On 15 November a new era in world history began


The following article appeared on the blog Key Trends in Globalisation.

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The theme of Key Trends in Globalisation is that ‘It is an error to think globalisation is purely an economic process – it has deep social, cultural and environmental consequences.’
Nothing could illustrate this more than the meeting that took place on 15 November in Washington to discuss the world financial crisis. The four most powerful people in the room, indeed the four most powerful people in the world, are illustrated above – the representatives of Barack Obama – the next President of the United States, Hu Jintao – President of China, Manmohan Singh – Prime Minister of India and Taro Aso – Prime Minister of Japan.
Do you notice anything? Not one of them is white.
It is economically, culturally, socially and ideologically a turning point in the history of the world. The end of the era which symbolically began on 12 October 1492 – the day Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean.
For the next 500 years Europe spread through the world and conquered it. Its greatest offshoot, the United States, extended that European dominance for the 20th century. That Europe created, in racism, a uniquely evil ideology used to justify the greatest crimes in the history of the world – the Atlantic slave trade, the history of colonialism, the Holocaust.
Everyone understands the significance of the fact that for the first time in its history the United States will elect a black president. Everyone who is not a racist bigot in the world will rejoice. For black people it is an event the full significance of which no one who is white can understand. A liberatory moment in history to savour.
But even this president of the United States is not powerful enough to deal with the economic storm that is raging in the world. That is why the leaders of the 20 leading economies are being invited to Washington. It is the admission that the US no longer has the power to control the world. Without the help of others it cannot stablise even its own economy.
And who does the US have to invite? China, Japan, India. These are the three most powerful economic states outside the US – Europe has no comparable voice as long as it remains fragmented and none of the individual European states is an economic power to match the three big Asian economies. Whether Europe succeeds in getting itself together, or slides into further decline, remains to be seen.
On 15 November two great, and interlinked, processes will come together. The first black president of the United States will meet the leaders of the three great Asian states, who represent the future of the world economy. For the first time for 500 years there will not be one white person taking the most important decisions in the world.
It will take decades, even centuries, for all the implications of that to work through and to consolidate. But on 15 November a new epoch in the history of the world began.

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