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In The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria offers a unique perspective on the changing global landscape in terms of history, economics, and society. Zakaria argues that the United States, once an unrivalled superpower, must now face the reality of a “third great power shift” in the modern era. This shift refers to the rise of countries such as China, India, Brazil, and Russia, which have experienced significant economic growth and are challenging American dominance. According to Zakaria, the United States has witnessed a relative decline in its unilateral power and influence as these non-Western countries continue to thrive. In order to adapt to the transformations occurring in rapidly developing nations like China, the United States must adjust its practices and strategies. This is essential for the U.S. to navigate the ever-changing twenty-first-century world.

In the opening chapter, titled “Rise of the Rest,” Zakaria lays the foundation for his argument about the shifting global order. He presents his central thesis, which asserts that the world is currently undergoing a historic power shift away from American dominance towards a “post-American” era characterized by the rise of other nations. To support his thesis, Zakaria draws parallels between the current power shift and two significant transitions in history. The first is the rise of the West, where European countries gradually surpassed older powers like China and the Ottoman Empire, establishing Western dominance for centuries. The second is the American Century, where the United States emerged as the undisputed superpower after World War II due to its economic and military strength.

Zakaria argues that the current “rise of the rest” mirrors these past shifts, suggesting that it is a natural progression in global dynamics. He further emphasizes the emergence of new powers by highlighting specific examples of countries experiencing exceptional growth. Overall, “Post-American World” challenges the traditional notion of American dominance and offers a compelling perspective on the changing global landscape. Zakaria’s analysis prompts readers to consider the implications of this power shift and the need for the United States to adapt to a rapidly evolving world.

China’s rapid economic growth, surpassing Japan to become the world’s second largest economy, along with its increasing military and political influence, serves as a prime example of the “rise of the rest.” Similarly, India, with its vast demographics and growing economic strength, is also a significant player in this global shift. Brazil, on the other hand, stands out for its successful transition to a stable democracy and strong economic performance, positioning itself as a major force in the emerging multipolar world. It is important to note that these examples are just a few among many other countries worldwide that are contributing to the diffusion of power.

As these countries rise, the dominance of the United States diminishes, and the global economic landscape undergoes a transformation. The US no longer solely dominates the market, as other countries gain significant market share and generate new wealth. Emerging powers are asserting their voices on the international stage, challenging American leadership in global institutions and alliances. While the US still maintains its military superiority, other nations are rapidly modernizing their forces, potentially leading to a less predictable multipolar military landscape.

Zakaria emphasizes that the “rise of the rest” does not necessarily indicate the downfall of the US. However, it does require the country to adapt to a new reality where it can no longer dictate the global agenda. This adaptation, according to Zakaria, entails embracing cooperation with other nations and building stronger international institutions to navigate the complexities of a multipolar world. The author presents a compelling argument regarding the rise and fall of poverty, using examples and data from various countries such as China, Turkey, India, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, Kenya, and South Africa. These nations are experiencing significant global growth, marking a shift towards a more inclusive international system. The author also highlights the emergence of the “Rise of the Rest” and no state actors, which has led to the empowerment of groups and individuals, challenging traditional hierarchies and centralized control.

Government functions are now being shared with international bodies like the WTO and the EU, while NGOs are Proliferating worldwide. Fareed Zakaria asserts that power is transitioning away from nation states, rendering traditional applications of national power, both economic and military, less effective. In the past, we witnessed a multipolar order dominated by European governments, followed by a bipolar duopoly during the Cold War, and eventually a unipolar world under American dominance since 1991. However, the distribution of power is now shifting away from American dominance in all other dimensions, while still maintaining a single superpower status at the politico-military level. The author emphasizes that this shift does not signify an anti-American sentiment, but rather a transition into a post-American world.

He then asserts that despite the turmoil in global politics, the global economy continues to advance. Historically, economies have experienced their highest growth during or immediately after wars, as seen in examples such as the Cold War, Israeli conflicts, and the Iraq War. He goes on to discuss the concept of “The problems of plenty,” where resource rich countries thrive while others are still developing. These countries are seen as nonmarket parasites in a market-driven world and pose political challenges to the United States and the Western idea of international order. Iran, Venezuela, and Russia are cited as examples.

According to him, some countries act more responsibly, aligning with American interests, such as Canada, the Persian Gulf countries, Dubai, and Saudi Arabia. He further argues that as other countries become more active, the United States will inevitably have less room for maneuver. To deter rogue actions, the US will need to form broad and lasting coalitions, allowing other countries to have a stake in the new world order. In today’s international order, progress necessitates compromise. The author concludes by stating that finding a balance between accommodation and deterrence is the primary challenge for American foreign policy in the coming decades.

The emergence of the new order should not be interpreted as a reflection of American decline, but rather as a manifestation of the diverse array of forces that Washington can effectively navigate and even influence. While the rest of the world is experiencing significant economic growth, America will inevitably witness a relative decline. The increasing influence of non-governmental forces will impose significant constraints on Washington’s actions. For the past three centuries, the global order has been supported by the presence of dominant liberal powers initially Britain and subsequently America – who played pivotal roles in establishing and upholding an open world economy.

These powers safeguarded trade routes and sea lanes, acted as lenders of last resort, maintained reserve currencies, made foreign investments, and kept their own markets open. Moreover, they also tipped the military balance against major aggressors of their respective eras, ranging from Napoleon’s France to Germany and the Soviet Union. As the creators and sustainers of the existing order characterized by open trade and democratic governance, these powers have fostered a benign and advantageous environment for the vast majority of humanity. In the future, when historians reflect on this era, they may observe that during the initial decades of the 21st century, the United States accomplished its significant and momentous mission of globalizing the world.

However, they might also note that amidst this process, the United States overlooked its own globalization. The author, Fareed Zakaria, then proceeds to discuss a non-western world, one that is not dominated by the West. Consequently, we can summarize that Zakaria aims to shed light on the shifting global dominance from the United States to emerging economies such as China, India, Brazil, South Africa, and others. In essence, Zakaria’s writing is both intelligent and incisive, yet easily comprehensible.

“The Post-American World” holds particular relevance in today’s geopolitical and economic landscape. The book effectively advocates for a harmonious world with multiple centers of economic activity under the guidance of the United States. However, it falls short in addressing the numerous complexities that the United States currently confronts as a global player. Nonetheless, the book is a captivating read for those seeking a straightforward yet captivating exploration of the intricacies of a globalized world.

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