Puzzling through the geopolitical implications of the financial crisis

A surprising number of people are curious to know my thoughts about the political implications of the global financial crisis — a sure sign that Martin Wolf, Niall Ferguson, and Nouriel Roubini and about 50 other people on the geopolitics "A list" are just too damn busy.  Until recently, I had been busy thinking furiously about ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

A surprising number of people are curious to know my thoughts about the political implications of the global financial crisis -- a sure sign that Martin Wolf, Niall Ferguson, and Nouriel Roubini and about 50 other people on the geopolitics "A list" are just too damn busy. 

Until recently, I had been busy thinking furiously about how the crisis affected skirt lengths, so only know am I trying to look at The Big Picture.  Which, of course, means I'm starting out by reading what other people are writing.

Quentin Peel provides a nice overview in the Financial Times of the emerging conventional wisdom -- power shifting to the East, yadda, yadda yadda.  And in The Washington Quarterly, Matthew Burrows and Jennifer Harris update the National Intelligence Council's Global Trends 2025 report to incorporate the effects of the crisis (they should know how to do that, since Burrows was the principal drafter of the original report). 

A surprising number of people are curious to know my thoughts about the political implications of the global financial crisis — a sure sign that Martin Wolf, Niall Ferguson, and Nouriel Roubini and about 50 other people on the geopolitics "A list" are just too damn busy. 

Until recently, I had been busy thinking furiously about how the crisis affected skirt lengths, so only know am I trying to look at The Big Picture.  Which, of course, means I’m starting out by reading what other people are writing.

Quentin Peel provides a nice overview in the Financial Times of the emerging conventional wisdom — power shifting to the East, yadda, yadda yadda.  And in The Washington Quarterly, Matthew Burrows and Jennifer Harris update the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2025 report to incorporate the effects of the crisis (they should know how to do that, since Burrows was the principal drafter of the original report). 

Here’s where I keep bumping my head.  I by-and-large agree that a long-term implication of the crisis is that America’s relative market power should shrink vis-a-vis China and India.  The thing is, an awful lot of the short-term crisis steps are not moving in that direction.  The United States is trying to boost its consumption spending. China appears to be boosting pursuing fiscal expansion as well, except a closer look at what they are doing shows that they’re doubling down on an investment strategy that increases their export dependence.  Furthermore, the head of China’s central bank doesn’t think that Chinese consumption is going to rise anytime soon, because Confucian cultures value, "thrift, self-discipline, zhong yong or Middle Ground (low-key), and anti-extravagancy."

After a certain point, short-term trends can congeal into long-term trajectories.  So, my question to readers:  will the short-term moves actually throw off long-term projections about power trends? 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he is the co-director of the Russia and Eurasia Program. Twitter: @dandrezner

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