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The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World Kindle Edition
|Length: 330 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||
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Where Mr Mahbubani starts to feel like "bashing" is for example when he discusses the P5 (permanent members of the UNSC), most wrongdoing by this group is put on the US, whereas China is a P5 member as well. Also in the bribery in the Iraqi "oil for food program", only US companies are listed as examples whereas China got a lot more oil from this program than the US. This is not mentioned as all.
All in all, a very well written and insightful book - even if you don't always agree with him, you're better off understanding this view from Asia on the world's politics!
The packaging was slightly off, in that the front cover was folded on the top and bottom, but overall happy with AMZN's speed as always
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The rhythm of his words communicates the speed of the current economic development of the big Asian countries. It sounds like advertising.
He analyses several facts like the speed of economic growth, the increase in the global middle class, specially in Asia, the reduction in war fatalities, to demonstrate his point of view. His position is to help improve the development of current institutions to keep the current momentum.
He sees a world in which governments and their leaders increasingly are adopting a common set of concepts: acceptance of modern science, logical reasoning, acceptance of free-market economics as the base of policy, transformation of the relationship of the government with its subjects (their own people) and increase in multilateral treaties/organizations to solve international problems. This adoption is causing a major change in direction for all of humanity as we are becoming more and more globalized.
It is worth reading it, not only for the ideas spoused by the author but also for the facts and stories he presents to illustrate his points. Many of the stories are a good summary of what happened in recent history.
The author also discusses the end to poverty. Almost anyone is bothered by the fact that a good part of the world, throughout history and even in our age, has suffered disease and starvation. This suffering is not acceptable to most people. The growth of the Asian powerhouses of China and India has indeed reduced a lot of suffering; the changes are remarkable in a single decade.
The good news; we have new markets for high tech and manufactured goods, software, and ideas. The bad news, the old economic systems that relied on a majority of people doing unskilled or semi-skilled labor means that jobs will flow to the areas with the lowest cost of labor. The development of huge cargo ships and the computerization of off-loading at docks already made importation cheaper than home manufacture. But this could change. Either wages will rise as standards of living rise, making importation less advantageous, or cost of fuel could impact on long-distance shipping.
The author also discusses how he sees integrating the Islamic world. I am not so sanguine as the author; time and again, history has shown us that an ideological regime can push its agenda against the logic of cooperation and that ideas can take hold of a society and push it to conflict.
However, I share the author's view that ultimately, a less impoverished world is a good thing. Happy people tend not to want war. If we can export our most treasured creation, American rules of contract law and government, we may have a globalized market that is fairer to all. The issue, however, I have with Mahbubani's book is the idea of global governance. How can this be representative? How can we integrate wildly-diverging philosophy? It is significant that Mahbubani comes from Singapore, a benevolent dictatorship. Yes, this is a very efficient form of government, but it depends on the goodness of the ruling class, and also the size of the area being governed (Singapore is diverse, but it is small.) Would we be better off giving up our representative form of government, for a distant and unchangeable set of super-powerful rulers, who are possibly a new aristocracy? The outcome would inevitably be rulers who rule by inheriting their jobs from family, and a large unyielding bureaucracy that would not have individual rights at the forefront. I think we can retain national identity and governments without giving up our sovereignty. Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be our motto.(Jefferson.)
On the other hand, the final portion of the book becomes largely an exercise in blaming the West and in particular the US for all the global problems. The US is assigned overwhelming responsibility for rectifying those problems. He refuses to assign an equitable degree of responsibility to China and Russia. These two nations are permanent members of the UN Security Council, yet are the only members without liberal forms of government. In general they are functioning as obstacles to developing solutions to many global problems, e.g. global warming and environmental degradation. Also, they are obstacles to developing a solution to the Syrian Civil War. To my mind, they are both revanchist powers.
To my mind, there are numerous global issues to need cooperative solutions. All states must approach these problems cooperatively. That includes the US, China, Europe, Russia and India. The fact that the second half of the book is overwhelmingly devoted to criticizing the US, precludes a reasonable consideration of Mr. Mahbubani's concepts, and results in the impression that the book is basically and anti-US diatribe. To me that largely negates the meritorious concepts he has for improving global governance, and will result in the concepts being ignored.
Present conditions and predictions for the future are thoughtfully presented. The enthusiasm is buttressed by sobering statistics, data and graphs, which are the result of "a great convergence" of different (sometimes opposing) cultures and technical advances. "It is truly good news that the vast majority of the world's people now have a common set of material aspirations. Once material aspirations become more important than differing ideological or religious aspirations, an overriding set of common interests will motivate the vast majority of the world's population to work together" and he goes on to emphasize the importance of universal education, "These material aspirations are matched by similarly shared educational aspirations. A hundred years ago, getting into Harvard and Yale may have represented the aspirations of elites in America. Today, getting into Harvard and Yale represents the aspirations of elites all over the world. Parents in Santiago or Singapore, Tehran or Tokyo, Beijing or Budapest, jump for joy when their child gets admitted into Yale."
The book has startling examples of progress unimaginable only a few decades ago. "While today about 500 million Asians are considered middle class; this number will mushroom to 1.75 billion in 2020. In 1990 there were 11 million mobile phone users compared to 5.5 billion today." Early childhood deaths, extreme poverty and armed conflicts are declining rapidly. The rise in international trade is exponentially opposite to the decline in interstate wars. But this progress comes with a price of increased demands for consumer goods with the inevitable rise in carbon footprint and its consequences. The author does not believe that the existing international bodies are effective in managing global changes, because the West keeps multilateral organizations weak; the United Nations, IMF, WHO, IAEC are all beholden to the superpowers that pursue only their self-interest. Mahbubani castigates the USA as a hegemon solely interested in promoting its international policy when dealing with the U.N. Many would disagree with him. He also questions whether the USA is prepared to accept being #2 superpower behind China that will catch up and pass the USA economy in less than five years. In the 1980s China was only 2% of the global economy while the USA was ten times more; the projection is China shall be 18.5% and America 17% in five years or less.
Ambassador Mahbubani appears to have a predilection for the (magical?) number 7; he mentions "Seven global contradictions" < the USA vs China competition and collaboration> and "Seven global challenges" < Industrialization vs Global warming> and proposes an idea for reforming the Security Council with three tiers of seven countries. He also suggests the formation of an international governing body as a sort of referee to adjudicate between countries and restrain superpowers "now that the USA will have to share power and China is on the rise"; a proposition that may not appeal to many patriotic Americans unwilling to subordinate our Constitution to the vagaries of potential adversaries.
The 315 pages book is easy to read, well divided into comprehensive segments, chock full of information about contemporary Asia and its future as well as its impact on the world. The absence of mention of the effect of the rising tide of militant Radical Islamism and its retrogressive influence on the Asian continent, which I believe would affect the future, left me somewhat dissatisfied.
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