In trying to warn about China's growing power, James Kirkup in the Times (New Year's Eve) draws attention to the West's dependence on 'institutions as well as ideas'. That raises more than Kirkup had room to mention.

In terms of institutions, the West (and the rest) are not well served. The IMF and World Bank may support growth and stability worldwide, but - as Kirkup admits - they rely on US power to do that. In any case, they are run by appointees who may be expert in their fields, but are not democratically accountable, and therefore carry no popular allegiance (and barely any popular recognition). Ironically, the European Union is the only supranational body with any democratic input at all.

All this means the new Chinese empire faces little competition if it chooses to appeal to people with grievances against the American-led West. Moreover, those academic strategists who urge America to switch its (military) attention to East Asia have to reckon with the 'Bible belt' voters for whom protecting Israel is essential.

So how about experimenting with some democracy in the global economy to give China's rulers something to think about?

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