The debate over America's role in the world has only become more contorted as the 2012 presidential election cycle warms up. Frequently, and to deafening applause, Republican audiences would cheer whichever candidate made a point of applauding the permanent fixture of Pax Americana on the international stage. Ian Bremmer's new book addresses the insecurity that this nativism appeals to: how will China's rise affect the international order?
We've become used to an order where the Washington Consensus, the free market, and the reliance on post-World War II institutions (i.e. Bretton Woods institutions) were accepted, nay encouraged. A new order, which Bremmer detailed in his last book, The End of the Free Market, looks at how these neo-corporatist states look at the global stage. Bremmer's new book, Ever Nation for Itself (ENFI), ruthlessly exposes the perspective that Beijing, and other emerging nations, are surveying the world with. The emerging markets, ever the misnomer, have created an entire ecosystem of self-sustaining FDI until we saw the destruction (creative?) of the 2008 economic crisis. Brazil, perhaps learning its lessons from the E.Asian crisis of 1997-98, decided to throw up capital barriers to divestment and others flew the economically illiterate flag of protectionism. These were the opening salvos of a post-G20 world, which this book appropriately names "G-zero."
Overall, we are all going to do OK - if we're to believe Bremmer, which I think we should. As someone who has covered the global political economy for more than 15 years his insight is worth more than most. A recent article in the New York Review of Books by Benjamin Friedman (Whither China?) explores this idea in a more academic lens. But Bremmer continues the depth into this idea that any intelligent reviewer of global politics would seek. It covers the current geopolitical landscape with facts lubricating the plot (e.g., did you know India was offered a seat on the Security Council in 1955? I didn't) which leads to a narrative where you're flipping the pages before you have a chance to make notes.
What I particularly liked about ENFI is that it addresses the current intellectual ethos (pathos?) that those of use concerned about the international order care (obsess? Too many parenthesis?) about. The only reason for reworking the international order is one fact: China is now the second largest economy in the world. If they will be a revisionist power per se we'll see. The recent appointment by the World Bank of Dr. Jim Kim an American may devil most of us - but don't be fooled - the Chinese had to of acquiesced. Further, Bremmer's new book explores and explains the new international landscape for a 21st century.