America is no longer the world's most connected economy--those laurels go to Germany. Germany ranks first, and the U.S. third, with two smaller economies--Hong Kong and Singapore--coming in second and fourth. The index shows that the trade intensity of the U.S.--the value of flows relative to the size of its economy--is only one-third the intensity of Germany and half that of China.
Even now, at the height of its success, Singapore doesn't get much love (as opposed to grudging respect) from the legions of foreigners who avail themselves of its First World amenities. It's almost obligatory for Westerners visiting or residing in Singapore to complain about the "sterility" of the place, and joke about the carefully manicured boulevards and the pristine shopping malls, contrasting Singapore unflatteringly to the grittier authenticity and "character" of nearby Cambodia and Vietnam. It's indeed easy to mock Singapore if you haven't lived in a poor country, and it's a form of colonial prejudice to begrudge Singaporeans their lack of Third World "charm." We prefer our tropics to be exotically chaotic, thank you -- not tidier and more efficient than the Swiss. And Singapore's system is highly responsive to its citizenry's needs and desires, without being terribly democratic.
The crisis of sustainability is a distinctly global crisis, but one that manifests itself in different ways in different places. As we learn more about how to solve problems caused by West Virginia's chemical contamination of its drinking water, we may have lessons to offer local governments in China.