New partnerships are needed
Angela Merkel's leadership of Europe in the euro crisis demonstrated that only Berlin can effectively lead Europe today, while Paris and London can no longer do so. Europe’s greatest civilizational achievement is peace through integration. Europe is therefore able to tame new power politics through its relations with America, Russia and Asia. The precondition is that it develops cross-cultural sensitivity.
Only Berlin can effectively lead Europe today. Paris and London can no longer do so.
Germany had a bad 20th century. It lost two world wars and spent almost half a century divided and under occupation. In the second half, West Germany enjoyed peace and prosperity but psychologically it was drowning in post-war guilt. By contrast, the 21st century could be a great century for Germany.
To enjoy a great century, Germany must first fully understand the changed global context it is operating in. And it must understand that in this changed global context it can achieve greatness only by leading Europe. Henry Kissinger once famously remarked that Europe was an "economic giant but a political dwarf" and he added that he did not know which telephone number to call to speak to Europe. Now he knows: he has to call Angela Merkel. Her masterful leadership of Europe through the euro financial crisis demonstrated that only Berlin can effectively lead Europe today. Paris and London can no longer do so. Like old lords living in castles they can no longer afford, both France and the United Kingdom are focused on preserving past national glories (like their UN Security Council permanent seats) and not on leading Europe into a new future.
To lead Europe effectively Germany must have a clear-sighted view of the world today. It has changed fundamentally in three ways. First, we live in a small, shrinking, interdependent world. As Kofi Annan says, we live in a small global village. All villages need village councils. Hence, our world needs stronger, not weaker, global multilateral institutions. Secondly, we will see the return of Asia. From the year 1 to 1820, the two largest economies of the world were always those of China and India, as documented by the British historian, Angus Maddison. By 2050, or earlier, it would be perfectly natural to return to the norm of the past two millennia. Thirdly, as we move away from two centuries of Western domination of world history, we will also move from a monocivilizational world of a single Western civilization to a multicivilizational world of many successful civilizations.
Fortunately, Samuel Huntington will be proven wrong: there will be no clash of civilizations as most of the world will also modernize and create large middle class populations that will share the same aspirations of peace and prosperity of Western middle class populations. One statistic is worth noting. In 2010, in all of Asia from West Asia to East Asia, the total middle class population was 500 million. By 2020, it will explode 3.5 times to 1.75 billion. Yes, this population will modernize but it will not Westernise. Instead, there will be many cultural renaissances as Chinese, Indians and others discover their own deep cultural roots and identities. In this multicivilizational world, developing cross-cultural sensitivity will be an expected requirement for providing leadership. Europe lacks such sensitivity.
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