Library@Kendriya Vidyalaya Pattom

Where Minds meet and Ideas pop up !

The Post American World


By Fareed Zakaria (Editor,Newsweek)

Book reviewed 


Published: May 11, 2008

Courtesy: New York Times

Every 20 years or so, the end of America is nigh — ever since the 18th century when, in France, Comte de Buffon fingered the country as a den of degeneracy while Abbé Raynal slammed its cultural poverty: America had not yet produced “one good poet, one able mathematician, one man of genius.” In 1987, in his book “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers,” the Yale historian Paul Kennedy saw the United States on the road to perdition — this, four years before the suicide of the Soviet Union, which left America all alone in the penthouse of global power. Now, two decades on, it is the much-hyped “great power shift” toward Asia that will turn the United States into a has-been.

At first blush, “The Post-American World,” by Fareed Zakaria, seems to fall into the same genre. But make no mistake. This is a relentlessly intelligent book that eschews simple-minded projections from crisis to collapse. There is certainly plenty to bemoan — from the disappearing dollar to the subprime disaster, from rampant anti-Americanism to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that will take years to win.

Yet Zakaria’s is not another exercise in declinism. His point is not the demise of Gulliver, but the “rise of the rest.” After all, how can this giant follow Rome and Britain onto the dust heap of empire if it can prosecute two wars at once without much notice at home? The granddaughters of those millions of Rosie the Riveters who kept the World War II economy going are off to the mall today; if they don’t shop till they drop, it’s because of recession, not rationing.

The real problem, Zakaria argues, is the rise of China, trailed by India. China’s is indeed the most incredible success story in history — a tale of almost 30 years of growth in the 7-to-10-percent range that seems to defy the laws of economic gravity. The United States, Germany and Japan had similar tales to tell in the late 19th century, but bust was the price of boom, and for Germany as well as Japan (add Russia, too), headlong industrialization ended in the horrors of 20th-century totalitarianism.

But for China it’s up, up and away. As Zakaria memorably puts it, “China today exports in a single day more than it exported in all of 1978.” Authoritarian modernization just hums along. The Party’s message reads “Enrich yourselves, but leave the driving to us,” and most of 1.3 billion Chinese seem happy to comply — and to consume. With power safely lodged in the Politburo, China does not conform to the historical pattern of “first rich, then rowdy,” which led to Tokyo’s and Berlin’s imperialist careers.

So why worry? “The problem is size,” Zakaria writes. “China operates on so large a scale that it can’t help changing the nature of the game.” True, but let’s play another game, that of compound interest. China’s (nominal) G.D.P. is about $3 trillion, while America’s is $14 trillion. Assume indefinite Chinese growth of 7 percent. That will double G.D.P. to $6 trillion in 10 years and double it again to $12 trillion by 2028. Assume now that the United States will grow at its historical rate of 3.5 percent. By 2028, G.D.P. will measure $28 trillion. This is a silly game, but no more inane than those projections that see China overtaking the United States as early as 2020. American output would still be about one-quarter of the world total, the average for the past 125 years, as Zakaria reminds us.

What about the shifting tides of power? In the affairs of nations, “power” is more complex than in physics. The “hard stuff” — military clout — is certainly central. China’s defense budget may be the world’s No. 2, but in dollar terms, America spends almost as much as the rest of the world combined. Hence, might — at least American might — doesn’t just “grow out of the barrel of a gun,” as Mao Zedong famously had it; “it’s the economy, stupid.” Will America stay on top — devaluation, deficits and all?

So, let’s look at a related determinant of power: culture. Again, Zakaria proceeds more subtly than the run-of-the-mill declinist by stressing American advantages not captured by growth rates and export surpluses. He rightly takes on the old saw to the effect that China produces 600,000 engineers a year, India 350,000 and the United States only 70,000. This is true if you include “auto mechanics and industrial repairmen” in the Asian totals. Subtract them, and America “actually trains more engineers per capita than either India or China does.”

The larger point is that “higher education is America’s best industry” — never mind the creeping demise of Detroit’s Big Three. “With 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States absolutely dominates higher education, having either 42 or 68 percent of the world’s top 50 universities” (depending on who is counting). In India, he adds, “universities graduate between 35 and 50 Ph.D.’s in computer science each year; in America the figure is 1,000.” Now, Beijing is pouring oodles into its universities, but so did Austin, Tex., in the oil-rich ’70s, and Stanford et al. are still on top.

In the industrial age, hardware mattered; today it is software, a k a “culture.” This is a grab bag: skills, openness, innovation, opportunity, competition. “It’s brains, stupid,” Bill Clinton might exclaim today. And youth. China, Japan and Europe are aging rapidly; the United States will remain a young country way into the 21st century. And why? Immigration is “America’s secret weapon.” In my Stanford class, the A’s regularly go to students called Kim, Zhou, Patel or Vertiz; these are not the “huddled masses,” but their children — the gifted and hungry who will slough off the old and drive the new. “First rich, then fat and lazy” will not be America’s fate.

