ex-super power

Fareed Zakaria's "The Post-American World"


ex-super power
by varjavand

Americans are fascinated with bigness. We believe we should have the best and the biggest of everything. Only ten years ago, the United States was at the top of the world’s biggest lists in most categories. That is the thing of the past according to Mr. Fareed Zakaria the author of a book entitled; The Post-American World. Consider the following facts; “The tallest building in the world is in Taipei, The world’s richest man is Mexican. Largest publicly-traded company is Chinese. The world’s biggest plane is built in Russia and Ukraine, (the) leading refinery is under construction in India, and (the) largest factories are in China. The biggest movie industry in terms of both movies made and tickets sold is Bollywood, not Hollywood. Of the top ten malls in the world, only one is in the United States; the world’s biggest is in Beijing” according to Mr. Zakaria.

The fastest growing countries in recent years have been non-American and non-western: China, Russia, and India. China has been the fastest growing country for the past many years. If the US and the Chinese economy continue to grow at their current rate, US will no longer be the biggest economic power in the world by the year 2018, using the total GDP as a criterion, China is. Given such astonishing developments, the key question is: How will the power structure of the world, both economically and politically, look like in the future? This is the theme of this book

He presents an intriguing assessment of the latest developments in global economy and their likely impact on the United States. One of the interesting points he talks about is that the political events have been happening so frequently in the world that they are becoming sort of routine and economically less significant. The stock markets, for instance, are becoming sort of neutral with regard to these events. In other words, even though, the financial markets are spooked by political events, they are reacting rather to economic information more vigorously. Because of the massive popularity of consumerism around the globe, the economic power, not the political events, is becoming more of a decisive force in dominating the global market. He is arguing, rightfully, that the economic power is shifting away from the U.S. and in favor of heavily populated countries, China and India at the forefront. Even though, Mr. Zakaria explains, the rise of China and India is bound to happen, it is does not necessarily entail the elimination of America as a superpower. It is mainly a shift in the players on the global economic arena - from one superpower, to a few powers playing on a more evenly leveled field.

It can be surmised from his analysis that even though technology has been the key to the rising superpower up to now, under the new world paradigm, technology alone cannot guarantee a full-bodied economic development, technology supplemented by a well-proficient labor force is the key. It seems that the US is currently is suffering from this acute problem, a shortage of high quality man power. Its labor force is less than one fourth of that of China. On balance, the traditional, as well as services, sectors are the backbone of economic viability and they are highly labor intensive.

He is suggesting that the emphasis is also shifting from per capita to total, Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The highest ranking countries in terms of per capita GDP are the small, low population, countries in Europe with no economic power. He considers this as a historical mystery. China, on the other hand, is considered less developed based on its per capita income, however, it is destined to become the world’s other economic superpower. Booming countries, like China, can exert a powerful influence on the global economy through their exports and their international investments. In addition, the political and military power depends on total economic capability not on per capita income. Besides even with the increasing economic interconnectedness, it is still the domestic market that provides the basic source of support for domestic industries by absorbing their products.

Since 1991, following the fall of the Berlin wall, and the disintegration of the former Soviet Union, the United States has gained the monopoly power in global market and has successfully maintained this position for several decades, what the author calls a unipolar power structure. That is now changing to a multipolar system, as he suggests, a kind of oligopoly structure in which a few countries will engage in give-and-take rivalry, and enjoy a substantial controlling power both economically and politically. The power is diffusing and is shifting, this time, away from US as we are approaching an era of post-American domination.

Globalization has created its own opportunities as well as challenges. The author believes that despite all the positive and negative developments in global economy and the politics, the US will remain the dominant superpower and the growth of the rests does not necessarily mean the demise of its empire. It is rather at the expense of Japan and the Europe that are facing what he calls “slow demographically determined decline”. Mr. Zakaria admits America has been in plenty of panics before about China’s worrying success, and today acts as a reminder that America can prevail. This is his important point, although America still faces an ever-growing global market.

Despite what some politicians want us to believe, the world is not a dangerous place; Mr. Zakaria tries to assure us. The threat of Islamic fundamentalism is not as colossal as we think, “Within that universe (Islamic world) are Shiites and Sunnis, Persians and Arabs, Southeast Asians and Middle Easterners, and, importantly moderates and radicals. Just as the diversity within the communist world ultimately made it less threatening, so do the many variety of Islam undermine its ability to coalesce into a single, monolithic foe.” He believes the relative calm is due to economic prosperity “Across the world economics is trumping politics”. The expansion of global economy is best evidenced by increasing economic ties among nations and persistent surge in international trade. The key players in new global economy are the giant countries on the move: China, India, and Brazil at the top.

