No One's World

The West, the Rising Rest, and the Coming Global Turn

A mapping of the twenty-first-century world that provides a detailed strategy for reconciling the West with the "rise of the rest."

Foreign policy analyses written by CFR fellows and published by the trade presses, academic presses, or the Council on Foreign Relations Press.

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"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."

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Reviews and Endorsements

Lucid and engaging.

Publishers Weekly

No One's World makes a bold claim that we are seeing not just a shift to a more multipolar world, but the emergence of 'multiple modernities' in which Western values are no longer dominant. This is a debatable point, but one that is cogently argued by one of the keenest observers of international politics.

Francis Fukuyama, author of The Origins of Political Order and The End of History and the Last Man

Charles Kupchan provides a refreshingly sober, clear-eyed, and controversial take on what the emerging world might really look like. You don't have to agree with all his prescriptions, but his well-informed and crisply written analysis of the historical forces that have shaped today's world and what they mean for tomorrow is a valuable contribution on the most important topic of our time.

Robert Kagan, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of Dangerous Nation

One of America's leading international scholars offers an original look at the world's future. He envisions a new global circle consisting of a revived West and emerging powers--a world without a center of gravity that will require more consensus and more tolerance of difference. Provocative and challenging.

Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and former New York Times columnist

Charles Kupchan is an important and distinctive voice in an ongoing debate about the future shape of the international order. Contrary to those who argue that now is the time for the West to strengthen and extend existing rules, he cautions policymakers to prepare for a world of conflicting values and multiple paths to modernity and prosperity. The prospect of No One's World is not one that Western policymakers and pundits like to contemplate, which is all the more reason that they should read this book.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, Bert G. Kerstetter '66 university professor of politics and international affairs, Princeton University

Excerpt Up

In 2010, four out of the top five economies in the world were part of the West. In 2050, according to Goldman Sachs, the United States will be the only Western power to make it into the top five.

Although the United States will be number two in 2050, its economy will be much smaller than China's. Goldman Sachs projects that China's GDP should match America's by 2027, and then steadily pull ahead. The collective GDP of the four leading developing countries (the BRICs--Brazil, Russia, India, and China) is likely to match that of today's leading Western nations by 2032. The World Bank predicts that the U.S. dollar will lose its global dominance by 2025 as the dollar, euro, and China's renminbi become co-equals in a "multi-currency" monetary system.

China has already surpassed Japan to become the world's second-largest economy. Although it will be well into the next decade before China overtakes the United States to become number one, the numbers already speak for themselves. The United States in 2010 posted a current account deficit of $470 billion, contributing to global imbalances that threaten future U.S. growth. Meanwhile, China in 2010 racked up a surplus of $305 billion. America's aver- age rate of consumption over the past decade was seventy percent of GDP and its savings rate roughly 3.5 percent. In contrast, China's average rate of consumption over the past decade was thirty-five percent of GDP and estimates of its savings rate range as high as forty percent.

China has funneled some of its accumulating surpluses into sovereign wealth funds, which the government invests strategically around the world. As of the spring of 2010, three of China's largest funds together had approximately $780 billion in assets--a figure roughly equivalent to the GDP of the Netherlands. Meanwhile, public debt in the United States reached $14 trillion in early 2011 (over ninety percent of GDP), with annual deficits at their highest levels since the years following World War II. As American debt has piled up, China has become the leading foreign purchaser of American treasuries, holding some $1.2 trillion in U.S. debt by the end of 2010--over twenty-five percent of U.S. treasury securities held by foreign countries. Indeed, foreigners held over half of all U.S. government debt by 2010, exposing the United States to considerable financial vulnerability.

China's economy will cool off over time; growth rates, savings rates, and budget surpluses normally decline as national economies mature. But the impressive prospects for growth in China, India, and other developing countries are also grounded in immutable demographic realities. The West's population represents less than twenty percent of the globe's total--and is poised to experience both a relative and absolute decline in the years ahead. While the U.S. population and labor force will grow gradually over the coming decades due to both immigration and fertility rates higher than the Western norm, Europe's population is poised to shrink. The EU's aggregate fertility rate falls short of the replacement level and its immigration rate is below that of the United States. Japan's population is also aging rapidly. Meanwhile, although China's population begins to decline around 2025 (due to the one-child policy implemented in 1978), as the figure below shows, China and India both have impressive pools of labor on which to draw for years to come. Many other parts of the developing world will be experiencing significant increases in their labor forces in the years ahead.

Not only will labor pools outside the West be expanding dramatically while those within the West are shrinking, but intellectual capital will also be relocating from the core to the periphery of the global system. The United States still has the best university system in the world. But an increasing number of the students taking advantage of this system are foreigners--and they regularly bring their skills back home.

In 1978 approximately twelve percent of all doctorates awarded in the United States went to foreign students. By 2008, that figure had risen to thirty-three percent for all fields of study. In engineering, foreign students accounted for sixty percent of doctorates awarded, while the share of foreign students receiving doctorates in the physical sciences was forty-eight percent. In 2008, Chinese citizens studying in the United States accounted for nearly thirty percent of all doctorates awarded to foreign students. Students coming from China, India, and South Korea together received over fifty percent of all doctoral degrees awarded to foreigners. It should be no surprise that Asia's share of published scientific papers rose from sixteen percent in 1990 to twenty-five percent in 2004.

The economic primacy of the West has already begun to wane--and the global diffusion of wealth will quicken over the course of this decade. America's military superiority will remain unquestioned well into the next decade. However, the influence that comes with such superiority is already diminishing.

Copyright © 2012 by Charles Kupchan. All rights reserved.