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China emerges as the leader of an open global economy

By Nathan Gardels | | Updated: 2017-01-13 10:56

A China-US partnership is optimal for the world

I remember being at Davos in 2000 when Bill Clinton was the first American president to go there. It was the height of American post-Cold War triumph. Here is what I wrote at that time:

“Clearly, globalization is an American-led phenomenon. Those gathered in Davos were in awe of a US economy in the midst of its longest expansion in history, with full employment and low inflation thanks in good part to freer trade and advances in information technology. Industrial titans from Europe and Asia sat gaping as Microsoft’s Bill Gates, AOL’s Steve Case and Viacom’s Sumner Redstone offered their version of how to make billions in the new economy. Sessions on the other great revolution underway in genetics were also dominated by Americans, from the scientists to the regulators. From so high up in the Alps you can see clearly all the way to the future. And the future, if this year’s Davos meeting was any indication, will be undeniably American.” It was also at that time that then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called the US “the indispensable power.”

Almost two decades later, China is not yet where American was then. And America retains many of the same strengths I noted at the turn of the millennium.

But China has now moved way up the ladder. Yet, neither country can lead alone. The optimal arrangement for making globalization work is for the US and China to join together as “indispensable partners” based on a convergence of interests to create a world order that works for all. If the world’s two largest economies, though from distinct civilizational spheres, don’t buy in, it won’t work for anyone. The worst thing for the whole world would be for the US and China to become leading members of hostile blocs.

The author is editor-in-chief of The World Post and Executive Advisor to the Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council.


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