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Rise of the Rest in East and West

August 2008
Rise of the Rest in East and West

Comparisons between India and China have become so routine that, by now, some may find this exercise a little overdone, if not tedious. Think of all the books being churned out. Here’s a list of titles published just this year: The Elephant and the Dragon; Rivals; Growling Tiger, Roaring Dragon; Chindia; Billions of Entrpreneurs; The New Asian Hemisphere. Yet of course, this boom in India-China studies is important, not just inevitable, given the spectacular rise of these two Asian giants. Obserevers everywhere are agog, wondering how the 21st century will turn out. Fareed Zakaria, the editor of Newsweek International, offers an answer in The Post-American World (W. W. Norton).

In this widely praised book, Zakaria argues that what we’re seeing now is the last of three great power shifts over the past half a millennium. The first, which occurred across a span of 400 years, was the rise of the West, giving birth to modernity. The next shift was the rise of America, whose century-long dominance now seems to be in decline. Zakaria’s thesis, as laid out cogently in his book, is that no single nation will dominate the 21st century. In this post-American world, several countries—China, India, Russia, Brazil and, of course, the U.S.—will be powerful in varying degrees. His point is that the third tectonic shift is the “rise of the rest” rather than the dominance of Asia or America. That being the case, what does Zakaria think of the endless ‘China versus India’ debate?

“If there ever was a race between India and China, it’s over,” he writes. “China’s economy is three times the size of India’s and is still growing at a faster clip.” Unlike Parag Khanna, who also came out with a book this year, Zakaria is by no means pessimistic about India’s prospects. “But India can still capitalize on its advantages—a vast, growing economy, an attractive political democracy, a vibrant model of secularism and tolerance, a keen knowledge of both East and West, and a special relationship with America,” he adds. “If it can mobilize these factors and use them to its advantage, India will still make for a powerful package, whether it is technically number two, or three, or four in the world.”

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