America, it’s been nice knowing you

It's time to refocus our priorities away from the US and toward the new world order.

It's time to refocus our priorities away from the US and toward the new world order. Photo: Getty

Donald Trump will become the next US President.

Many will say Mr Trump’s election is a ‘shock’ and a ‘surprise’. That is rubbish.

Indeed on these pages back in May we warned this could happen.

While some people are in disbelief, we need to remember that Mr Trump and Ms Clinton represent both the best and worst of the US. Let’s start with the positive.

For all the talk of ‘insiders’ and ‘elite’ political classes, the US has a knack of electing outsiders and single generation fighters as President.

Obama was a mixed race child, abandoned by his father and largely brought up by his grandparents in the most isolated state in the country. Yet in one generation he became president.

Bill Clinton, born William Blythe in a poor area of Arkansas, had his father die three months before his birth and ultimately was adopted by his stepfather. Yet in one generation he became President.

When you look back further you see Reagan, Carter, Nixon, Eisenhower all worked their way up in one generation. On the other hand, both Bush Presidents, Kennedy and Roosevelt were elites.

What other country has so frequently allowed people to come from nothing to something in one generation?

Even Trump is only second-generation elite. His mother, Mary-Anne Macleod, comes from the same set of windswept Scottish villages my great grandfather came from.

Hillary Clinton in one generation has come from nothing, to power, to be seen as an ‘elite’ right at the time people are turning against elites.

Trump has plugged into anti-elite feeling and has set off a revolution in the US as important as the Brexit revolution in the UK.

The sleeping dragon

I have just returned from spending six weeks down the Silk Road. The two astonishing things about that journey are, firstly, the strong impression of empires that rose, thought they were indestructible, then fell.

The second thought from the Silk Road is to see the new trading power. Chinese President Xi’s ‘One Belt One Road’ policy, which has trillions of dollars of infrastructure investment, is rebuilding the Silk Road with bridges, roads, train lines, pipelines and air corridors, all in readiness for the age of Chinese dominance.

Huge growth is going on in that region and Australia is only peripherally interested, perhaps naïve to the new empire rising just as one falls. We could be well positioned to grasp this opportunity, if only we would see outside the US.

Future historians will write that the year 2008 marked the peak of Western Civilisation’s dominance and the start of the fall with the Financial Crisis.

Through no real fault of his own, President Obama is the first President in US history to preside over a United States with comparative declining influence in the world.

Never again will the US be as powerful and dominant as it was in 2007 standing as the sole super-power with an undamaged economy. That empire is falling.

The fall of Western civilisation

The election of Mr Trump and rejection of Ms Clinton is in part a response to this decline in importance. The US has taken a hit in self-image and in wealth.

At the same time China is returning to a position of dominance in the world it last held around the year 1500 when Europe slowly woke from its ‘Dark Ages’ slumber.

The truth is this election should show Australia quite clearly that we are now living through one of those great epochal shifts in power that come over the world every 500-800 years.

And this shift will happen fast indeed – probably only a decade or two to complete.

For Australia, if we want to position our country for the future, it is time we thanked America for its service, and figure out just how we are going to link to the new world that is coming.

That is how big this election is for Australia. It should mark our turning point as a nation too. Welcome to the Presidency Mr Trump.

Andrew MacLeod is a visiting professor at Kings College London and a director of US and Australian based companies. He can be followed on @AndrewMMacLeod

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