in 1871 European, and from there world, politics and strategies circled around how to deal with Germany and their position as the rising star of Europe. The Cold was also a time period were the world turned on a European Axis. Yes America engaged in wars over in the east to try push back or contain Soviet influence in Korea and Vietnam, but the center of it all was Europe. The USSR could never match the US without the advanced economies in the west (West Germany and France) either in their direct control or under their influence. And it was in Europe were everyone anticipated conflict. Europe was incredibly important in terms of geopolitics, as whoever held the advantage in Europe would hold the advantage in global politics. This changed with the fall of the Soviet Union.
With the rise of the Pacific, both economically and politically, the nations along the pacific rim are exerting more influence on the global stage than in years past. Trade in the Pacific, thanks in large part due to the demand by the United States, is now larger than trade from the Atlantic, though trade in the Atlantic is still large. With the relative decline of Europe, and the relative rise of Asia, the ability to control the oceans is now even more important. During the age of Europe, while Europeans did have overseas colonies and forces in the East, the pacific was almost an after thought. The Americans were able to expand their influence as the only major power that bordered the pacific (and when Japan rose to be a rival naval power in the east war resulted).
The US is in a unique position that allows itself to project both in the developing, but economically dynamic, orient and in economically stagnant, but wealthy, occident. And until such time that the divide between the east and west becomes as great as it was during the 18th to early 20th centuries the ability to project power in both spheres is vitally important. Moreover, the North American continent has the 2nd largest GDP in the world, well above Asia, not far behind Europe, and about 85% controlled by a single nation.
Now, a lot of individuals might say that Europe's GDP is going to decline, they are right, and that Americas GDP is going to decline, also most likely right. That China and the Asian nations will see their GDP grow, and they may be right but I disagree (As I have frequently stated in my blog posts). I say that because outside of small nations like Singapore, Asia has tied their economic fortunes to being the low cost exporters of the world. Japan has moved on to high-tech goods, but at one point they did the same thing that China does now, and their economy is still very beholden to export. With the two largest consumptive markets already showing a decline in demand, and with some nations like China unable to foster domestic demand of their own. Their growth prospects are diminished, for now. Coupled that fact with the knowledge that nations like Korea and China have economies that, if not state run, are heavily managed by the state, and if believe in free market economics, then you can see how Asia's growth will be hampered for now.
For the time being, couple of decades, may a century, perhaps longer, the axis will revolve around the North American continent. One only need to look at the business section of a newspaper to see this. Despite China's growth everyone is looking to see what happens in North America first, they are the dog, and everything else is the tale. If the global axis point falters so does the rest of the world. Part of this is the circumstances that developed simply from America being the largest and richest economy. The other part was intentionally implemented by our leaders over the course of via political, economic, and monetary policies (How many other nations can export their inflation?) And that is what Stratfor means when they say that the twenty first and not the twenty is the American century.
America may go to hell in a hand basket. But things are oriented as such, that if we go down. Everyone else is coming with us. We, or rather our leaders, have created a global economic system that needs to have America at the center*. Rome did this to great affect thousands of years ago, and Britain, until she exerted herself in the early 20th century, did so for her dominions as well. It's a system were nations actively try to ensure that America does not stumble (Why else would they continue to buy our bad debt?) because the fallout would be disastrous for them.
Now I could be wrong. China might not face economic collapse, though I am of the firm opinion they will, and that the BRIC nations could replace America as the economic and political engine of the global political and economic marketplace. But in my opinion to think that is to ignore that the very things we aggravate over, excessive government interference in the economic, burdensome regulatory environment, growing corruption, and inept leadership, are the same things that plague those countries as well. At the very least well see in the next few decades if Stratfor's opinions are right or not. I'd say grab some popcorn, but I doubt well all feel much like eating while we watch this next decade unfold.
*This is also ignoring that somehow Mexico doesn't get its act together and seriously challenge the United States for the biggest boy in the Western Hemisphere slot. Something that I am doubtful about, but others, like Stratfor, say is a possibility. Either way, if Mexico were in the driver seat its still a North American century. Just one without America at the helm.