Ask yourself, What is the most important development in the world today? An odd question, but one which can give some focus to our daily news reading and analysis. If we look to see what dominates the front page, we see much on the US presidential election and much on the Middle East,particularly Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Although these are both important issues, they lack the ability to alter the global landscape as much as China.
The primaries and later elections will choose a leader who will lead America, though that individual will be primarily a reactionary leader. Take September 11: George Bush did not cause the event which has shaped policy for the last seven years; he merely reacted to events. FDR did not bring about WWII but rather was the driver during the crisis. In essence, the president can change the tack of the ship but cannot steer it in the opposite direction; the passengers leaving from DC might settle for the Bahamas over Puerto Rico but a Caribbean vacation spent in points North would only work under a dictator and as such much be cause for mutiny.
The Middle East, War on Terror and operations in Iraq have a greater importance in defining the world today than the choice of president, though does not rival China in the potential impact. The Middle East will always be a fly or perhaps a pigeon that the US will swat at or duck away from, though this nuisance is not a carrier of malaria or avian flu. The US will continue operating in more or less the same way as a global hegemon, without fear of contracting a deadly disease. In contrast, China will change the rules of the game as it surpass the US in GDB within this century. In such a role China could be a lumbering beast to a quick-witted cougar. Either way, the US will have a match. Hegemony will be challenged, and the landscape will react but also change in a very fundamental way, as spheres of influence are redrawn.
The 2008 Olympics are in many ways Chinas introduction to the World. As the sleeping baby stretches its arms and smiles or cries, we should all watch with curiosity and wonder, as we think how perhaps the torch is being passed from one generation to the next.