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Speaker Events - Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A World With No Center of Gravity

Outlining the ideas in his new book, No One’s World, Charles A. Kupchan told an IPI audience on April 11th that, "I don't think that the pendulum is swinging to China or Asia in general or anywhere else. It is swinging everywhere, and therefore nowhere. The 21st century will not be America's; it will not be China's; it will not be India's. We are going towards a world that will, for the first time in history, be globalized and interdependent, but without a global center of gravity.”

Dr. Kupchan argued that with the economic and political malaise affecting the West (North America, Europe, and Japan) in contrast to the optimism and growing global power of other regions, the world is headed for political and ideological diversity, with emerging powers neither deferring to the West’s lead, nor converging towards the Western way.

"What I want to suggest is that this weakening of the fortunes of the West, the strengthening that's taking place elsewhere, is part of what I would call a global turn. A moment in history where the globe's center of gravity is starting to move again," he said, noting this shift has not happened for about 300-400 years.

In the book, the full title of which is No One's World: The West, The Rising Rest, and the Coming Global Turn, Dr. Kupchan says that the ascent of the West was the product of social and economic conditions unique to Europe and the United States. As other regions now rise, they are following their own paths to modernity and embracing their own conceptions of domestic and international order, he said.

These vary from the Chinese middle class embracing their status quo political system, to the pre-eminence of political Islam in participatory politics in the Middle East. "I'm not saying it's bad or scary,” he said. "It's different."

Embracing this shift, in fact, could help create a more prosperous world, he said. "If the West finds within itself the readiness to share power with the emerging world, then I think the 21st century, even though it’s no one’s world, may well be one of the most stable and prosperous centuries in history."

"I think the imperative for foreign policy is to recognize that the world is changing," he said. There are alternative packages of ideas there that we need to contend with, and that we need to compromise with. The biggest mistake we can make is to stick our heads in the sand or assume that everybody wants to look like us," he said.

He concluded, "The greatest step forward would be to sit down with the Chinese, and the Indians, and the Brazilians, and the others, and to say, 'What should the rules of the next road be?'"

Author of eight books and numerous articles on international affairs, Charles Kupchan is currently Professor of International Affairs in the School of Foreign Service and Government Department at Georgetown University and the Whitney H. Shepardson Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Previously he has worked as a US government policymaker as well as held postings at Princeton University, Harvard University, Columbia University, the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, the Centre d’études et de recherches internationales in Paris, and the Institute for International Policy Studies in Tokyo.

The discussion was moderated by Warren Hoge, IPI Senior Adviser for External Relations.

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