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Global powers face emerging nations

Maija Gustin | Friday, April 20, 2012

British politician Lord Chris Patten of Barnes spoke about the role of world powers at his lecture “Europe, America and the Changing World Order” in Geddes Hall on Thursday evening. The Nanovic Institute for European Studies sponsored the presentation.

Patten said his experiences as governor of Hong Kong during its handover to the People’s Republic of China in 1997, and as a member of the European Commission provided insight to the problems global leaders face. The U.S. and European nations are especially affected by the emergence of countries like China and India, he said.

Though the American economy has declined in recent years, it maintains a global dominance of commerce and culture, he said.

“The United States has really been … the only country which matters everywhere,” he said.

Patten said while the United States grapples with financial crises and a massive accumulation of debt, the European Union must navigate a different set of economic and political issues to maintain its current stature.

“The Eurozone is not yet out of the mire and is … a victim of the consequences of national democratic politics in which people feel a greater sense of loyalty to the institutions of nation states than to those institutions, which you establish to manage the sovereignty which their governments are prepared to share,” he said.

Patten noted emerging economies make up 30 percent of global gross domestic product. India’s rapid economic expansion has allowed the nation to become a world leader in international commercial markets. However, the growing nation’s weak infrastructure, corrupt upper levels of government and profound social inequity will prevent it from advancing, Patten said.

“So, India remains an exciting country… but I don’t believe that India is going to be a superpower,” he said.

Patten noted China is the world’s largest manufacturer, exporter and consumer of energy. He said four problems plague China, which will determine the course of its future success.

“First of all, it has a problem of reshaping its economy from one which is largely based on the manufacturing industry and the export of goods more cheaply than the West can make them, to an economy in which there is more domestic consumption and investment,” he said.

Patten said the nation’s major environmental problems and high level of social inequity also presents issues.

This contributes to the growing problem of trust the Chinese people have in their government, he said. Patten said China faces the dilemma of balancing state and private control of institutions.

“China doing badly [though] would be a threat to the rest of the world, and would be a serious threat to our quality of life and to our stability,” Patten said.

Ultimately, Patten said the world is in a period of great flux and its future is uncertain.

“[It] is less predictable than it’s been at any time in my political lifetime. Which is I guess an argument for us hanging on to the values which we know are important,” Patten said. “If we can be more effective and coherent about making those work in our own societies, maybe we’ll carry more conviction when we argue that other people should run their affairs like that as well.”