In his book ŽZero-Sum WorldŪ Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs columnist of The Financial Times, wonders the end of the Western world as we knew it. Between the fall of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Lehman Brothers, he describes the period as a golden age in which countries shared a belief in globalisation and western democratic values.
žFor a tantalising 20 years, globalisation seemed to promise rising living standards for all nations, and a more peaceful world,Ó he says but laments žone countryŪs gain looks like anotherŪs loss.Ó
He writes, žBoth as individuals and as a nation, Americans have begun to question whether the žnew world orderÓ that emerged after the cold war still favours the US.Ó He goes on žthe rise of Asia is increasingly associated with job losses for ordinary Americans and with a challenge to American power from an increasingly confident China.Ó
žChinese thinkers, for their part, are increasingly suspicious that a wounded America is intent on thwarting their nationŪs rise.Ó Quoting Pan Wei, director of the Centre for Chinese and Global Affairs who told the author. žMy belief is that in 20 years we will look the Americans straight in the eye as equals. But maybe it will come sooner than that. Their system is in chaos and they need our money to rescue them.Ó
The set of ideas, however, that underpinned ža Western Age of OptimismÓ between 1991 and 2008 might be called žliberal internationalismÓ according to Gideon Rachman.
The five key elements of the ideology were:
The first was a faith in the onward march of democracy.
The second was a faith in the triumph of markets over the state.
The third was belief in transforming power of technology Ů the era of the rise of the PC and the Internet Ů as a force driving forward prosperity, democracy and globalisation.
The fourth was a belief with the rise of democracy and capitalism the risk of conflict between nations inevitably diminished.
The fifth was a faith that in the last resort the US military could defeat any power on earth.
Those who live in glass houses shouldnŪt throw stones, goes a clich» and, thereby, the above set of perverse ideas and beliefs have turned into disbeliefs.
žThe risks of new international tensions and conflicts are heightened by the emergence of a set of dangerous global political and economic problems that, if they remain unsolved, could provoke wars, environmental disaster and debilitating new economic shocksÓ, bemoans the author.
He, however, concludes hopefully, žThe world does look unusually bleak in the aftermath of the global crisis. But the past century has proved the resilience and creativity of liberal democracy and free market economics. I suspect the next century will do the same.Ó