America in Decline? World Thinks Again.

“The United States has taken a convincing and very careful lead on Ukraine,” Francois Heisburgh, a veteran and often critical French observer of American foreign policy, told me. Referring to the same advisers dismissed as incompetent in Afghanistan, he said: “Most of them are adults. They are potty trained. it is [kind of U.S. response] Not since the Clinton administration intervened in the Balkans in more than 20 years. “We’re back to the world that people my age know,” added Heisburgh, who is in his early 70s.

Another source of American power? China’s weakness. With Putin’s troops decimated on the battlefield, Xi mismanaged the Covid response, consolidating a one-man rule that horrified neighbors and investors at his own party congress. Add in an aging population and slower growth, and at least according to the new Davos consensus, we’re past “Peak China” and headed in a different direction. That doesn’t mean China won’t be dangerous; its weakness may make Xi less predictable and dangerous. But the once-dominant idea that China will soon supplant the US as the world’s leading power sounds ludicrous to Davos’ ears – just a few years after claims of Japanese supremacy were made in the 1980s.

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Bearishness about China and the future of Europe increases the attractiveness of America, especially the business elite. There is a typical sentiment here: “The US is the most attractive market in almost every sector, not just in terms of size, but in terms of innovation,” said Vas Narasimhan, who heads Swiss drugmaker Novartis, the world’s fourth-largest pharmaceutical company. Being big in Massachusetts, I was told. As the world fears a possible recession, another part of the new consensus believes that the US is best positioned to weather it.

This is the optimal view Not intended to stoke patriotic or partisan fires in the US. First, the Davos consensus is often wrong; Recently, this nation was long on crypto and short on the US

Concerns should also be heard. They are clear as hell about the state of America and the world.

In the post-Trump era, anyone can doubt the sustainability of the American system, even if the midterm elections send a reassuring message about a return to normality. Most global companies and players know policy paralysis and political polarization firsthand. And yet: While the executive branch laments that members of Congress care more about Fox/MSNBC orders than grappling with complex legislation, in the same breath they vehemently invoke the 250-year-old constitutional order and traditions of the rule of law. to find in many other places. Until proven otherwise, perhaps by hand, democracy in America is one of the safest bets in the world, they say.

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A new concern: America is back on the world stage, but what kind of America?

On multilateralism, through NATO or the UN, and on security in Europe, the Biden administration is returning not to the Obama era, but to another century. Not the red line in Syria,” Trump continued. But his approach to trade, an industrial policy that prioritizes “restructuring” and “buying American” is, to many eyes at Davos, more like Trump than any other recent president.

This continuity has led Europeans to protest the Inflation Reduction Act, which pushed billions in subsidies to American industry, and the CHIPS Act, which sought to repatriate semiconductor manufacturing. Like the Biden administration’s indifference to the World Trade Organization. Joe Manchin, the lead author of the IRA legislation, felt the backlash in Davos firsthand, as my colleagues Alex Ward and Suzanne Lynch reported on Thursday.

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“The hope of a Biden administration will be less on the inside than on the outside,” Cecilia Malmstrom, a Swedish politician who has led EU trade policy for the past decade, said at a small lunch in Davos. In another private meeting, the European leader, speaking in the background, made it even more clear: “The United States will undo globalization, another pillar of US leadership. This could be the biggest strategic mistake in global relations for a long time.” For them, such an approach is a rebuke to America’s commitment to a global order based on open trade and democratic values ​​— a concept once known as the Washington Consensus, as opposed to any temporary consensus reached at Davos that has persisted for decades.

If America is strong again and ready to go it alone, “that’s a big deal!” Heisbourg of France said. “It’s not like the old America. It looks like it’s going to be a century of chaos, and it’s very scary.”

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