As the world’s largest creditor, China is now where America was in 1947, on the cusp of the next world order. Kissinger told his hosts that while this transition from one system to another will likely take another 30 years, China’s role will only grow because it is obliged by its own self-interest to shape the global system that has shifted away from its “North Atlantic pole” toward China and the emerging economies.
In Kissinger’s view, China will be drafted into leadership at an accelerating pace because of the ongoing paralysis in the West. America, he put it politely, “is absorbed in a debate over the role of government and the sources of vitality in the United States; over how much government we should have and who should pay for it.” Europe is gripped by both “a financial and conceptual crisis, suspended between a national framework and its substitute.”
“A sense of cooperation is critical,” said Kissinger, “because we have entered a new era of complexity and are looking for an overriding framework. We have to adjust to the entry of a whole series of new players” on the global scene. For Kissinger, the “principal instrument of adjustment is the G-20,” where each country must fit its national aspirations into an international arrangement “that avoids a zero sum competition for economic growth.”