Many still see the West to blame because of the draconian economic policy solutions meted out by the IMF, including now-US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner amongst others.
Incongruously, the very same Tim Geithner of “deeply unpopular, deeply hard to understand” economic policy fame is part of an American economic policy making group now perpetrating perhaps the largest financial and economic bailout in history. I certainly doubt this policy will be effective over the long-term. Even so, this hypocrisy has been noted in Asia. The political fallout is just now coming due.
While the world debates the future of its financial system, global rebalancing or even power shifts along five dimensions are quietly taking place. Their implications are profound and may well lead to a more stable world.
The first is a rebalancing of moral authority. The system that the west touted as superior has failed. Why should developing countries blindly follow its model now? Remember the moral high ground that western leaders took during the Asian financial crisis? Hong Kong was bashed when its government intervened in August 1998 in the stock market to fend off the western investment banks and hedge funds bent on destroying the city’s currency.
Yet only a month later, the US government intervened in the market to bail out Long-Term Capital Management, a move that proved to be the harbinger of the western bail-outs of financial institutions in the past year. Hong Kong’s government was not allowed to save its citizens, yet by a double-standard the US could save its companies.
The waning of the west’s moral authority is also due to the many conflicts of interest inherent in investment banking as it is currently structured. The west turned a blind eye to them. What can developing economies do? Nothing, for the wealthy countries dictated the rules of the game, which became a licence to misbehave.
The moral superiority of the west was also expressed through its ideology. China was barred from being a member of the Group of Eight leading nations, presumably owing to its lack of western-style democracy. Now some in America are advocating a G2 with only the US and China. If the focus shifts to the G2 to make decisions, then what happens to democracy? The west has a moral dilemma.
So which region will now occupy the moral high ground?