In this book, Mr. Zakaria tries to tackle critical issues such as: “why non-western countries stand still while the west moves forward? Why the United States has succeeded to globalize other countries but has failed to globalize itself?” He tries to answer these and many similar questions from historical perspective by detailed examination of economic growth in China and India in recent years – chapters 4 and 5, by comparing east and west and identifying the differences that can shed some light on this issue. He maintains that the cultural institutions including religion will continue to play a role in shaping economic progress in other countries. The non-western countries have always been eager to learn about the west and imitate their progress because people want to side with the winner not with the losers. However, that doesn’t mean they should undermine their own cultural and social values. To succeed economically, they had to borrow from and utilize western technology and managerial style without chipping away from their own institutional settings. Many did not thrive in the long term simply because they just wanted to imitate the west because they thought that imitating the successful bring them success: Kamal Ataturk in Turkey, Reza Shah in Iran and Jawaharlal Nehru in India. As such, the new world order has promoted new nationalism. Ironically, frustrated with outright acceptance of the American and western economic and political system, countries are paying less attention to the west, in general and the US in particular, and focusing on themselves. In other words, growth of other countries does not follow the western style completely.

“in the next few decades, three of the world biggest economies will be non-western (Japan, China, and India). And the fourth, the United States, will be increasingly shaped by its growing non-European population” implying that the west, in general, and the US in particular are loosing their cultural dominance. The future world may be modern but not necessarily western. However, he wonders, how the world will be like without the dominance of western culture. In the past, westernization, he believes, was not limited to technology and consumerism, every aspects of society, from government institutions to women dressing were influenced by western culture. His idea about women’s clothing might be especially of particular relevance to us. “Women’s clothing is a powerful indicator of a society’s comfort with modernity. Not surprisingly Muslim world has the biggest problems with its women-wearing western style cloths. It is also the region where women remain the farthest behind by any objective yardstick-literacy, education, participating in work force. The veil and chador may be perfectly acceptable choices of dress, but they coincide with an outlook that rejects the modern word in other ways as well”

The author has made successfully what I think is a pivotal point. In modern word, the policy of force and coercion are doomed to failure. It is the appeal of the culture and pioneering ideas that work not the use of “hard power”. In chapter six, he explains how the British Empire spread through the world in nineteenth century mainly through its culture and how an expensive war, Boer War, led its demise, and, how the same scenario is being repeated after the US war with Iraq. “The United States has been overextended and distracted, its army stressed, its image sullied” “The familiar theme of imperial decline is playing itself out one more time. History is happening again”

Chinese expansion, on the contrary, has been generally facilitated by the use of “soft power”, as a winning strategy. Considering the triumphant of China and its ensuing economic as well as cultural influence in the world, one of the basic messages of his book is that “a nation’s path to greatness lies in its economic progress and that militarism, empire, and aggression lead to a dead end”. While Great Briton was still keeping its position as military superpower, the author explains, its economy was deteriorating mainly because the high costs of war that drained its budget and forced it to enormous debt. Financial concerns then dictated its strategies resulted in “irreversible economic deterioration”

Presently, the US is not only suffering from one of worst resilient economic slowdown in its history, it has also lost its respect around the world. Nonetheless, the US economy is dynamic, it is fundamentally well endowed, and it can remain dominant as long as its government is willing to deal with the threats prudently and take advantage of the opportunities provided promptly. One of the key advantages the US has compared to Europe, he believes, is its diversely talented population. Thanks to its prudent immigration policy, welcoming and generous, coupled with its capital-rich economy, more than $50,000 worth of capital per each worker. “European societies do not seem able to take in and assimilate people from storage especially from rural and backward regions in the world of Islam.” “America, on the other hand, is creating the first universal nation, made up of all colors, races, and creeds, living and working together in considerable harmony”. At the conclusion of the last chapter, the author puts forward a set of guidelines that he believes will operate in the new world.

The reoccurring theme of this book is that whether the ongoing power shift is beneficial to America and what it should do to fare best under the mew reoriented power structure. The author is not hesitant to blame President Bush for his failure to pay due attention to diplomacy and the diminution of the goodwill asset accumulated throughout many years of prudent diplomacy by his predecessor, Mr. Bill Clinton. Conversely, the “hostility aroused by the Bush Administration” reinforced the weakening of American global supremacy. “For several years the Bush administration boasted of its disdain for treaties, multilateral organizations, international public opinion and anything that suggested a conciliatory approach to world politics” even with the obvious failure of its confrontational approach, the bush administration has been arrogantly reluctant to change its attitude on many vital issues including Iran’s nuclear power issue and take on a more conciliatory approach based on mutual respect. Mr. Zakaria believes that “If you (the US) threaten a country with regime change, it only makes more urgent that government’s desire for nuclear weapons, which is an insurance policy in the world of international politics”. “The task of today is to construct a new approach for a new era, one that responds to a global system in which power is far more diffuse than ever before and in which everyone feels empowered”

