And so, the tables turned.
Yesterday, at the World Economic Forum, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Wen Jiabao, China’s Premier, laid into the West.
Mr Wen, from his lofty perch upon a high horse, talked about the banks’ “blind pursuit of profit” and lamented their “lack of self-discipline”. He also referred to the “unsustainable model of development characterized by prolonged low savings and high consumption.”
Mr Putin was ruthless in his condemnation of the US fiscal and monetary stimulus. He said the world has become too reliant on the dollar, and said the global economy needs to see the “emergence of several strong regional currencies in the future.”
And what does Mr Putin’s boss (well his boss in theory, anyway) the Russian President think. According to the FT, one of his senior advisers told reporters that Barack Obama’s plans to throw money at the US economy mean he “expects the Chinese or Russians to buy US Treasury bills, and that he says is pretty selfish and philosophically it is protectionism.”
He added: “What is discouraging is Obama’s statement that he is going to run a $1 trillion deficit for years to come. For us, that means that all the free liquidity in the world will run into American Treasury bills.”
The truth is, the Russian and the Chinese are both right and wrong.
There is a growing move towards protectionism. This must be resisted. There are growing pressures on banks which receive government money to only lend within the UK. Yet these are international banks, and their lending decisions should be made on merit. If instead they focus money on just the UK, then that too is protectionism.
Protectionism caused the Second World War. If it returns, the economic recession will just get worse.
When US politicians accuse China of manipulating its currency, they are playing at a difficult game. China has enormous problems too. If it did indeed let the yuan rise in value, the price in terms of social unrest could be catastrophic.
Then again, some of the criticisms levelled at the West are wide of the mark.
It was, after all, prolonged low savings and high consumption in the US and UK and one or two other economies that sustained Chinese growth.
And Mr Putin’s criticisms are a bit rich. After all, Russia totally failed to use its oil and gas revenues to invest in the economy, ensuring it was less reliant on commodities.
The truth is, the causes of the crisis are complex, and far more complex than Messrs Wen and Putin acknowledge. It is true that some economies allowed spending to rise too high. But equally, others allowed saving to rise too high.
Even so, their warnings must be heeded. A lurch back to protectionism is the single biggest danger to the global economy.
© Investment & Business News 2013