Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit this week has rekindled the familiar debate over American "decline." Our sole-superpower moment is over, we're told, and the 21st century will prove so much tougher than the 20th.
I'm just not sure what all the fuss is about.
Perhaps one source of confusion is this whole sole-superpower business. It's true that from the early 1990s until around now, America has been essentially alone at the top of the world heap.
Next, we're told, one of the consequences of the new multipolar world will be that we won't be able to do things unilaterally anymore. Anymore? What movie were they watching?
When we were supposedly cock of the walk, under Democratic and Republican presidents alike, anti-Americanism flourished.
Another reigning cliché is that the sun is setting on us as it did on the British Empire. But what does that mean? China isn't remotely powerful, influential, or rich enough to play the leading role of America, and we aren't nearly so weak, ignorable, or poor as to deserve the supporting gig as 1950s Britain.
Besides, although China clearly wants its moment in the sun, it doesn't seem particularly eager or able to lead. "When was the last time Beijing offered its own peace plan for the Arab-Israeli conflict, for instance?" asks Jonathan Eyal, Europe correspondent for the Straits Times in Singapore.