MOST OF US don't see the megatrends until they suddenly surface and smack us. Geopolitical experts have been saying for years, decades even, that the world economic order is shifting, that U.S. dominance will be challenged this century by our allies and rivals in Asia. Some in the West scoffed at the idea, or stayed stuck in denial. The latest blunt warning comes from former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd. The era of Pax Americana will be succeeded by "Pax Pacifica," he recently told the Asia Society in New York.
"The world today is approaching a turning point of truly historic proportions," Rudd said. "Historical trends are by definition slow to emerge. They then gather pace, often with a sudden burst of momentum . . . often well before the political community and broader public opinion has fully woken up to the fact. And so it is with the global economic power of the United States of America. For the last 130 years the United States has been the world’s largest economy. Within the current decade, that will no longer be the case when China takes its place."
Our $15 trillion national debt doesn't help. (That's trillion with a "t.") Writing in Newsweek, Harvard history professor Niall Ferguson calls it "the fatal arithmetic of imperial decline." He cautions that massive national debt led to weakening political and military might in 17th century Spain, 18th century France, the 19th century Ottoman Empire, and Great Britain in the 20th century. Is our turn next? All the more reason to vote for the presidential candidate most likely to break the fewest campaign promises.
Some still may be shaking their heads in disbelief over the new geopolitical shock waves. In modern times, the global race surely has witnessed our share of mind-blowing historic events and eras. The Great Depression. World War II, the Cold War, the Vietnam War. The economic rise of China and the Third World. The fall of South African apartheid. The 9/11 terrorist attacks. But the epic impact of potential U.S. decline in political, economic, and military power would rock the world for the rest of the century.
Don't take this low-rent blogger's word for it. The data and demographics are hard to deny, and global analysts aren't playing games. This isn’t future shock. The future already is here.
- Washington Quarterly, "Pax Asia-Pacifica? East Asian Integration and Its Implications for the United States" by Joshua Kurlantzick.
- Foreign Affairs, "The Age of Nonpolarity: What Will Follow U.S. Dominance" by Richard N. Haass.
- Council on Foreign Relations, "A G-Zero World: The New Economic Club Will Produce Conflict, Not Cooperation" by Ian Bremmer and Nouriel Roubini.
- PublicAffairs, New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East by Kishore Mahbubani.
- Time, "A Post-American World in Progress" by Fareed Zakaria.
- Project Syndicate, "A New World Architecture"by George Soros.
- Cambridge University Press, The New Global Trading Order: The Evolving State and the Future of Trade by Dennis Patterson and Ari Afilalo.
- The Economist, "Special Report: State Capitalism, the Visible Hand."
- Newsweek and The Daily Beast, "An Empire at Risk" by Niall Ferguson.