Saturday, October 3, 2009

US Losing Luster

When it comes to the question of which country the rest of the world would rather be with - the US or China - the choice is not as easy as it used to be.

From Korea's Chosun Ilbo:

Image from

The American "hegemony" is receding, leading economist Jeffrey Sachs said Tuesday in an article for the Financial Times on the G20 Summit held in Pittsburgh. The article was titled "America has passed on the baton." In mid-September, 16 U.S. intelligence agencies released a document which pointed to Beijing as one of Washington's main global challengers in the future. All this shows that the U.S. is on the ebb in the 21st century, while China's international standing and influence are rising rapidly.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the U.S. has concentrated foreign policy attention on the Middle East, which it pointed to as the source of terrorism, but has paid less attention to Asia, Africa and Latin America. By contrast, China has been expanding its influence and raising its profile in those areas.

Citing Asia as an example, Newsweek said Asian nations are being asked to decide where they stand between the U.S. and China, as these two powers are building their respective alliances and engaging in fierce competition. All this was sparked by two military exercises staged in Asia in 2007. One was Malabar 07, an exercise initiated by the U.S. and joined by Australia, India, Japan, and Singapore. The other was the Peace Mission 07 under China's initiative and joined by members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization such as Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

The SCO is a group formed by Beijing and Moscow in 2001 ostensibly dedicated to combating terrorism. With the exercise as momentum, weaker Southeast Asian nations such as Burma and Cambodia as well as Central Asian countries came under China's influence, experts say.

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"Either you're with us or you're against us."

That doesn't have quite the same bite after Bush and his administration took their eye off the ball (China) and focused solely on "killing the terrorists" during their reign. Thanks for being such a visionary leader, President Bush.

The move away from China towards America isn't solely limited to alliances and political support. Businesses across the globe are lining up with China too.

From AFP:
ISTANBUL — The nascent global recovery is dividing Latin America between economies that pay the price for ties with the United States and those that benefit from growing links with Asia, experts said.

"The US economy is getting better, but with a lot of uncertainty along the road," Nicolas Eyzaguirre, the International Monetary Fund's Latin American director, said at a conference Friday in Istanbul.

"The effect on Latin America will be very different depending on what's your level of policy preparedness and what's your linkage with the US and vis-a-vis Asia," he said.

In its economic forecasts published Thursday, the IMF said that Latin America had begun to recover from the global economic crisis and would post growth of 2.9 percent in 2010.

But there were wide disparities, with countries such as Mexico, which depends heavily on the United States, losing out and others like Brazil benefiting from rising exports to China.

The United States is the epicentre of the crisis, while China is leading global growth.


Goldfajn, a former deputy governor Brazil's central bank, said Brazil used to export mostly to the United States, but "China is overcoming exactly now the US as our main export destination" for the first time in the country's history.

The economist said that generally the region's economic health depends on the degree of economic links to the United States, saying Colombia, Brazil or Argentina were at a safer distance.

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The awarding of the 2016 Summer Olympics to Rio was a substantial repudiation against the US. The rest of the world is not in awe of the US' greatness any more. It's gotten so bad that Obama's visit and impassioned plea to the IOC was rewarded with being the first site to be eliminated. I understand that there were a lot of politics not related to Obama behind the decision, but there's no doubt that Chicago being eliminated first was a substantial, symbolic slap in the face.

America is way off of where it was even a decade ago. It's hard to see how or when it will get back to where it once was.

China is on the rise and is going to continue to be a yin to America's yang.


Ramesh said...

Yes America's influence is on the wane and China's is rising. This is as it should be. For a country as big as China and now as economically mighty, its been pulling far less on the world stage than it should have. That situation is correcting itself. On the other hand, America when it had virtual monopoly as a world leader did not win many friends and antagonised lots of people. Its influence had to wane. Maybe, its good for the world that there is no single country that dominates - a multi polar world seems to be a better place.

Having said all that, the role as a leader in the world is not one that sits on the shoulders of every nation easily. It calls for the right balance of power, used wisely and with a light touch. Somehow, its difficult to visualise China with the deftness required to influence other countries. Having seen a bit of Asia and Africa, the growing Chinese influence is purely economic. To be more than that, China needs diplomacy, tact, compromise and a willingness to sometimes be wrong - qualities it has yet to show on a world stage. Contrast this with Obama. The day a leader rises from China who can give a speech like what Obama did in Cairo is the day when America should truly worry that it isn't the leader anymore.

Mark Carver said...

China's national single-minded focus is its biggest advantage over the US. The United States has superior business strategies and structures almost across the board compared to China but her greed came back to bite her in the ass and now everyone's so busy squabbling about who to blame and how to fix their particular problem that its hard to get the formerly unstoppable glacier moving again. The laws of inertia and thermodynamics apply to economics as well as masses. But I postulate that if America became economically spooked by China the way it was physically and ideologically spooked by The Axis in WW2 and Russia in the Cold War, America would find itself back on track to economic dominance, even if it was a nationalistic/ethnocentrist track. And while that may be beneficial in the short run, in the end there are always winners and losers.

Mark said...

Ramesh, thanks for the great comments again. You always leave level-headed thoughts. I certainly appreciate them.

Interesting thoughts, 马克. America really is a clusterf*** right now. It doesn't even seem like people of different beliefs even like each other... at all.

It might be a cop out, but I'll blame a lot of the divisiveness and hatred in America right now on Bush. His polarized world-view (again, "either you're with us or against us") is still wreaking havoc on the US.

Obama's got a long way to go before he's resolved things.