A world in which the US is no longer No. 1
Journalist Fareed Zakaria writes of the rise of new global powers.
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The average income for a Chinese person has increased sevenfold during that time, allowing 400 million people to escape poverty. While the country faces enormous challenges (how, for example, will the government reconcile its policy of economic liberalization with its refusal to democratize the political system?), China will prove a formidable competitor for the United States and a key concern for US policymakers.Skip to next paragraph
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Zakaria’s discussion of India is particularly incisive. Born and raised there (he left to attend Yale University and later Harvard University), he details the changes washing over the country, which, like China, is developing at warp speed. While there are key differences between them (India is a democracy), India’s remarkable growth, like China’s, has drastically reduced poverty. More Indians have risen from poverty in the past 10 years than in the previous 50.
Though the Indian economy is far smaller than China’s, experts predict that by 2020, its gross domestic product will equal Britain’s. Driven by a high rate of personal consumption, India’s economy, based mainly on services and industry, is unlike any in the developing world. To be sure, hundreds of millions of Indians remain unspeakably poor, but Zakaria claims that the economic expansion can be felt everywhere, “even in the slums.” And US policymakers and business leaders will be glad to know that the Indians are overwhelmingly pro-American.
What role will America play?
Zakaria concludes with an assessment of America’s place in this new era. The US should not be alarmed, he writes, for it will not be an anti-American age. Indeed, the American political and economic model is admired across the globe.
America can maintain its considerable economic power, Zakaria argues. Immigration and American higher education will help the economy remain vibrant and innovative. And America’s existing strength in nanotechnology and biotechnology, two cutting-edge industries, will catalyze American economic growth well into the 21st century.
Nevertheless, the US confronts real challenges. Zakaria sees the American political system – captured by “money, special interests, a sensationalist media, and ideological attack groups” – as the country’s “core weakness.” It serves partisan battles, he writes, but solves no real problems.
Zakaria is also concerned that in recent years American leaders have seemed “clueless about the world.” While the Middle East is important, it is time to stop worrying mainly about the ancient conflict between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq. Instead, US policymakers should start thinking seriously about the 21st century. Forging constructive relationships with China, India, Russia, and Brazil will be essential, for it is there that the “future is being made.”