February 5th, 2012
06:27 AM ET

Zakaria: It's a new world, Mitt

Editor's Note: Be sure to catch GPS every Sunday at 10a.m. and 1p.m. EST. If you miss it, you can buy episodes on iTunes.

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

Now that Mitt Romney is once again the front-runner, his campaign focus is returning to President Obama. And he's probably going to start repeating a line that he's used often in the past: "This is a president who fundamentally believes that this next century is the post-American century."

Now, I leave it to the president to describe what he believes, but as the author of the book The Post-American World, I'd like to clarify the phrase. At the very beginning of the book, I note: "This is a book not about the decline of America but rather about the rise of everyone else."

Throughout the book, I am optimistic about America, and I'm convinced it can prosper in this new world and remain the most powerful country on the planet. But I argue that the age of America's singular dominance, its unipolarity, has ended. For a quarter-century after the collapse of communism and the Soviet Union, the United States dominated the world with no real political or economic competitors.

Mitt, we are in a different world now.

In 1990, China represented 2% of global gross domestic product. It has quadrupled, to 8%, and it's rising. By most estimates, China's economy will become the world's largest between 2016 and 2018. And this is not simply an economic story. China's military capacity and reach are also expanding. Beijing's defense spending is likely to surpass America's by 2025.

It's not just China that's rising. Emerging powers on every continent have achieved political stability and economic growth and are becoming active on the global stage. Twenty years ago Turkey was a fragile democracy, dominated by its army, constantly in need of Western economic bailouts. Today, Turkey has a trillion-dollar economy that grew 6.6% last year. Since April 2009, Turkey has created 3.4 million jobs - that's more than the entire European Union, Russia and South Africa put together.

Look in this hemisphere: In 1990, Brazil was emerging from decades of dictatorship and was wracked by inflation rates that reached 3,000 percent. Today, Brazil is a stable democracy, steadily growing with foreign-exchange reserves of $350 billion.

I could go on, Mitt.

Barack Obama has succeeded in preserving and even enhancing U.S. influence in this world precisely because he has recognized these new forces at work. He has traveled to the emerging nations and spoken admiringly of their rise. He replaced the old Western club and made the Group of 20 the central decision-making forum for global economic affairs. By emphasizing multilateral organizations, alliance structures and international legitimacy, he got results. It was Chinese and Russian cooperation that produced tougher sanctions against Iran. It was the Arab League's formal request last year that made Western intervention in Libya uncontroversial.

Mitt, by and large you have ridiculed this approach to foreign policy, arguing that you would instead expand the military, act unilaterally and talk unapologetically. But chest-thumping triumphalism won't help you secure America's interests or ideals in a world populated by powerful new players. You can call this new century whatever you like, but it won't change reality. After all, just because we call it the World Series doesn't actually make it one.

For more of my thoughts throughout the week, I invite you to follow me on Facebook and Twitter and to visit the Global Public Square every day. Be sure to catch GPS every Sunday at 10a.m. and 1p.m. EST. If you miss it, you can buy the show on iTunes.


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