Stories about the economic emergence of China, India and Brazil fill our serious newspapers and newsmagazines. But economic activity is on the rise elsewhere too. For instance, the 540-mile border between Syria and Turkey was once pockmarked with some 60,000 land mines. Now $2 billion in mutual trade moves freely across this formerly hostile border. Turkey is increasingly labeled “the hub of Eurasia.”
Also, during the last 10 years trade between China and African nations has expanded from $10 billion to $100 billion. India and Peru have grown much closer as well. More and more South American nations are looking in the direction of Asia.
A new world economic and political order is beginning to take shape. Noted Financial Times columnist Philip Stephens put it this way: “We are living through one of history’s swerves. A multipolar world has been long predicted, but it has always seemed to be perched safely on the horizon. Now it has rushed quite suddenly into the present. Two centuries of western hegemony are coming to a close rather earlier than many had imagined” (“On the Way to a New Global Balance,” Dec. 17, 2010, emphasis added throughout).
But what about the fortunes of America, both economically and politically? In contrast to other nations, Washington certainly appears to be facing an uncertain future. The Chinese economic challenge promises to be very serious. Gideon Rachman wrote in Foreign Policy: “China…has proved its economic prowess on the global stage. Its economy has been growing at 9 to 10 percent a year, on average, for roughly three decades. It is now the world’s leading exporter and its biggest manufacturer, and it is sitting on more than $2.5 trillion of foreign reserves…China’s economic prowess is already allowing Beijing to challenge American influence all over the world. The Chinese are the preferred partners of many African governments and the biggest trading partner of other emerging powers, such as Brazil and South Africa …
“And China is only the largest part of a bigger story about the rise of new economic and political players…New powers are on the rise: India, Brazil, Turkey. They each have their own foreign-policy preferences, which collectively constrain America’s ability to shape the world. Think of how India and Brazil sided with China at the global climate-change talks. Or the votes by Turkey and Brazil against America at the United Nations on sanctions against Iran. That is just a taste of things to come” (“Think Again: American Decline,” January-February 2011). (Sources: Financial Times [London], Foreign Policy.)