China is flexing its trade and military muscles. What does it mean for the West?
In the world of prized metals, dysprosium lacked a certain star power. It lies deep in the so-called f-block of the periodic table—that free-floating part near the bottom you never used in high school chemistry—along with the other so-called rare-earth elements with tongue-twisting names like neodymium and lutetium. No one ever set out with mule and pick-axe to find dysprosium. It occurs only as a constituent part of other mineral compounds, which explains why its name derives from the Greek for “hard to get at.”
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Q: We in the West spend a great deal of time discussing China’s rise. But we seem to resist the next logical step, which is to consider how things will change around the world when China becomes the world’s pre-eminent economic power. Why is that?
A: I think that the world has been so used to American hegemony, and you had a recent period of American history under Bush which actually postulated exactly the opposite scenario—that we were in fact on the eve of a new American century. So we’re just not versed in the profoundly different thinking China’s pre-eminence will require. More than that, we have failed to understand that we’re not just talking about economic change. The impact of China’s rise is going to be at least as great politically and culturally as it will be in economic terms.
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