The End of “Western Ascendancy”?

Niall Ferguson, Professor of History at Harvard wrote in the Financial Times “The decade the world tilted east


I’am trying to remember now where it was, and when it was, that it hit me. Was it during my first walk along the Bund in Shanghai in 2005? Was it amid the smog and dust of Chonqing, listening to a local Communist party official describe a vast mound of rubble as the future financial centre of south-west China? That was last year, and somehow it impressed me more than all the synchronised razzamatazz of the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing. Or was it at Carnegie Hall only last month, as I sat mesmerised by the music of Angel Lam, the dazzlingly gifted young Chinese composer who personifies the Orientalisation of classical music? I think maybe it was only then that I really got the point about this decade, just as it was drawing to a close: that we are living through the end of 500 years of western ascendancy.

There are 5B+ people on the planet. The 1B in Africa are still lost.
The 1B in South America and the 2B in India and China are trying to find their way. The 1.5B in No America, Western Europe and Japan have had it figured out for a while.

Do you think Japan’s success has been a bad thing for North America? But we were scared in the 1980s. Has North America been bad for Europe? Having been to all of these places, it doesn’t seem like there is significant resentment between the group.

When China’s sovereign wealth funds start buying up prime commercial real estate in the United States, there will surely be some upset Americans, but remember that after similar Japanese funds purchased Rockefeller Center, they eventually sold it back to US holders for half price.

The world is all out of balance. For anything resembling and “average citizen” Western Europe, Japan and North America will continue to have much higher standards of living than anywhere else for the foreseeable future – think 100 years.

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