Welt ohne Führung

   [Het Parool, The Netherlands]



Financial Times Deutschland, Germany

Obama's China Trip Announces a 'World Without Leadership'


"At least since the time of Napoleon, we Europeans have lived with a somewhat fearful suspicion that China will likely wake up one day as a giant of global politics. Now that time has come."


By Thomas Klau*



Translated By Stephanie Martin


November 19, 2009


Germany - Financial Times Deutschland - Original Article (German)

President Obama speaks to a small, specially selected and prepared group of Chinese young people, Nov. 16.


CCTV NEWS, CHINA: China's state-run TV takes a look at the end of President Obama's trip to the country, Nov. 19, 00:03:50RealVideo

After the cool treatment of Europeans, now comes a soft stance toward China. During his first visit to Asia, U.S. President Barack Obama, sober as always in his approach to foreign policy, has drawn his conclusions about the reorganization of the global power arena. In accordance with the wishes of the Chinese leadership, human rights rhetoric was almost entirely missing from Obama’s public statements. Behind closed doors he may have made demands on some key issues like Iran; in public, however, anything that may have suggested America as school master and China as the one receiving instruction was avoided.


Obama’s China visit was more than a passing episode. It most likely documents the definitive end of a historic epoch, in which the foremost Western power was able to present itself internationally as the ultimate authority on good government and good business, without incurring more than the weak protestations of those who were comparatively unsuccessful.


Until recently, we all thought that the peaceful fall of the Berlin Wall marked the beginning of a global era of democracy. Today we suspect that the bloody end of the democracy experiment in Tiananmen Square [photo, left] was an equally important event. Twenty years ago, democracy won in Europe and lost in China. That’s why the turnaround year of 1989 [year the Wall fell] marked the beginning of the end of a historic era - an era in which Western concepts of good governance and good business almost entirely dominated the global discourse. If things stay this way because China continues to do splits between free and un-free politics, the Tiananmen Square massacre will be, unfortunately, the 1989 event with the strongest influence on the future.




We are slowly beginning to get used to this new, post-American world. Peeved, we see that the globally more modest United States treats its coolly-controlling lender China with greater care than it does the European Union, which resembles a dovecot with all of its comings and goings. Somewhat amazed, we see that after Russian millionaires, newly-wealthy mainland Chinese now also stop off at the most expensive European luxury hotels. This is new, but the truth is that it's not entirely surprising.



At least since the time of Napoleon, we Europeans have lived with a somewhat fearful suspicion that China will likely wake up one day as a giant of global politics. Now that time has come. The "multi-polar world," battle cry of French President Jacques Chirac against his American colleague’s affectations of global rule in the era of the Iraq War, is the reality today: it is accepted, almost checked off the list and even welcomed by some. Our problem is, however, that having the courage to recognize this is a long way from having the courage to create anew.


Let’s look at our new multi-polar, globalized, Internet-connected world: an economic disaster of almost unparalleled proportions was averted only because public debt in many countries has been pumped up to levels that are difficult to bear. And it is far from obvious that governments and legislators will be able to bring themselves to address the world's most pressing problems with anything more than cosmetic surgery.




Climate change is no longer a prediction, but a dramatic reality. And yet on no continent have we been able to address the political and practical consequences. The haggling over emissions trading within the E.U.; the U.S.' inability to reform its health systems while at the same time seriously address the issue of CO2 emissions. All of this, and China’s unwillingness to lead globally on this issue, all lead one to conclude that under present circumstances, political systems are likely structurally incapable of regaining enough control over the destructive potential that has developed in the global economy - both to our physical well-being and the stability of our societies. Perhaps our children will curse today’s generation of political leaders - and where there are voters, the people who elected them - because they in full consciousness stood idly by and allowed significant parts of humanity to drift into a genuine catastrophe.





A few weeks ago behind closed doors, one of the world’s leading central bankers suggested a scenario of rapid economic and technical development that from a structural perspective, far outstrips government’s ability to react. It takes far too long for national legislators to agree on creating new sets of rules and then for urgently-needed international talks to be held. Meanwhile, the IT revolution has accelerated change at an enormous rate.


President Barack Obama visits China's Great Wall, Nov. 18.




Global Times, China : The Well-Disguised 'Arrogance' Behind Obama's Royal Bow

The Times, U.K.: Obama Bow Shows 'Confidence'; Need for Change After Bush

Global Times, China: Addiction to Growth is China's 'Berlin Wall'

Global Times, China: U.S. and Beijing Disagree on Obama's Chinese Name

Global Times, China: Chinese Netizens Have 'Sharp Words' for President Obama

China Daily, China: Obama Can Teach Shanghai Officials a Thing or Two

China Daily, China: VIDEO - Chinese React to Visit of President Obama

Global Times, China: 'Obscene Postcard' Emerges of Taiwan President and Hillary

Der Spiegel: German Editorials - Obama's Soft Approach to China Won't Succeed

The Times, U.K. Obama's Bow to Japan Emperor Shows U.S. 'Confidence'

The Telegraph, U.K.: Obama 'Breaks Conciliatory Tone'; Criticizes China Censorship

The Australian, Australia: Obama's Personal Story No Substitute for Policy in Asia

Globe & Mail, Canada: China 'Plays Down' President Obama's Visit


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With its innovations of Europe's common foreign policy, the Lisbon Treaty is a small indicator that the E.U. and Europe are partly aware that things cannot go on as before. But it will take more than a decade to raise public awareness enough to ensure effective European action. It may well be that never in the history of human civilization have existential problems been as global as they are today. Yet we continue to organize government as if solving global problems were a luxury that states can afford to confront only if they fit into its domestic policy agenda. 


We've hardly even begun to discuss the fact that with an eye toward political stability, the world needs much stronger global decision-making bodies to ecologically control international growth. But aren’t much stronger global decision-making bodies unrealistic? Of course they are. But the recent explosion of our national debt was a warning shot. We must immediately concentrate on the unrealistic if the reality in which we live is to remain pleasant enough to remain in.


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
































[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US November 21, 3:55pm]


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