"Between 1500 and 1800, the West sprinted ahead of other centers of power in Asia and the Middle East. Europe and the United States have dominated the world since," writes Charles A. Kupchan in a new CFR book, No One's World: The West, The Rising Rest, and the Coming Global Turn. But this era is coming to a close, he argues, as power shifts from the West to the rising rest.
In the new era that is opening, no country, region, or political model will dominate. "The twenty-first century will not be America's, China's, Asia's, or anyone else's," according to Kupchan, "it will belong to no one."
"No one's world," he continues, "will exhibit striking diversity; alternative conceptions of domestic and international order will compete and coexist on the global stage." For the first time in history, Kupchan contends, an interdependent world will be without a center of gravity.
Not only is the West's material dominance coming to an end, Kupchan claims, but its ideological dominance is waning as well. "Autocrats in China, Russia, and the Persian Gulf; theocrats in the Middle East; strongmen in Africa; populists in Latin America—these regimes challenge the universality of the Western model and are not just way stations on the path to liberal democracy, industrial capitalism, and secular nationalism." Rising powers are charting their own courses, not replicating the West's brand of modernity.
Meanwhile, Kupchan asserts, the West's leading nations are stumbling both economically and politically. European integration is faltering due to the "renationalization of politics," while the United States' ability to provide steady leadership is hampered by partisan polarization. To revive its power, "the West will have to rise to the occasion on two fronts. It will have to recover its political and economic vitality and retain its cohesion even as its era of primacy gradually comes to an end."
"Perhaps the defining challenge for the West and the rising rest is managing this global turn and peacefully arriving at the next world by design," Kupchan concludes. "If the West can help deliver to the rest of the world what it brought to itself several centuries ago—political and ideological tolerance coupled with economic dynamism—then the global turn will mark not a dark era of ideological contention and geopolitical rivalry, but one in which diversity and pluralism lay the foundation for an era of global comity."
A Council on Foreign Relations Book
Educators: Access Teaching Notes for No One's World.