In conclusion, reading The Post-American World enables us to judge more accurately if all the hype about China’s take-over is well-grounded. Although, there is no doubt about many powerful contributions by the United States to the world, such as education, democracy, humanitarian assistance, and science, America has been more criticized for its fault s in recent years. Nonetheless, it is the most welcoming nation for From a political stand point, I think, it’s a really hard time to show patronage to a country that repeatedly insults other countries, acts before thinking, and defies the public opinions. It is true that America does have an important role to play in the global stage due to its economic and its financial success; however, this privilege doesn’t give America the freedom to direct the world as it wants. The ongoing “rise of the rest” will probably be good for America; however, it needs to be reminded of manners and the limits of its interference.

It will be interesting to see how America adapts to its role being challenged in the world. I doubt America will take to it nicely given its supreme dominance over the last century. However, hopefully, with a new, cultured, empathetic president (Mr. Obama), America’s image as a war-monger will change to more of a peace-keeper and use the diplomacy and the gestures the Chinese have developed and used so successfully, referred to as “soft power” by Mr. Zakaria.


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by kombizz (not verified) on

It is interesting to read.


Dear All,I appreciated

by varjavand on

Dear All,

I appreciated your comments. They are informative and instrumental in generating debates. More importantly, a comment can say a lot about the commenter and his/her motivation. I have a feeling that some of you have not even read the book and your comments are simply based on your anecdotic impression about who Mr. Zakaria is, and a few comments are loosely related to the core issue(s) he is raising throughout his book. So, here are the summaries of what I believe are the key points of his book:

1.       The book starts with the following sentence: “ This is the book not about the decline of America but rather about the rise of everyone else” And this is the reoccurring theme throughout the entire book. Mr. Zakaria never claims that the US will no longer be a superpower in the near future. However, he predicts that the future power structure is driven by, and is the inevitable results of what is happening now in China, India, Brazil, Russia and other fast growing countries trying to democratize their system and modernize their economy. It looks like a few big emerging powers and one superpower, the US. By the way, the choice of the title “ex-super power” is not mine or his. It is chosen by the organizers of this site.

2.       He is optimistic, as many of us are,  that economic progress will foster democracy in the long run and eventually  the dictatorial regimes will evolve into democratic regimes.

3.       The greatest strength of the US is its garden-variety population which has contributed to its economic progress and will continue to promote creativity, tolerance, and innovative ideas.

4.       Mr. Zakaria believes that the days of using force “hard power” are over, the US has no choice but to follow the Chinese lead of using “soft power” to gain the trust and wins the hearts and soul of other nations

 Please, don’t try to change, or twist, the topic by your comments. I know, there are many who are a regular on this site and have issues with IRI. Please do not dump your anger on my head, or on someone else for that matter. Mixing issues confuses everyone and divert us from having a healthy debate. Please don’t criticize me, personally, for what Mr. Zakaria has said. This is a discussion about his book. Many of the points some of you have criticized me for are not mine, they are his opinions.  No one can sway any opinion through irrelevant, unfounded, unfair remarks or unsubstantiated accusations. You can change one’s mind by the power of reason not the size of your fists.

I am an academician not a politician, I believe in finding a common ground not in confrontation. From scholastic point of view, his book gets an A+ from me.  He has demonstrated a great deal of knowledge and sound judgments concerning the world affairs. I was enthralled by the depth and the breadth of his knowledge. And, to the extent that the future power status of the US will be shaped by how it conducts itself in international scene and what is happening now, I believe Mr. Zakaria has done a good job of predicting what the global power structure will be like in the future.

And, yes, I have seen a picture of Mr. Barack Obama  online with a copy of this book in his hand using one of his fingers as a bookmark reminding everyone that he is yet to read the other half of the book.




It's funny that he is considered as a lefty by some

by Anonypishi (not verified) on

He was one of those cheerleaders of Iraq war. When things started going wrong he just changed his position. Actually he changes his position a lot. He is not as great as Jon Stewart thinks he is.

Behnam Khazar

Dear Varjavand

by Behnam Khazar on

Mr. Zakaria is another in a crowd of "Blame America First" for all the ills of the world.  He is the byproduct of promoting unqualified minorities at any price by liberal US media.   if he was white and born as Frank Zachariah, he would have been amounted to nobody.  However, he could become a very high level advisor in the Obama administration (god forbid...).

