I’ve spent the last two weeks in Australia and China on business, and it’s been fascinating to hear international perspectives on the recent turmoil in the US—everything from the stock market meltdown and the reduction of our credit rating to the debt ceiling impasse and growing concern about a double-dip recession.
It used to be said that when the US sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold. Today, it appears America has a persistent virus, and the world is worried about contagion. Based on conversations I had with business leaders and local interviews I watched during my trip, there’s a deepening concern for the future of the United States. The people I heard from want to—but do not now—see a strong, decisive America.
Right now, they see high debt, high unemployment, a sluggish recovery (at best), a weak dollar that hurts exports, a declining stock market, and a painful lack of political will and leadership. A powerful Chinese business executive told me, “It’s too bad for America and for China that the US doesn’t have stronger leadership now.” Then, I heard a prominent Chinese economist gently suggest that “it may be time for the US to reform its political system.” Considering that it’s usually the US that lectures China about its political system, it was ironic and not inappropriate to have the table turned on us.
I came away from this trip with the firm belief that business and opinion leaders are rooting for us to find our way again. They’re hoping for America’s revival. They don’t express any delight in our current weakened circumstances; it’s actually quite the opposite. They’d like us to once again have the strength, the confidence and the leadership that have historically been the bedrock of our own and the beacon for the rest of the world’s growth and optimism. They want what we want: A strong America with a bright future.