The Beltway budget kabuki -- aka shutdown -- is over. But no "terrorist" or dejected Hollywood screenwriter could have come up with a worse PR move and marketing strategy for brand USA.
Not to mention that the US's biggest creditors -- from China and Japan to Brazil -- would rather see Washington taking active steps to clean up its horrendous financial act instead of just hiking up the debt ceiling.
But this is not the key story. The key story is how Washington's paralysis was the straw that broke the dragon's back; how it led China to abandon its Deng Xiaoping maxim of carrying a low profile, and start saying out loud what it really wants; a radical change of the rules of the game.
The crucial exhibit is the by now famous Xinhua editorial calling for a "de-Americanized" world.
Here, at Asia Times, I had a first shot at examining it.
So what does China really mean by "de-Americanizing"? For starters, Beijing called the US credibility bluff as the leader of the international financial system. Beijing was very much aware of how the real "international community" interpreted it. On one side the shutdown debacle. On the other side, an economy growing 7.5 percent a year, with consecutive, massive trade surpluses and over $3 trillion in foreign reserves.
Beijing's offensive had been brewing for a while. It started with Russian President Vladimir Putin (fully supported by China) humbling US President Barack Obama and teaching him a diplomatic lesson in the Syrian chemical weapons dossier.
It continued with Chinese President Xi Jinping's wildly successful tour of Central Asia, followed by another successful tour of Southeast Asia, which included Xi as the sole superstar at the APEC summit in Bali vis-a-vis no-show Obama.
Incidentally, in 1998, when the Asian financial crisis was still raging, then-President Bill Clinton also skipped a visit to Asia. This is what happened next; Asia turbocharged regional cooperation, and slowly but surely China began to extend its influence and trading power.
The crown in this new success story was Xi actively promoting -- from Central Asia to Southeast Asia -- a twin, overland and maritime, 21st-century Chinese version of the Silk Road.
Even the Washington Post was forced to wake up to a reality Asia Times had been reporting about for weeks, although, predictably, they totally missed the point, marketing the complex Chinese strategy as a response to former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's "vision." Howls of laughter could be detected in business centers from Shenzhen to Istanbul -- as if a New Silk Road could possibly qualify as yet another product of American exceptionalism.
Traders work on the floor of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (AFP Photo/Antony Wallace)
For all its immense internal problems and sociopolitical challenges, China also has every reason, long-term, to be on a high. This has everything to do with the productivity of 20 percent of mankind being unleashed wave after wave. The US underestimates Chinese resolve at its own peril. In 2012 China's GDP per capita was around $6,100 (compared with $50,000 for the US). Beijing will go no holds barred to quadruple it by 2020.
Imagine a country that in the foreseeable future remains the key node of the global supply and production chain -- the Supreme Trading Power.
Imagine a country that by 2020 will have around 195 million university graduates -- which is more than the entire US workforce.
Imagine a country engaged in the most astonishing urbanization process in the history of the world -- yielding 221 new cities with over 1 million people each by 2025, most of them, of course, voracious consumers.