The Post-American World

by Fareed Zakaria

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Student Question

How does America today compare to Zakaria's "Last Superpower" characterization in The Post-American World? What defines a superpower in today's geopolitical model?

Quick answer:

America measures up today to Fareed Zakaria's characterization of a superpower in the section about the "Last Superpower" in chapter 2 in that as the current relationship between America and China demonstrates, compromise is required.

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In the section called "The Last Superpower" in chapter 2 of Fareed Zakaria's book The Post-American World, Zakaria states that America "has had its day." In other words, America is not the superpower it once was. American jobs have gone to other countries, its citizens have demonstrated haphazard spending habits, and its government owes Asian banks lots of money.

As America has taken a step back, other countries, like China and India, have advanced. Zakaria quotes the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who worries about the consequences of Indian workers having the skills to do American jobs for a "fraction of the wages." Writing in 2008, Zakaria maintains that America is "by far the most powerful country." Now, however, America can't easily impose its will unilaterally. It must "balance accommodation and deterrence."

It's possible to argue that Zakaria's characterization of America's demoted superpower status measures up to how it acts today. America does not use force to push increasingly powerful nations to adhere to its demands; it uses compromise. For example, China has continually clashed with America's economic interests and its professed values. China's trade policies and its mistreatment of Uyghurs and the people of Hong Kong have received significant criticism from America. America has responded not with attacks but negotiation.

The past two American presidents tried to work with China to bring them in line. Barack Obama, a Democrat, stressed "cooperation." Donald Trump, the Republican successor, employed bellicose rhetoric but, in the end, worked out a trade deal with China. The China example seems to substantiate Zakaria's thesis. In today's geopolitical climate, a superpower like the United States tries give-and-take methods instead of might.

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