Comfortable thoughts: The Rise of the Rest

Just a short linkdump post. Newsweek has an interesting opinion piece by Fareed Zakaria entitled The Rise of the Rest that ties in nicely with my previous post Uncomfortable thoughts and philosophy. Zakaria is much more positive about the emergence of new global powers, even when he understands the transition engenders some degree of anxiety:

American anxiety springs from something much deeper, a sense that large and disruptive forces are coursing through the world. In almost every industry, in every aspect of life, it feels like the patterns of the past are being scrambled. “Whirl is king, having driven out Zeus,” wrote Aristophanes 2,400 years ago. And—for the first time in living memory—the United States does not seem to be leading the charge. Americans see that a new world is coming into being, but fear it is one being shaped in distant lands and by foreign people.

Writing from an American perspective, he concludes his exposé with (emphasis mine):

Americans—particularly the American government—have not really understood the rise of the rest. This is one of the most thrilling stories in history. Billions of people are escaping from abject poverty. The world will be enriched and ennobled as they become consumers, producers, inventors, thinkers, dreamers, and doers. This is all happening because of American ideas and actions. For 60 years, the United States has pushed countries to open their markets, free up their politics, and embrace trade and technology. American diplomats, businessmen, and intellectuals have urged people in distant lands to be unafraid of change, to join the advanced world, to learn the secrets of our success. Yet just as they are beginning to do so, we are losing faith in such ideas. We have become suspicious of trade, openness, immigration, and investment because now it’s not Americans going abroad but foreigners coming to America. Just as the world is opening up, we are closing down.

There are a lots of interesting ideas in Zakaria’s post. He even confirms Jamie’s recent post Tibet, Trade and Consumer Nationalism:

As economic fortunes rise, so inevitably does nationalism. Imagine that your country has been poor and marginal for centuries. Finally, things turn around and it becomes a symbol of economic progress and success. You would be proud, and anxious that your people win recognition and respect throughout the world.

And the quote that goes best with my own (poorly written) attempt at addressing the impact the rise of new powers may have on Western thoughts/values (emphasis mine):

The result is that the “rest” are now dissecting the assumptions and narratives of the West and providing alternative views. A young Chinese diplomat told me in 2006, “When you tell us that we support a dictatorship in Sudan to have access to its oil, what I want to say is, ‘And how is that different from your support of a medieval monarchy in Saudi Arabia?’ We see the hypocrisy, we just don’t say anything—yet.”

Yummy!Go have a read.

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About Guy La Roche

Dutch translator and subtitler living in Brittany with his three cats. Has also lived in the Flemish part of Belgium. Speaks English rather fluently and in a former life used to have a decent command of Spanish. Knows swear words in German and Russian. Not quite francophone yet, but slowly getting there. Vaguely centrist observer of the world around him, extremely naive and, sometimes, rather proud of it. Writes Venale Pecus.

2 thoughts on “Comfortable thoughts: The Rise of the Rest

  1. Americans see that a new world is coming into being, but fear it is one being shaped in distant lands and by foreign people.

    And this is a cause of anxiety to Americans?

    Bummer, considering that there’s very little they can do about it.

    Maybe the issue is one of adjusting American expectations, rather than adjusting geopolitics.

  2. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Reaping What We Sow

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