Summary of the town hall “The Crisis of the West and its Impact on the Global Future” at the 2011 Annual Members’ Conference.


Drew Erdmann, Associate Principal, McKinsey & Company; Former Director for Iran, Iraq, and Strategic Planning, United States National Security Council
Mathew J. Burrows, Counselor, United States National Intelligence Council
Moderated by Barry Pavel, Director-Designate and Arnold Kanter Chair, Atlantic Council Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security; Director, Atlantic Council Program on International Security

Throughout the master class, Dr. Andrew Erdmann and Dr. Mathew Burrows broadly highlighted the way in which current economic and political trends, both domestic and international, will undoubtedly shape the role of the United States, the West, and emerging nations moving forward. They stressed the volatile nature of this new multi-speed world we live in, and the need to consider the scope of both the challenges and opportunities ahead in order to initiate decisive steps towards building a more promising future.

The speaker’s comments largely focused on systemic problems within the US economy as well as the future role of China within the international system. They explained that the US must look to revive the American dream by initiating tangible and realistic reforms which should rebuild the country’s intellectual and political infrastructure. In regards to China, it was predicted that as millions in the country emerge out of poverty, challenges of rapid urbanization will become a significant priority for the Chinese government. The government is acutely aware of such demographic shifts and will likely focus inwardly, rather than globally, due to the exigency of these issues.

They also stressed the political implications of current economic trends, while consistently pointing out at the clear potential of the West to emerge from its current crisis if policymakers jointly tackle pressing issues such as the state of the global economy, domestic job creation, and American influence internationally. The speakers noted the way in which this era will continue to see the beginnings of global citizenship and a global middle class that will look to replicate certain aspects of Western political culture. The West must also support the rise of social networks and NGOs in an effort to prioritize good global governance.

Both Dr. Burrows and Dr. Erdmann concluded that in examining these broad trends, and given the structural weaknesses still facing emerging powers, it is likely that developed western nations will remain leaders in the global community well into the future.

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