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The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order 1st Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1400065080
ISBN-10: 1400065089
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Khanna, a widely recognized expert on global politics, offers an study of the 21st century's emerging geopolitical marketplace dominated by three first world superpowers, the U.S., Europe and China. Each competes to lead the new century, pursuing that goal in the third world: select eastern European countries, east and central Asia, the Middle East Latin America, and North Africa. The U.S. offers military protection and aid. Europe offers deep reform and economic association. China offers full-service, condition-free relationships. Each can be appealing; none has obvious advantages. The key to Khanna's analysis, however, is his depiction of a second world: countries in transition. They range in size and population from heavily peopled states like Brazil and Indonesia to smaller ones such as Malaysia. Khanna interprets the coming years as being shaped by the race to win the second world—and in the case of the U.S., to avoid becoming a second-world country itself. The final pages of his book warn eloquently of the risks of imperial overstretch combined with declining economic dominance and deteriorating quality of life. By themselves those pages are worth the price of a book that from beginning to end inspires reflection. (Mar. 11)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“A fascinating, colorful, and always intelligent tour through a new world.”
–Fareed Zakaria

“A savvy, streetwise primer on dozens of individual countries that adds up to a coherent theory of global politics.”
–Robert D. Kaplan

“Confident in his predictions and bold in his recommendations . . . Khanna’s book is written with ambition, scope, and verve that sets it apart from the usual foreign policy tome.”
–Andrei Cherny, The New York Sun

“A panoramic overview that boldly addresses the dilemmas of the world that our next president will confront.”
–Zbigniew Brzezinski

“Khanna is something of a foreign policy whiz kid.”
–Raymond Bonner, The New York Times Book Review

“[A] sweeping, often audacious survey of contemporary geopolitics . . . moves at lightning speed.”
–William Grimes, The New York Times


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (March 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400065089
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400065080
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,156,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the book I have been waiting years for - it is the clearest picture I have yet seen of the 21st century's nascent Great Game; the Game as played by three Great Powers with very different styles: the United States, the European Union, and China. Khanna has developed an original view of a tripolar world, and effectively balances the force of geopolitics with the complementary trend toward globalisation.

The book has several persistent and gnawing weaknesses. Khanna persistently focuses on traditional land power geopolitics, an easier thing to describe and a well trodden path in International Studies, but perhaps an increasingly less potent matrix with the emergence of new realms of competition in this century: low Earth orbit (mentioned briefly in one paragraph of the book); the emerging Internet culture and electronic world; enduring naval power and new oceanographic frontiers; the growing diasporas and transnational, nomadic elites who owe no geographical national allegiance. In particular, he who rules lower Earth orbit rules the planet, regardless of who predominates upon the "World-Island" of Eurasia.

The author, like many intelligent NRI Indians, seems disillusioned by the failure of Indian democracy to overcome poverty and wealth disparity on the subcontinent (at one point stating, "It could be argued that China is a freer country than democratic India", ignoring some obvious differences in number of political prisoners, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free access to the Internet . . . ).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Parag Khanna of the New America Foundation draws his inspiration from Arnold Toynbee's 12-volume history of the world. Toynbee wrote his books first, and then embarked on a trip around the world to check the acurracy of his work. Khanna, however, did it the other way around: he spent two years travelling to forty countries, talking to people and getting a first-hand look at the facts on the ground, then writing this book. The result makes this volume a very pleasurable read, mixing policy recommendations, historical analysis, and traveller's eye for local color.

Khanna argues that there will be three superpowers in the 21st century - China, the European Union, and the United States. He sometimes calls them empires as in the subtitle of the book, but that term is confusing since the Big Three will not resemble the empires of old. These superpowers will have their own unique approach for extending their power and influence. The main objectives of the Big Three are essentially the same: they want to be in the good graces of energy- and resource-rich second-tier countries such as those of the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Khanna calls this the second world. And as more and more countries become nuclear, military muscle becomes less of a tool. The superpowers are developing non-military means to win allies and influence. According to Khanna, winning in the 21st century will not take place in the battlefield but in the geopolitical marketplace.

Of the three, Khanna finds the European model the most attractive. The European practice of offering the prospect of membership in the world's richest market is a very powerful incentive for countries to reform themselves and comply with EU standards.
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This book provides a great overview of some of the most critical parts of the world. For some, it is a useful summary of these regions and their history. However, I was hoping for a bit more. In particular, I would like to know more about what the EU, China, and US do in each region. Mr. Khanna is very general in his assessments of these three superpowers and their access to these regions, which is sometimes frustrating since the book was billed as a study of the new world geopolitical order.

For example, he seems to assume that everything the US does is wrong, while China is always around doing stuff right, and the EU as sophisticated. Yet, it also seems that the EU is overly bureaucratized, China still has enormous internal development and governance challenges, and a huge amount of America's downturn can be reversed (we are still the world's largest economy, with the best educational institutions and companies). The whole rise of China theme eerily seems to me a replay of the rise of Japan fears of the 1980s. While China will probably rise, Khanna is ascribing the country with a power I don't think it yet possesses.

Furthermore, it seems America is always assumed to have the worst possible motives, even when it does not make sense to assume so. For example, when talking about the Middle East, Khanna suggests that it is America that is trying to find excuses such as oil and terrorism to intervene in Arab affairs, which seems to have the situation backward - the US would have no interest in the region if not for oil or terrorism. If we got alternative energy or the Middle East stopped spawning terrorists, we'd love to let it alone.
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