According to conventional wisdom, the world economy will regain its vitality once China consumes more and America consumes less. But as both countries apply that prescription, it will inevitably alter the political framework. As Chinese exports to America decline and China shifts the emphasis of its economy to greater consumption and to increased infrastructure spending, a different economic order will emerge. China will be less dependent on the American market, while the growing dependence of neighboring countries on Chinese markets will increase China's political influence. Political cooperation, in shaping a new world order, must increasingly compensate for the shift in trade patterns.
In the 1970s, RN and Kissinger famously revamped U.S.-Soviet relations in response to a similar trend, or so they thought -- a decline in U.S. dominance matched with an improvement in Moscow's strategic position. Detente, as it was called, was good for the world, though it exposed Kissinger to withering fire from conservatives who charged that he'd waved the white flag too soon in the Cold War. He's also probably right, as he argues in this piece, that the U.S. and China should take the lead role in fashioning what sounds like an embryonic Pacific Rim Common Market:
While the center of gravity of international affairs shifts to Asia, and America finds a new role distinct from hegemony yet compatible with leadership, we need a vision of a Pacific structure based on close cooperation between America and China but also broad enough to enable other countries bordering the Pacific to fulfill their aspiration.
And yet beware militant neo-neocons lying in wait to play the soft-on-China card against President Obama. Not everyone agrees with Kissinger that another Cold War wouldn't be an absolutely grand idea.