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A world in which the US is no longer No. 1

Journalist Fareed Zakaria writes of the rise of new global powers.

By Jonathan Rosenberg / June 13, 2008



While the United States remains the world’s most powerful country – militarily and economically – its place on the international stage is changing. The wealthiest person on earth is Mexican, the tallest building is in Taipei (soon to be surpassed by one in Dubai), and the biggest factories are in China. India’s film industry, Bollywood, is now the world’s largest, producing more movies and selling more tickets than Hollywood. And when experts identify the multinational companies that will become leaders in the future, they point to firms in Latin America, India, South Korea, Taiwan, and Malaysia.

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The US has even surrendered its supremacy in shopping malls. Only one of the world’s Top 10 malls is in the United States. And who’d have guessed that an American shopaholic with an urge to visit the biggest mall on earth would have to fly to Beijing?

These developments illustrate the central point of Fareed Zakaria’s illuminating and timely new book The Post-American World. Over the past couple of decades, a global transformation has seen countless countries experience remarkable economic growth. While the US will remain an economic power, the days of American economic preeminence, which characterized the 20th century, are over. According to Zakaria, this points not to the decline of the US, but to “the rise of the rest.”

Zakaria writes that the global economic explosion is a consequence of political change (the fall of the Soviet state discredited central planning); the free movement of capital around the world (the daily flow of trillions of dollars lubricates the global economy); and the communications revolution (the Internet and cellphones have transformed business by driving down costs and increasing efficiency).

The rise of India and China
In presenting this story, Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International and an astute analyst of US foreign policy, looks closely at economic developments in China and India, and assesses how the spread of global wealth will affect the US.

With annual economic growth averaging 9 percent for the past 30 years, China has emerged as a global economic powerhouse. In 1978, the country made 200 air conditioners; in 2005, it made 48 million. It produces two-thirds of the world’s photocopiers, microwave ovens, and shoes, and now exports as much each day as it did in all of 1978.

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