• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 11:09pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 October, 2013, 3:09am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 October, 2013, 3:09am

China, and others out to supplant US, must be careful what they wish for

Nations, like people, should be careful what they wish for. In a scathing commentary, the state news agency Xinhua has called for an end to US hegemony, or what it called a "de-Americanised" world.

I confess I get tired of watching HBO all the time on pay-TV. Wouldn't it be nice if we could easily access movies and music made in Europe, Africa and Latin America, Down Under and up in Scandinavia? Wouldn't we be much better informed about the world if we could always watch news from other countries, not just CNN, CNBC and Bloomberg?

But I presume that wasn't what Xinhua was getting at. Rather, the rant was against the US-dominated global financial system and world order. Yes, it's unfair; and it dates back to the post-war Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates, with the values of currencies all set against the US dollar, which alone was fixed to gold. There is even a term for the American benefits - "exorbitant privilege".

The post-Bretton Woods world still favoured the US disproportionately, after Richard Nixon killed the gold link and forced the world into floating its currencies. We are living with Bretton Woods' institutional legacies, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, always headed respectively by an American and a European.

However, this US-led global financial architecture has also underpinned an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity, first in Japan and western Europe, then in the Asian tiger economies and eastern Europe; more recently, we have seen the rise of China. It is doubtful China's economy would have risen so spectacularly without the globalised trade under international regimes sanctioned by the US, or the symbiotic relationship between the two countries' economies.

But we may already be drifting into a post-American world, which has variously been called "the rise of the rest" and the G-zero world. It may be that powerful emerging nations are having a greater say on the world stage. It may also be that the United States, which has always had an isolationist streak, is accepting its relative decline, as witnessed by its reluctance to intervene in Syria's civil war.

There is no guarantee a multi-polar world will be safer and more prosperous than one led by the US.


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This article is now closed to comments

Looking closer to home:
The British record of governance of Hong Kong looks increasing poor as more people become vocal to speak up about Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s inheritance from the British rule much can’t stand up to advance Hong Kong into a modern city – equality extending to all.
If Hong Kong people still hang on to the colonial class system as rightly allowed even by the Hong Kong Basic Law of no change promise, it is unwise not to make appropriate changes of fundamental dimension. Any assistance from any source including Central government should be welcome with open mind. It will not be easy as already witnessed of daily struggles at all fronts experienced in the post-colonial Hong Kong.
China should remember its "Warring States" period. It had seven independent kingdoms struggling for hegemony.
Today, we have India, China, Europe, Russia, Japan struggling for hegemony against the US.
There will eventually be a world war and, in the end, China will lose and be divided.
Both commentators make sweeping statements that China has improved upon the British colonial record of governance. Really? Would be interested to know in what way? If that is true, then why are Hong Kong people demonstrating so much more and so unhappy with mainland interference and the Hong Hong administration's incompetence? And why did the post-colonial government feel it was necessary to build a permanent metal wall around government offices in Central after the hand-over? Indeed why are there mobile metal barriers dotted around our streets ready for use. This does not seem to signify confidence in the population's acceptance of their record of governance.
The colonial administration was by no means perfect, but they did leave solid foundations on which to build. In the years since the handover, we have seem no improvements in for percentage of people trapped in poverty, more people are complaining that they have seen a real fall in their living standards, the increasing difficulty for people to afford rent and buy property, and new job seekers bemoaning the lack of job prospects. Even the civil service, which was once regarded as most efficient and effective has lost confidence in itself. To some extent this is even true of the Police, where there has been a shift in peoples perception of their impartiality and fairness. It is 17 years since the handover. Almost a generation. Sorry, but there is no excuse for this decline in governance.
Every dog has its day. Who knows what happens after Pax Americana?
The height of Chinese civilization ended with Song Dynasty. Its re-ascendance is devoutly to be wished but far from guaranteed. For now this nation has barely reached the threshold of a middle income one. We must wait and see if we could first escape from the middle income trap in the next decade before entering the rank of developed nations.
Hopefully, we could do it without selling our Chinese soul to the Mephistopheles of Dark Age dogmas and superstitions of Western Democracy and monotheism religions.
Perhaps only then should we contemplate our future role in the Brave New World, to which we could then joyfully exclaim with Faustian aspiration: "Verweile doch, du bist so schoen! (Stay a while, you are so beautiful.)" Isn't this Xi Jinping's dream too?
Even then, like Goethe's Faust, we might be able to savor it only for a fleeting moment (ein Augenblick), because glorious moments of dynasties seldom last.
The Chinese culture as such, all Chinese mostly are students of Confucianism which divide people into groups. A middle class – a majority, therefore will never emerge. Divided people behave individually without believing in common value that mostly creates the middle class. It is not just the amount of money -- middle income but a common shared value that constitute the middle class in US.
".. why are Hong Kong people demonstrating so much more and so unhappy with mainland interference and the Hong Hong administration's incompetence? "
Isn't it perfectly clear? You're either a self-hate banana or China baiting expat.
You have mistaken a rotten egg for a chicken. Guess who's in town today to promote some lousy-looking buses? People should be glad that Hong Kong is no longer subjected to poorly designed products and services due to a lack of choice and the threat of a gun. To come up with such a fallacy, something must have gone clearly wrong in your education.
Neither my comment is sweeping nor stating China has improved upon the British colonial record of governance. On the contrary, such improvement can be as I stated ‘Any assistance from any source including Central government …….’
China has been most cautious to stick to the Hong Kong Basic Law upholding the ‘One Country, Two Systems’.
So let me set your record right.
The global financial architecture was designed by the West with US as the chief designer. There was and still little participation from the East. The structure that supports the architecture can’t be overlooked. It is the American political system that ultimately allows the global financial system to exist till today. When the world wants to challenge it, it is a challenge that extends to include questioning the wisdom of Jefferson bunch who had laid the ground work for the US political system. Supplanting the financial system will be more than just about money matters. Rather difficult. But for China and the rest of the world asking for participation for fair share in decision making in global financial affairs is just -- by the substance in US Constitution, Jefferson would mightily agree.
Even viewing commercials on TV from the rest of the world sometimes are refreshing. In fact there was a program showing the winning commercials in international competition.


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