Wednesday, September 16, 2009

蝴蝶效應:How the world has changed!!

Question to ponder: What have integrity in government and Capitol Hill, Washington D.C. got to do with the near-instantaneous metamorphosis of what was originally a Wall St. investment gimmick, the BRICs (金磚四國), into a joint declaration of shifted economic stance among 4 major world powers, which otherwise share little common cultural, geographical, or ethno-religious interests?

A lot, as the accompanying Concept Map with this post implies; and the connections appeared far more traceable than how the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas.

To be specific, on the anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers on Sept. 15 last year -- the event that set off the series of chain-reactions which sent the whole world economy into synchronized chaos -- as we examine the extent of the transformation that the world has entered into as a result, one cannot but be impressed by how much the position of the U.S. in it has diminished.

This is hardly accounted for by what has come to be known as the "rise of the rest" -- a line of thinking that was popularized through the last U.S. Presidential Election. In this Newsweek report, Fareed Zakaria, who coined this phrase in his book: Post-American World, summarized four areas in which he saw the U.S. as being far ahead of the rest of the world, which was deemed ground for the conviction that "the U.S. has not lost the ability to lead."

But leadership is primarily not about staying ahead. In most surviving ancient cultures, it is about inspiring confidence through words and deeds. In Confucian teaching, people and government alike are judged by the integrity of their words and action: 「聽其言,觀其行」,「先行其言,而後從之」, 「民無信不立. In the past eight years, the U.S. first dragged the whole world into a war with allegations which right from the beginning were unfounded; then in the past year, sought to come out of a home-grown global economic crisis in ways which are totally contrary to the financial discipline that she has all along mandated the rest of the world to follow. This is hardly the kind of leadership that inspires confidence.

For most parts of the world as it is for most Americans, there is little doubt about the exceptional superiority of strengths which the U.S. possesses for many more years to come. What is beginning to be questioned though -- at home and abroad -- is the consistency with which her words are put into action. In the next post, I shall think more about the nature of the current financial crisis and the involvement of the U.S. in it. In the Concept Map that comes with this one, I'd simply highlight some developments in world events which might be linked directly or indirectly to the fall of Lehman Brothers and the crisis that followed.

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