In this day and age, it is OK if 2 or 3 millions are massacred in Rwanda or Darfur as long as they are killed by local thugs.  Saddam for 30 years killed his own people and the whole world stayed on the sideline.  However, god forbids if one American bullet or bomb is the cause.  We would see it live 24/7 on CNN and would see the 10- times exaggerations on HBO too.

Now let’s assume that Bollywood becomes the epicenter of movie industry and wearing "sari" or burka for that matter becomes acceptable form of fashion.  Let's assume we come down to their level and accept Islamic world’s concept of polygamy and honor killing.  Is this your utopia and what you are rooting for?  Is this your ultimate goal and wishful thinking?  I wonder what is the source of all these inferiority complex that you have toward the western civilization and why you want to see it fail.

Let them build the tallest buildings in the Dubai and the largest mall in China.  Let them have the most expensive and the only 7-star hotel in the world and let the Hollywood elite buy luxury villas in Dubai man-made island. Tell me what new and original ideas those people came by in the last 100 years. The end of USA is not when we lose the race in the tallest skyscrapers or the malls.  The end is when you see people are lining up and with hooks or crooks try to get a green card and permanent residency in China, Russia, Iran, or Saudi Arabia.  DREAM ON!!!!  


Shining Head

This Zakaria Guy is a Fraud !

by Shining Head on

He is not a journalist. He says whatever the "masters" want him to and/or pleases them. Listen and watch one of his Sunday noon  programs on CNN you know what I am talking about.

Farhad Kashani

Fareed Zakaria is very

by Farhad Kashani on

Fareed Zakaria is very paranoid. The thing is these misguided leftists and IRI apologist Iranians are gonna rush to quote what he said without even thinking twice. Having the biggest mall or biggest manmade Island and other examples, although are signs of progress made by countries such as China and UAE, whom have used U.S investment and free trade principals respectively, are not signs of U.S becoming an “ex-superpower”, as Mr. Varjavand I’m sure can’t wait for the day to happen! Its just saying there are countries that are trying to catch up with the U.S and the gap is closing.

The biggest thing we saw post Iraq war was the resentment to U.S foreign policy which resulted in some decline in U.S influence.

U.S still has by far the biggest economy, the biggest military might, the main producer of technology and science, the top educational and research institutions, the biggest cultural influence, the biggest space program, democratic and economical institutions in place, and others. Its economy and world standing has suffered blows, no denying in that, but its still the sole superpower, and will remain, maybe not the only superpower, but A superpower, for awhile.


Good summary

by jamshid on

I listened to Fareed on NPR radio talking about his new Post American book. This was just about a month ago and I found it to be interesting.

I used to read his financial articles in "California", a quarterly magazine, in the early 90s. He has come a long way in his carreer from those humble beginings.

I haven't followed him much in the past decade, so I was surprised to read some of the comments that were left in this thread.

Varjavand, I don't agree with you in many things, but I found this article to be an excellent summarization of Fareed's new book. I think you would have enjoyed listening to his NPR radio show where he talked about his new book.


  Mr./Ms. love iran:  

by varjavand on


Mr./Ms. love iran:


When you post a comment on this site, make sure it is relevant, accurate, and fair. Your comment possesses none of those:


1. First of all, Mr Zakaria is Indian no Pakistani. If you have read many of his articles, which I doubt, you should know that.


2. You cannot insult someone for no reason; if you do, as you did here, you just reveal your selfish mentality.

3. There is no single shred on evidence in this book that indicates, explicitly or implicitly, that Mr. Zakaria is anti Iranian.


4. I am sure he will be devastated if he finds out that you not going to honor him by reading his book





Mr Zakaria may be a Yale & Berkeley graduate

by samsam1111 on

But just like his Shariaah scholar father Rafiq Zakaria deep down carries the American bashing genes of his late comer types who continue to preach & lecture Free & proud Americans on the virtues of humanity & freedom.I have seen his baseless irrelevant rethoric on Middle East off CNN and can simply compare him to Muslim Indian version of Noam Chomsky with soft approach. For example ..look at his take on Stock Market!..As a former independent trader I can tell you that the whole Global Market DSX,Nikkei, LSE,FTSE,SSMI,BFX SSEC & etc moves (even in PO & AH after hours) through the total direction & trend of Nasdaq , NYSE & US future markets..Singing the demise of American power & greatness of Communist China or Caste system ridden India is way premature just like some of Zakaria,s other arguments.

Thanks for the article & letting me comment on the subject,



He is an anti Iranian

by Love Iran (not verified) on

I would not give a little Pakistani zealot so much credit. I have read many of his articles and it all has the anti-Iranian tone. I would not read his book even if you offer it to me for free.