The Baton Passes to Asia

Roger Cohen – The New York Times

Copyright The New York Times
It’s the end of the era of the white man.
I know your head is spinning. The world can feel like one of those split-screen TVs with images of a suicide bombing in Baghdad flashing, and the latest awful market news coursing along the bottom, and an ad for some stool-loosening wonder drug squeezed into a corner.
The jumble makes no sense. It just goes on, like the mindless clacking of an ice-dispenser.
On the globalized treadmill, you drop your eyes again from the screen (now showing ads for gourmet canine cuisine) to the New Yorker or Asahi Shimbun. And another bomb goes off.
There’s a lot of noise and not much signal. Everywhere there is flux and the reaction to it: the quest, sometimes violent, for national or religious identity. These alternate faces of globalization — fluidity and tribalism — define our frontier-dissolving world.
But in all the movement back and forth, basic things shift. The world exists in what Paul Saffo, a forecaster at Stanford University, calls “punctuated equilibrium.” Every now and again, an ice cap the size of Rhode Island breaks off.
The breaking sound right now is that of the end of the era of the white man.
I’d been thinking about this at Dubai airport in the middle of the night, as the latest news came in from the United States of the bloody end to the mother of all spending binges. I was watching the newly affluent from other parts of the world — Asians and Arabs principally — spend their way through the early-morning hours.
The West’s moment, I thought, is passing. Money and might are increasingly elsewhere. America’s little dose of socialism from Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson might stave off the worst but cannot halt the trend.
Then I arrived in Hong Kong. The talk was all about how U.S. economic woes could impact Chinese growth. Might it tumble to 8 from over 11 percent? And what of India, powering along with growth of a mere 8 percent or so?
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