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London Comment: China

This week, our prime minister David Cameron, the key people in his cabinet and 43 of our most important businessmen and woman have all been in China. Why? Well, because China has got all the money. Its trade surplus in October alone was 27 billion dollars -- and a lot of those dollars came from the US. 27 billion dollars -- in one month. They have kept their currency low and built an extraordinary economic machine which will enable them to dictate terms to their old rivals like America and Britain. And they will use that power too. Every Chinese school child has drummed into them the lessons of history -- of the humiliation of the Opium Wars of the nineteenth century which Britain won and China lost. Never again, say the Chinese leaders, will we be weak. And they are winning the war which matters -- the economic one. The evidence is everywhere. The other day, world stock markets fell because China said it was going to rein in bank lending. The price of base metals dropped when China, the world's top consumer of copper, imported less. And it's not just the markets which provide the evidence. Go into the centre of London and ask the stores where the new customers are coming from -- who is buying everything from designer clothes to antique silver to vintage wine? It's the Chinese. It seems from where I sit that it's China which will soon be the world's foremost superpower, not the US. Your angry mid term elections just seemed to underline the fear that America is losing its grip -- as a President elected with such high hopes now finds himself trapped by his opponents' gains. With an angry people demanding above all jobs and prosperity in a nation swimming in a sea of endless debt. And if President Obama is to be popular again, then it will be the economy, stupid, which does the trick. But who holds all the economic cards at the moment? China. Now we have some experience in this country of being a superpower and then watching that supremacy disintegrate. We once had a very large empire which even included you. It takes a while, but when it all starts to unravel -- it's impossible to reverse. This is Peter Allen for CBS News in London.
Peter Allen