What’s the problem, then? “America remains the global superpower today, but it is an enfeebled one.” It has blown wads of political capital, but it is still better positioned to manage the “rise of the rest” than its rivals. Europe is rich, but placid and graying. Resurgent Russia is too grabby. China is more subtle in its ambitions, but still a classic revisionist that wants more for itself and less for the whole. It craves respect but will choose bloody repression in the crunch, as in Tibet.

The United States, too, has acted the bully in recent years, and it has paid dearly. Still, why does it retain “considerable ability to set the agenda,” to quote Zakaria? How can it muster the convening power that brings 80 nations to Annapolis? The short answer (mine) is: America remains the “default power”; others may fear it, but who else will take care of global business? Maybe it takes a liberal, seafaring empire, as opposed to the Russian or the Habsburg, to temper power and self-interest with responsibility for the rest.

And maybe it takes a Bombay-born immigrant like Zakaria, who went from Yale to Harvard (where we were colleagues) and to the top of Newsweek International, to remind this faltering giant of its unique and enduring strengths. America will be in trouble only when China becomes home to tomorrow’s hungry masses yearning to be free — and to make it.

Josef Joffe is the publisher-editor of Die Zeit in Hamburg and a senior fellow at Stanford. His latest book is “Überpower: The Imperial Temptation of America.”

Visit Fareed Zakaria at

Filed under: Book of the week

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

कृपया हिंदी में पढ़ें

Live updates

Library@KV Pattom


Welcome to the official Library blog of Kendriya Vidyalaya Pattom, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India, launched in September 2007.

6 Million Hits and counting..

Thank you all for making this blog a great success.

You are the visitor, No

  • 6,314,447 hits

Upcoming Events

No upcoming events

Visit your Library

Browse Books and Periodicals. Read Newspapers. Pick a New Book from the ‘New Arrivals’ rack. Search the Internet and the OPAC. Refer for assignments and projects. Suggest a book. Ask a question.Write your comments. And more…Visit the Library Today itself. You are most welcome.

KVS Innovation and Experimentation Award 2011 & 2016

"Library Junction" and "Face a Book Challenge" have won the KVS Innovation and Experimentation Award in 2011 and 2016 respectively.

All India Competition on Innovative Practices and Experiments in Education for Schools and Teacher Education Institutions 2010-’11

'Library Junction' won the "All India Competition on Innovative Practices and Experiments in Education for Schools and Teacher Education Institutions 2010-'11" conducted by NCERT.

Website of the Week

Telephone Reference

+91 9447699724 (Librarian)

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5,812 other followers

Ask your Librarian

Subscribe SMS updates

Send: ON Library_KVPattom to 9870807070


RSS This day in History

  • Pompey defeated by Julius Caesar at the Battle of Pharsalus: 9 August 48 - This Day in History
    During the Roman Civil War of 49–45 , Julius Caesar's troops on this day in 48 decisively defeated the army of Pompey at the Battle of Pharsalus, causing Pompey to flee to Egypt, where he was subsequently murdered.More Events on this day:1945: The second atomic bomb dropped on Japan by the United States in World War II struck the city of Nagasaki.1 […]
  • Amedeo Avogadro: Biography of the Day
    Amedeo AvogadroBorn this day in 1776, Amedeo Avogadro of Italy showed that, under controlled conditions of temperature and pressure, equal volumes of gases contain an equal number of molecules—what became known as Avogadro's law.
  • Concise Encyclopedia Book and CD-ROM: Special Price from The Britannica Store
    For RSS subscribers The Britannica Store presents a special 20% discount on the Concise Encyclopedia and free CD-ROM. This thoroughly revised and expanded edition of Britannica's most popular publication worldwide is a one-volume encyclopedia containing 28,000 articles accompanied by colorful photographs, diagrams, maps, and flags. The Britannica Concis […]

Library Bookmark


<!– Global site tag (gtag.js) – Google Analytics –>

window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];
function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);}
gtag(‘js’, new Date());

gtag(‘config’, ‘UA-110661763-1’);

<!– Global site tag (gtag.js) – Google Analytics –>

window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];
function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);}
gtag(‘js’, new Date());

gtag(‘config’, ‘UA-11842201-1’);

Real time News on Kendriya Vidyalayas on the web

Little Open Library (LOLib)

Tools for Every Teacher (TET)

FaB Best Performers 2017-’18

Meera Nair & Kalyani Santhosh

Face a Book Challenge

e-reading hub @ Your Library

Follow Us on Twitter

Learn anything freely with Khan Academy Library of Content

A free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.

Interactive challenges, assessments, and videos, on any topic of your interest.

Child Line (1098)

CHILDLINE 1098 service is a 24 hour free emergency phone outreach service for children in need of care and protection.

CBSE Toll Free Tele/Online Helpline

Students can call 1800 11 8004 from any part of the country. The operators will answer general queries and also connect them to the counselors for psychological counseling. The helpline will be operational from 08 a.m to 10 p.m. On-line counseling on:

Population Stabilization in India Toll Free Helpline

Dial 1800-11-6555 for expert advice on reproductive, maternal and child health; adolescent and sexual health; and family planning.

InfoLit India: Information Literacy Project for Young Learners

Kendriya Vidyalaya (Shift-I)
Thiruvananthapuram-695 004
Kerala India

Mail: librarykvpattom at

%d bloggers like this: