For better or worse, September 11, 2001 is a date known to all. Certainly, the attacks produced dramatic footage the likes of which even Hollywood disaster scenario specialists hadn't thought of. Still. I tend to think that attention given to 9/11 is more attributable to its symbolism than its financial or personal costs. By favoring the Democrats' emphasis on the economy over the Republicans' war on terror, Americans seem to agree. In general, Americans are incurious about international affairs in the Palin-esque manner; hence, this attack was quite a wake up call for them. Those of us in the rest of the world, however, have long lived with threats of terrorism and insurgency--both domestic and international--to have thought anything particularly world-altering about 9/11. There are far worse ongoing events that have taken their toll on health, hope, and homeland.
Anyway, I have just come across a picture of an almost forgotten event two months later that has greater repercussions for international political economy other than just having many more annoying security checks at airports. This is of China signing on to the WTO on November 11, 2001. Think of it: without WTO membership, would it have so quickly become the world's second largest goods exporter after Germany? Or, would it have piled on nearly two trillion in dollar-denominated assets guaranteed to lose value in an unprecedented rip-off game it is still participating in? Certainly, the development of various securitized riffraff now plaguing international finance would not have proceeded apace had there not been a country willing to lend so much so cheaply to finance others' purchases of its exports. While looking at the picture from this momentous occasion, here's food for thought: China has been as much a perpetrator as a victim of a $4.1 trillion financial catastrophe.