The president’s visit to China was seen as failure, but what if that was just the new standard? Martin Jacques on why the U.S. must get used to decline—and learn humility
Obama’s visit to China last week was starkly different from previous such occasions. The United States has stumbled into a new era. Just a decade ago it all looked so different. President Bush—in one of history’s great miscalculations—believed that the world stood on the verge of a new American century. In fact, the opposite was the case. The defeat of the Soviet Union flattered only to deceive and mislead. In a world increasingly defined by the rise of the developing countries, most notably China, the United States was, in fact, in relative decline. It took the global financial crisis to begin to convince the U.S. that it could no longer take its global supremacy for granted. This dawning realisation has come desperately late in the day. Even now most of the country remains in denial. Never has a great power been less prepared or equipped to face its own decline.