The year was 1914. The world was experimenting with economic globalisation.
Optimists believed this new world economy would eliminate war.
But the concept proved to be in conflict with old notions of empire and fresh attitudes of expansionism.
There was friction between the industrial and military powers of the “old” world and the ambitions of the revitalised “new” economies.
Add a century to the date and ask yourself: does this scenario sound familiar?
What had been the world’s sole economic and military superpower for almost a century suddenly found its authority being challenged. This was largely its own fault. The industrial revolution that gave it strength and arrogance led to expensive technological breakthroughs that rendered its own military might largely obsolete seemingly overnight. This exposed it to a new arms race and economic competition it could ill afford.
A century ago, this was the British Empire.
Now, is it the United States?
A PLACE IN THE SUN
Back then, the new world power was Germany. It had modernised its economy. It had secured its finances. What it didn’t have was empire or international influence. What it didn’t have was the resources to feed its demanding industry. It also had a long list of grudges relating to historic wars and territorial compromises. As it grew stronger, Germany grew more demanding. A series of provocative diplomatic “incidents” were met with uncertainty and appeasement by the rest of the world. This gave the Kaiser the confidence and arrogance which would lead to war in 1914.
Are there parallels with China?
Then, the British Empire was at the centre of the world’s economy. It had been the first to embrace the industrial revolution. Combined with its naval dominance, the little cluster of islands conquered an empire that would cover almost a third of the globe.
It set the standards for a new world; a world of advancing medicine, technology and communications.
It grew complacent in its might.
Other nations began to modernise and reform their economies as the British Empire stagnated.
Sound like the United States?
Then, England ruled the waves.
Her vast fleet was unmatched in size and strength. It plied the seven seas with confidence and impunity.
Then, the Royal Navy invented the “Dreadnought” — a warship like no other.
Overnight, the investment of decades had been rendered obsolete.
Unintentionally, Britain had levelled the playing field.
Full article: Are we on the brink of war? Academic sparks debate by drawing comparisons between 1914 past and 2014 present (Herald Sun)