As you head out into your weekend, here's some food for thought:
While we are worrying about a third-rate power (that happens to sit on the oil), arming itself with nuclear weapons; China, according to Elisabeth Rosenthal, writing in this morning's New York Times (at page C1), produces and uses 45 percent of the world's output of cement.
Going further into the business section, (page C4), according to Chinese statistics the Chinese Economy expanded at 11.5 percent in the third quarter, which was a "slight slowing from the second quarter." The inflation rate in China in September was, according to the same article by Keith Bradsher, 6.2 percent. The annual growth rate of Chinese industrial production, according to the same article, is 18.9 percent.
Now Chinese statistics, like that of all authoritarian states, have to be taken with a liberal amount of Morton's Salt. However, China wants more access to world markets, so this rule of thumb is not as true as it used to be. In any case, China is clearly growing in economic and industrial power at a stunning rate. This is going to change our world, in all probability, far more profoundly than Osama and his tapes, or Mad Jad with his nukes. Over at Real Clear Politics, there is a piece by Francis Fukuyama (he of the End of History) opining that the "the fundamental problem remains the lopsided distribution of power in the international system." Lopsided in favor of America, that is.
Dr. Fukuyama needn't worry: the international system is about to be dramatically rebalanced, no doubt producing plenty more history. During the Cold War, America had a tremendous advantage in that its great power enemies, besides being tyrannies, embraced a completely stupid economic and philosophical system that caused them to, dramatically, underperform industrially. Now, we are witnessing the return of authoritarian great powers: states with locked-down political systems philospically opposed to ours that employ unbridled capitalist economics. For the historically minded, think of the rise of Wilhelmine Germany into the more or less unipolar world run by Great Britain. Perhaps our wishful thinkers' prayers will be answered, and China's rise to power accomplished peacefully. Then again, perhaps not.
Meanwhile, we are led in part by loons who seem to think that our power (economic and military) requires no maintenance, and can go on forever. We have been very fortunate not to run into, say, a Bin Laden backed by a great power. I wonder if Dr. Fukuyama will miss the "lopsided distribution of power in the international system" when that happens ?
Have a nice weekend.