The Descent of Finance
Will Chimerica end in a divorce? Will the USA be a shadow of its former self?
Niall Ferguson, who co-invented the term Chimerica, asks what the post-Chimerica world might look like in 2013 in the latest HBR issue (full article below). He starts with the US in crisis (high public debt, digesting toxic assets, who wants to buy US bonds?) and then moves on to the economic marriage between the USA and China. Chimerica could end in a divorce if China relies less on exports for growth, resulting in a shift in the balance of power. Yet US global economic power is not undermined as there is no real alternative to the US dollar. Ferguson reiterates a point he made before, that the global economy’s breakdown hurts other nations more than the US. Other countries, including China, will be more weakened by comparison with the collapse in world trade and industrial production. This results in a world of low US growth, and lower growth for other emerging nations. What Pimco has termed ‘the new normal’.
The economic crisis will spill over into politics. In this crisis, US allies (East Asian exporters, newly democratic Eastern Europe) have been hurt more than US rivals. We see new outbreaks of instability in emerging markets that previously looked stable, such as Thailand and Ukraine. The world’s increasing instability reinforces the US as a safe haven. But the US may not want to be global policeman much more, and both new and old unstable spots are left to fester.
It is in this world that Ferguson revisits 2013. It is an assymetric world where everywhere else seems more dangerous and unpredictable than America, where the actual consequences of the crisis are less terrible. The USA’s financial power has been diminished, but its economic power is still stronger than all others.
Power after all, is relative.