Ten years ago, the world of the United States collapsed when the bank Lehman Brothers imploded, the global financial system led by the United States went into crisis, the stock markets plummeted and everyone was scared.
Stock markets always recover. In fact, Wall Street is now thriving again, as President Donald Trump never fails to remind us. But US confidence has never fully recovered from the great crisis of 2008. Its belief in liberal capitalism as the engine of human progress has been undermined.
He also lost his sense of himself as the pre-eminent nation. The Americans have had to reluctantly accept that China now rules the world.
Do the calculations, as they say. Even before the collapse, China had overtaken the United States as the world's leading manufacturer. But after 2008, the emergence of China as the biggest economic superpower accelerated as the United States staggered.
Wall Street is now thriving again, as President Donald Trump never fails to remind us. But the confidence of the United States has never fully recovered from the great crisis of 2008
Even in 2010 I was doing more global trade than the United States, and the gap has grown. Last year, its trade with the rest of the world was US $ 390 billion (£ 298 billion) more than in the US. UU It was China, not the United States, that effectively saved the West in the aftermath of the collapse by investing sums of money into the global economy. China Investment Corporation, its sovereign wealth fund, now owns about $ 941 billion in assets, many of them in the United States.
An important symbolic moment occurred in 2014, when the International Monetary Fund announced that, measured by purchasing power, China was the largest economy in the world: China is the world's largest consumer of automobiles, telephones and oil. Not only do iPhones, but buy more than anyone; Two million more, in fact, than North America.
And do not forget that India, the second most populous country in the world after China, has continued its own rise. Now it is the third economy in the world, according to the purchasing power.
This process of "Orientalization", of the change of power towards Asia, has accelerated in the last decade. It's not all economic power: China now spends more on its armed forces than most European countries put together.
He also lost his sense of himself as the pre-eminent nation. Americans have had to reluctantly accept that now China rules the world
Much has been written about how the economic misery of the late 2000s has fueled resentment of the elites and the rise of political populism in the decade of 2010. That's all true. Certainly, without the shock, we would never have had Donald Trump. What is less noticeable is how obsessed Trump is with China and how crucial it was to his political success.
One of Trump's funniest comedy videos on YouTube is a montage, made before he became president, of all the times Trump said China. It's about three minutes long and it's hypnotizingly fun. As a candidate, he spoke about the "violation" of the United States by China. Interestingly, that was exactly what the Americans wanted to hear.
For millions of them, whose jobs were subcontracted to Asia in the last two decades and who had to go through the economic crisis, they felt exactly that way. America goes to the dogs. China is the best dog Trump's slogan – Make America Great Again – spoke directly to that anxiety.
As president, Trump has been tougher on China than its predecessors. Obama tried to attack the rise of China with his so-called "Asian pivot". This involved changing the strategic focus of the United States away from the Atlantic, Europe and the Middle East, and towards the Pacific – Southeast Asia, Japan and, of course, China. Trump has the same focus, as seen in his long tour of Asia last year, but he is much more aggressive. Hence the impending trade war between the West and the East.
Trump rejects what he calls (in capital letters) STUPID TRADE with China. On Friday, he chided the Wall Street Journal for an article that said his administration was giving up trade in China: "We are not under pressure to reach an agreement with China, they are under pressure to reach an agreement with us. They are emerging, theirs are collapsing, we will soon take billions in tariffs and we will make products at home. "Of course, many experts say that this is economic suicide:" Trumponomy "is protectionism and will destroy the capacity of the United States. to innovate and create infinite wealth. Trump does not care. The point is that, in his head, the United States has been losing and China has been winning.
He is not wrong. China, for its part, has been interested in emphasizing its "peaceful rise".
But the relative peace that we have all enjoyed has been based on the unquestionable supremacy of the United States, and that is now under threat.
China is discreet in its dealings with the West, but its ambitions are vast and overwhelming.
The Belt and Road Initiative, China's huge development project, is an astonishingly bold plan to expand the influence and reach of Beijing by recreating the Silk Road commercial route for the 21st century. In what is said to be the largest infrastructure project in the history of mankind, Beijing is financing major construction projects in more than 60 countries in Asia and Africa and in Europe.
It will cost around $ 8 billion and will include roads in Kazakhstan, ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, an industrial park for high-tech companies in Belarus, projects and energy pipelines through Central Asia and railways in Iran and East Africa and much, much more .
Beijing has even announced plans for a Polar Silk Road, which aims to build infrastructure for navigation routes in the Arctic.
The extraordinary Tunnels of China-Pakistan Friendship are just one example. They are much more than a feeling of warmth.
Drilling huge holes through the mountain ranges that separate the two states, the tunnels and the renewal of the Karakoram highway backed by China, will allow giant shipments of Chinese goods to bounce directly to Karachi, in southern Pakistan, and then to the sea. to the rich Gulf markets.
This expansion may be a kind of mild imperialism, but it is imperialism. Just look at what China has done in Africa. In 2014, EE. UU He pledged to invest $ 14 billion in Africa over the next decade; China promised $ 175 billion, eclipsing the interests of the United States. The ambition is to turn 21st century Africa into what was Asia in the 20th century: the factory of the world.
The United States can console itself, as the British government does, that China's foreign investments will enrich poor countries and transform world trade for the good of all.
But there is no denying that the magnitude of China's reach is alarming.
Can the world avoid what American scholars call the 'Thrallides Trap', the rule that one superpower can not replace another without war?
China presents a friendly face to the world, but it is also very reserved and ruthless.
It has begun to militarize parts of the Belt and Road Project, in Pakistan, for example.
In addition, China now specializes in "debt trap diplomacy," whereby it makes a country economically dependent on its vast investments, and then begins to demand control. Last year, Sri Lanka was forced to hand over its largest port, Hambantota, to China after its debts to Chinese companies went out of control.
In the Congo, China has provided billions in aid, but now it has taken control of the country's cobalt mines, crucial for the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries that are used to power electric vehicles.
In Zambia, Beijing has taken control of the country's largest energy supplier. China has also rescued the company that supplies 90 percent of South Africa's electricity in the amount of $ 2.5 billion, raising fears about who will run it in the future.
But that would not be good news for anyone, especially since China could start using its newfound strength to make sure others felt the pain.
President Xi Jinping, who has become a ruler for life, is growing his army at great speed.
It is reported that China's defense spending is doubling, going from $ 123 billion in 2010 to $ 233 billion by 2020. The US military spends more than double and its armed forces are still much higher than those of China. But for how long?
Maybe Trump is not as stupid as he seems, and maybe his followers are not as stupid as presumptuous liberals assume.
40% of Americans never leave their country, but they can see how it is being eclipsed by China. And American voters know that China does not follow the rules of free trade: it fiercely protects its own economy through massive tariffs and subsidies.
Trump says that trade wars are "good and easy to win", but even he, deep down, should know that this is not entirely true, and that is why he is careful to always mix his harsh words about trade with China with warm words about President Xi.
China owns about $ 1 trillion in US debt, and could, theoretically, keep the global economy in ransom with the threat of selling its treasury holdings in the United States.
The superpowers are always worried about losing their status. The British were obsessed with this in the 19th century and Americans have been worried about their own decline since at least the fifties. It is the paranoia that comes with great power.
The problem is that, ten years after the accident, there is much to fear.