[The Toronto Star, Canada]



Financial Times Deutschland, Germany

China and America: Europe Should Fear G2 Rather than G20


"Amidst the current crisis, Washington is still Rome - but it's the Rome of the fourth or perhaps even the fifth century - and the barbarians aren't just at the gates, they’re already in the city. … Obama may feel more comfortable among Europeans than with representatives of authoritarian systems … But Obama has many problems and little time - and China has the money that the Americans need."


By Thomas Klau*



Translated By Jonathan Lobsien


March 13, 2009


Germany - Financial Times Deutschland - Original Article (German)

America and China need one another like never before. Europe must see to it that it isn't shunted aside. If Europeans don't combine their weight, they will suffer the fate of the British.


From the financial crisis came an economic crisis, which is now resulting in a social crisis - the likes of which the wealthy parts of the world haven't experienced since the post-war years. In most European countries, poverty is cushioned by the welfare state - even if as in Germany, benefits have become more restricted and more than bad food and a heated room is no longer guaranteed.


In the United States, however, the implosion of the financial sector is leading to social consequences that are being imprinted on the memory of a generation. Recently, a friend of mine who works as a journalist in Washington wrote a report on Americans who are over 75-years-old, and who must work because of the melt-down in pension funds that are federally-backed but tied to the financial markets. There is a 78-year-old former social worker prepared to bag groceries for $5 per hour at the supermarket checkout. Or the nearly 80-year-old man who touts his stamina and managerial skills.


It’s terrific when older people are able to continue working if they're fit enough and want to. It is cruel - and in our societies - previously inconceivable, to see well-educated people accept jobs with miserable pay well into old and very old age just to avoid having to get their calories from a soup kitchen. More has collapsed here than a financial world that lost touch with reality and indulged in material and speculative excess. An economic and almost an entire civilizational model threatens to crumble if governments don't succeed in curtailing the crisis in the coming year.




The worst hit has been the credibility of the U.S. model. Privately and collectively, Americans have lived a life on credit financed to a great extent by the hard-earned and hard-saved surpluses of the emerging power of China. In China where there is still hardly a welfare state to speak of, the average savings ratio for private households is 40 percent. The global financial crisis has cast a harsh light on the dependence of the old Western powers on the new power in the East - even if the fates of creditors and debtors are deeply intertwined - since the ruin of one may indeed mean the acquisition of power for one, but also an enormous loss of money for the other.


Alaric I: Served as a commander of Gothic troops in the Roman army. After the death of the emperor Theodosius I in 395, he left the Roman military and was elected king of the Visigoths. He then fabricated an excuse and attacked the Eastern Roman Empire. After two failed attempts, in 410 AD, he and his Goths sacked Rome.

Washington is the new Rome, both architecturally and in the name of its upper house [the Senate], but also in the way it polices the behavior of Europeans - even if Europeans pay their respects to the Senate and Caesar in the White House. Amidst the current crisis, Washington is still Rome - but it's the Rome of the fourth or perhaps even the fifth century - and the barbarians aren't just at the gates, they’re already in the city. However, these barbarians aren't vandals. This time they are emissaries of a land with a high, millennia-old culture. Nonetheless their ways seem strange because they don’t favor democracy. Unlike the Visigoth, King Alaric I [photo box, left], the Chinese aren't coming to take money; they’re coming to bring it.


But the result is similar: The prestige of new Rome, like old Rome back then, has suffered a massive blow. The foundations of U.S. power have been weakened; the Iraq War and soon perhaps, the war in Afghanistan have demolished an entire generation’s faith in America’s strategic wisdom, as well as the predominance of the American economic model and management. The U.S. economy has "fallen off a cliff," said Warren Buffet this week. Buffett is one of the few who fully recognized the dangers of casino-capitalism and like the cursed prophetess Cassandra, tried to stop the crash with warnings of doom.


Cassandra: In Greek mythology, Apollo gave her the power to predict the future - but also made sure no one ever believed her.
Cassandra on Wikipedia

[Editor's Note: In Greek and Roman mythology, the God Apollo is said to have given Cassandra, daughter of the king of Troy, the gift of prophecy (photo box, right). But because Cassandra rejected Zeus' romantic advances, he cursed her by making it so that no one ever believed her].


If the administrative centers of Europe weren't so preoccupied with their own plight and if we had governing structures that organized and encouraged European thinking rather that talk of petty nationalisms, then we could consider how to prevent the nightmare of a global G2-duopoly composed of the world's biggest debtor and largest creditor. Despite all the problems of the United States, we shouldn't forget that demographics favor the Americans and that the U.S. is more capable that Europe of coping with the productive integration of immigrants.




China’s leadership rightly sees the U.S. as a weakened, but still a strong partner. Beijing could now be tempted to develop the common interests that objectively exist with Washington into a new form of expanding cooperation. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already signaled that Washington will back off from the theme of human rights in its dialogue with China. From the point of view of Beijing, this is an important signal.


[Guardian Unlimited, U.K.]


Obama will soon make his first trip to Europe as U.S. president. That’s reassuring; politically speaking: with his interest in the welfare state and environmental protection, his past as an initiator of civil rights initiatives and his training as a constitutional lawyer, Obama may feel more comfortable among Europeans than with representatives of authoritarian systems, no matter how sophisticated and cultured they may be. But Obama has many problems and little time - and China has the money that the Americans need.  



If Europeans wish to be heard, they must coordinate their message and speak with one voice. Otherwise all of Europe may suffer the fate that recently befell the British, who are exceptionally close partners of the United States: During his visit with Obama, Prime Minister Gordon Brown was snubbed by receiving a disdainful gift of a DVD box set of American film classics, which were incompatible with European DVD-players. If the Americans start giving films to Europeans we can't even watch once, it’s really time to be worried.



Financial Times Deutschland: High-Tech Killed Finance - and Media May Be Next

Financial Times Deutschland: Obituary for Neo-Liberalism; the Birth of a New Order

Financial Times Deutschland: Obama: Diplomatic Virtuosity Incarnate

Financial Times Deutschland: Michelle Obama: A 'Revolutionary' That'll Be Good for America

Financial Times Deutschland: 'Cult of the Founding Fathers' is Obscuring America's Worldview


*Thomas Klau is an FTD columnist and heads the Paris Office of the European Council on Foreign Relations.










































[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US March 17, 5:57pm]