Watching Tim Geithner, the US treasury secretary, in Beijing last month, it was easy to be struck by how times have changed. Most visiting American dignitaries not long ago seized the opportunity to harangue the Chinese over human rights, or over their undervalued currency that was unfairly helping export sales at the expense of competitors. Geithner instead beseeched the Chinese to keep buying US government bonds, as they have done by the hundreds of billions, or else sink the US by impairing its ability to raise money. He went out of his way to reassure the Chinese that the steps taken by the Obama administration were going to work to restore growth.

The collapsed global economy stands as a damning criticism of unfettered capitalism and the light regulation that would seem to separate the West from countries such as China. As if that were not a big enough blow, the West has also taken to asking China for far greater assistance with a host of other problems, from North Korea to the environment. China isn’t on the ascent any more; it has risen.

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