The following is a Think Piece, required as part of my studies at the East West Center in the Asia Pacific Leadership Program.
With the west’s global dominance and eventual decline seemingly inevitable, it’s interesting to ponder how western nations will deal with the economic playing field being leveled? While countries like China and India have economies that are growing like wildfire, western nations’ continuing financial decline is helping to speed up this process.
In November 2009, Hans Rosling, presenting at TEDIndia, traced the global economic growth of India and China since 1858 and predicted that those economies will be equal to the United States in 2048. The presentation is not only entertaining and funny, but rather plausible. It really was only a few hundred years ago that all three economies were very close with one another. It’s never easy to part with what you’re used to and swallow the hard pill that you’re not always going to be top of the heap.
Even President Obama stated in a September 29, 2011 interview with a television station in Florida that America isn’t looking nearly as good as it once did. “The way I think about it is, you know, this is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft and, you know, we didn’t have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades. We need to get back on track.” Will the US get back on track or have the tracks already been re-routed?
While China, India and Asia all rely on America continuing to succeed and be a strong economic force in the world, there seems to be little sympathy about their current decline. A November 4, 2010, Economist article, At America’s Expense, does a pretty good job summing-up why that may be. “Another historic burden Mr. Obama carries in Asia is the arrogance of American officials during the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98. That caused resentment, helped burnish China’s image and inspired some scarcely concealed glee at America’s comeuppance a decade later.”
So, the question remains, how will the west deal with and face their inevitable decline and leveling of the economic playing field? It certainly will help if they come to grips with the fact they’ve had it too good for too long and Asian nations’ attitude will no doubt play a role in maintaining face, which just may become something more important to the west to nurture and preserve.