PARIS – In 2005, at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, a prestigious exhibit sponsored by the Chinese Government, “The Three Emperors,” celebrated the greatness of Chinese art. The show’s central piece was a giant painting in the European (Jesuit) style depicting the envoys of the Western world lining up to pay respect to the Chinese emperor. The message could not have been more explicit: “China is back.” The West would have to pay tribute to China in the future the way it had kowtowed to it in the past.
In 2012, China is on the verge of becoming the world’s largest economy and is by far the leading emerging power. Yet two simultaneous phenomena suggest that the West may have been buried prematurely by its own Cassandras and by Asian pundits who sometimes behave like “arrogant Westerners.”