Monday, September 05, 2005

Geopolitics, Economist-style

In England, the news listings of the Economist are the same every week. Britain first, then Europe, then the US, the Americas, Asia and Africa. Possibly quite apt given the nature of news coverage in the UK. The striking thing about the listings in the US, however, is that they are almost totally reversed. US first, then the Americas, then Asia and Africa, followed by Europe, with Britain last of all.

This is a pattern that is perhaps most striking given the regularity of The Economist's format, but looking at other American weeklies, too, gives a similar impression. The broadest range of articles outside of US news is dedicated to the growth of China and India; Europe tends only to feature either when battling terrorism (eg the London bombings), or when it is dealing with new political trends, such as the rejection of the EU constitution.

The broader point? That we overestimate our importance in Europe all too often. In particular, advocates of the EU like to think of it as an organisation that can provide a counterweight to America as the world's only superpower. Yet on the American conscience, it is the rise of China that looms largest. Ideologically and economically speaking, China is gearing up to be the challenger as the next superpower; there's a fear in the US that India may well be going that way too (I'm a bit more sceptical). Europe, if media coverage is anything to go by, is a bit of a non-player.

France may be able to flex its muscles on a world stage whenever something important gets put to a vote on the Security Council, but beyond that, the US really doesn't give much of a damn what it thinks. Nor too much about the rest of Europe, either. Just because Britain's news may be Eurocentric doesn't mean we're as significant in the world as we may like to think.