A Chinese translation of The End of the American Century was published in China in April, just five months after the book appeared in the United States (see earlier post on publication details). The editors at Shanghai Lexicographical Publishing House told me that they translated and produced the book in record time, because they considered it a "hot topic." At the National Book Fair in Jinan, according to the publisher, the book attracted a good deal of interest, and reached #3 on the publisher's sales ranking.
A conference related to the book's title was held at the Shanghai Exhibition Center on May 9, and I was invited to give the opening address, along with a number of prominent Chinese academics. The event was held in the Center's "Friendship Hall" (see photo) which seated over 1000 people. But the turnout was unexpectedly large, and a separate room, with sound piped in, was set up for the spillover. The organizers estimated the total audience at over 1300. While some of the audience were students and professors, most were businesspeople, investors and clients of a financial securities company that was one of the sponsors of the event. So they were especially interested in the U.S. and global financial crisis, and how that will affect the U.S., China, and Sino-U.S. relations.
From questions posed by the audience, and in conversations I had with academics, journalists and financiers, the reactions to my thesis of U.S. decline was decidedly mixed, and surprisingly similar to the range of responses here in the U.S. Some agreed that the U.S. was in serious straits. Others felt that the U.S. would remain (or even should remain) the world's dominant power. Some felt that it was China's turn to take a more prominent role in global politics and economics.
Shanghai itself provides a stunning example of how far and fast China has grown. I last visited the city 20 years ago, when most of the street traffic was bicycles, and before any of the magnificent skyscrapers had risen on the other side of the river from the Bund. Now the city center is as gleaming and modern as any I have seen anywhere in the world. The many downtown shopping malls, modern and airy, are filled with outlets of the most popular (and most expensive!) Western chains. The city's two airports are modern, efficient architectural beauties. The subways and trains are clean, comfortable and efficient. The world's first commercially operating "Maglev" train (magnetic levitation) connects Pudong airport to the city center, reaching a mind-blowing speed of 250 mph. The only real problem in the city, to my mind, is the street traffic, with the chaotic and dangerous competition of taxis, cars, motorbikes, bicycles and pedestrians (more on this in a later post).
In later posts, I will post more information on the Shanghai conference, with the text of my own lecture there, and information about the other presenters at the meeting.
Is This The End of the American Century?
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
When President Barack Obama spoke at the University of Notre Dame’s commencement ceremony Sunday, much of his focus was devoted to women. In the weeks before his arrival, there had been considerable upheaval at the Catholic university due to Obama’s support for abortion rights, a position opposed by the Church.
The abortion debate aside, in a time when gender inequality continues to plague the United States, it is reassuring to see attention being given to women’s issues. Currently, the United Nations ranks U.S. gender development 16th in the world—a ranking exacerbated by George W. Bush’s eight years in office. His administration’s first attacks on women began early and abroad.
Immediately after coming to Washington, the Bush administration instituted a “global gag rule” on foreign organizations receiving U.S. aid. Under threat of defunding, the order explicitly forbade clinics from providing women with abortion counseling or operations, even if they wished to use their own money for the services.
The next summer, the Bush administration halted potential U.S. ratification of the Convention of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Although 185 countries have ratified the treaty, the United States—like Iran, Sudan and Somalia—is not one of them.
Soon after, the Bush administration cut off $34 million from a U.N. fund providing women around the world with birth control, sex education and maternal health care. It also began a fierce attack against the newly formed International criminal court—an organization promising historical gains in holding war criminals accountable for sex crimes against women.
The previous eight years also saw a decline in the welfare of women within the United States. In Dec. 2008, a national crime report was released revealing that the latter years of the Bush administration oversaw a 25 percent increase in sexual violence and a 42 percent increase in domestic violence. Soon after the report’s release, the White House imposed a new rule on Health and Human services making it more difficult for women to obtain basic healthcare or birth control.
Because women in the United States are disproportionately poor, the Bush administration’s unceasing attacks on social programs and progressive taxes effectively constituted an assualt on women's economic welfare. Accompanying Bush’s policy programs were overt threats to veto any sort of equal pay for equal work legislation.
Throughout its eight years in office, the Bush administration showed clear disdain for its campaign promise that “W stands for women.” As a result, the welfare of women in the U.S. has stagnated relative to that of other advanced, industrialized societies.
The Obama administration has taken some valuable steps to put the U.S. back on track toward gender equality. In January, Obama rescinded Bush’s “global gag” policy. A few days later, he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which advanced the campaign for ending gender discrimination in income.
Although efforts such as those of the Obama administration are valuable, they will need to be sustained and furthered if gender inequality is to be removed from the vortex of U.S. decline.
Friday, May 8, 2009
In a time of financial turmoil and drastic inequality, one would hope the American Dream to be functioning well. This notion, that hard work will bring success to anyone in the United States, has always been central to America’s ideological fabric. Despite such tradition, recent research suggests a need to reevaluate the accuracy of the American Dream.