Matt Wuerker

The Promise and Peril of Global Change

The forces of globalization that were liberated by the fall of Communism have created a better world, with rapid economic convergence and shrinking inequality. But the future is also fraught with danger, as the changing global economic power structure will inevitably re-shape the geopolitical order in ways that incumbent powers, particularly the US, will not easily accept.

MUNICH – Panta rhei . Everything flows. This Greek aphorism often comes to mind when I think of the economic and political changes in my lifetime. They seemed as impossible before they occurred as they have felt natural in retrospect. Communism fell. Germany was united. The United States elected a black man president. And now we are in a phase in which Asia is catching up with the West and American hegemony is being challenged.

While American casino capitalism has collapsed, and America’s European economic satellites are suffering, China seems to be taking advantage of the situation, increasing its trade surplus in the midst of the global economic crisis. Indeed, in the first four months of this year, China became the world’s leading goods exporter, overtaking Germany, the previous champion.

It is true that in other economic terms, China still lags far behind. Although China accounts for 20% of the world’s population, its share of global GDP currently is only 7%. By contrast, the United States and the European Union account for 54% of global GDP, despite having only 12% of the world’s population.

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