Talk these days of the creative economy as soft power and a harbinger of world peace, ignores the huge struggles taking place between Google, Facebook no one hand and Baidu, We Chat, Tencent on the other, pitching the U.S. and China directly against each other in a cold digital war of online platforms, search engines and aggregation algorithms. It is very nice to assert the diversity of cultures in a globalized world. But this diversity is in reality dependent on some very hard issues of finance, intellectual property rights and communications infrastructures.
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.