Book Description"This is not a book about the decline of America, but rather about the rise of everyone else." So begins Fareed Zakaria's important new work on the era we are now entering. Following on the success of his best-selling The Future of Freedom, Zakaria describes with equal prescience a world in which the United States will no longer dominate the global economy, orchestrate geopolitics, or overwhelm cultures. He sees the "rise of the rest"—the growth of countries like China, India, Brazil, Russia, and many others—as the great story of our time, and one that will reshape the world. The tallest buildings, biggest dams, largest-selling movies, and most advanced cell phones are all being built outside the United States. This economic growth is producing political confidence, national pride, and potentially international problems. How should the United States understand and thrive in this rapidly changing international climate? What does it mean to live in a truly global era? Zakaria answers these questions with his customary lucidity, insight, and imagination.
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The Post-American World Book
The principal weakness of the book is a product of its brevity: the author paints in broad strokes, providing a sweeping assessment of the dynamic changes that have unfolded on the world scene over the past twenty-five years. This invariably results in some over-generalizations and assessments that are not sufficiently nuanced. For example, in responding to concerns about China's growing power and influence, he quotes several Chinese officials who repeatedly reassure the listener that, notwithstanding its recent advances, China still lags behind the United States in so many areas; consequently, it poses no real threat to America or its neighbors. Instead of taking these sentiments at face value, Mr. Zakaria should remember, as Margaret Macmillan astutely noted in her recent book, "Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World," that the Chinese are the past masters at using self-effacement to lure their adversaries into a state of complacency.
The greatest strengths of the book are explaining to the reader how much the world has changed over the past 25 years (did you know that China now exports more goods and services in a single day than it did in all of 1978?), while illuminating the course corrections the United States needs to make so that it can continue to influence the evolution of globalization. I was surprised to discover that the simple truths taught by Adam Smith have lifted more people above the poverty line in the last 25 years (400 million in China alone) than all the government assistance programs of all the countries in the world since the beginning of time. But I was dismayed to learn that the polices of free trade, liberal immigration, technological change and open government that are the source of this global revolution are no longer warmly received in the United States. Mr. Zakaria notes that in 2007 the Pew Global Attitudes Survey polled citizens in 47 countries for purposes of measuring the extent to which they have positive views about free trade and open markets. Guess where the U.S. came in? Dead last. Mr. Zakaria observes that in the five years the survey has been done, no country has seen as great a drop-off as the United States. It's as if, he says, that for the past sixty years we have extolled the virtues of free markets, immigration, technological change, competition, and democracy, and now that the rest of the world has finally decided to take our advice, "we are becoming suspicious of the very things we have long celebrated." (p. 48).
If you want to look in the mirror and see the warts and disappointments, along with the beauty and promise, of America, read this book. You and our country will be better for it.