Fareed Zakaria is among the most influential intellectuals in US media. The Mumbai-born 45- year-old is editor of the international edition of Newsweek and presents a weekly TV show in America. His latest bestselling book, “The Post-American World”, has just appeared in French.We caught up with him in Paris.
Johannes Bahrke – euronews: “The Post-American world” is the title of your book and the first phrase says : this is not about the decline of the US it’s rather about the rise of everyone else. Who is everyone else and how does everyone else challenge the United States?”Fareed Zakaria: You know when I was travelling around the World for the last five or seven years thinking about the book and writing it, the first thing I was struck by was how many there were around the world who were finally getting their economies together, getting their political systems together and how many countries were now rising. So that of course fundamentally it’s China, India, Brazil, Russia but then there is also South Africa, Indonesia, Turkey, Argentina, Chile, it’s a much broader group that you think so it’s really about the change in the structure of power and it threatens America, and it threatens the West because for 400 years, we have lived in a Western system. Where is the biggest factory being built in the world? It is in China. Where is the biggest refinery being built it’s being built in India, where is the tallest building, it’s in Dubai. Who is the richest man? He’s in Mexico. What is the largest casino in the world ? Americans love to go… it’s in Macao, China. You know, all of sudden you realise that the future, which used to, in American eyes, always happen in America, the future is happening everywhere. You look at trade negotiations, with the Indian’s, the Chinese, the Brazilian’s, ten years ago, they would make any concessions to get into Western markets, now they say : you need us just as we need you, so the whole character of politics and economics is changing.
Johannes Bahrke – euronews: Speaking about this, recently there was the G20 summit in Pittsburgh where the emerging countries finally achieved to get into the G20 and make the G20 replacing the G8. Isn’t this the way forward?Fareed Zakaria: It is absolutely the way forward. It is, in a way, the photo representation of my book is the G20. What did it is, I think, the economic crisis. Because the economic crisis forced countries to recognise this new reality and say : wait a minute! If we’re going to get out of this, we cannot do it without China, we can’t do it without India, without Brazil. We need everybody in the tent, in the club. So it produced this dramatic change.
Johannes Bahrke – euronews: There’s other things we can’t do without China, India or Russia. It’s climate change or fighting climate change. In this respect, Pittsburgh was a bit disappointing I would say and Copenhagen doesn’t evoke much optimism either.Fareed Zakaria: The most important two countries on global warming right now are the US and China. They are the two largest emitters of carbon dioxide. By the way, people mistakenly think that the US is the number one, it is not. China is the number one CO2 emitter. But they are also the ones that are lagging behind. Europe is in the lead in this. So I think, if we could achieve some sort of substantial agreement between Europe, the United States and China, as to what it would take to make China sign on to specific targets, I think we would achieve a lot. I’m not as pessimistic as you lot, because the Chinese at Pittsburgh and at the UN did make some specific commitments. In the US, I think what you’re going to see, is also a dramatic shift toward new alternative energy, because the Obama administration, while it was not able to get in congress what it wanted, is getting a rather remarkable push in terms of the funding, for solar, for wind, and it is all just starting up and it will take a few years. But I think, if you can achieve these two things : more action in America, more action in China, that sets a pattern.
Johannes Bahrke – euronews: On terrorism, for example, you say the world is much less dangerous than we feel it…Fareed Zakaria: Terrorism is some action that terrorises me and you. So if we are not terrorised, it didn’t work. So part of what we have to develop is a resilience to say that we are not going to let these occasional acts of terrorism paralyze us or scare us into doing stupid things, like invading countries.
Johannes Bahrke – euronews: Do we have to be scared of Iran, these days?Fareed Zakaria: We have to be worried about Iran, but it’s a good example. It’s a small country, with an unpopular government that is having deep internal problems, with a broken economy, I mean Iran cannot even produce the gasoline it needs. So in that context, it is a troublesome country: it is trying to make trouble in the region, and we should be trying to block it and try to make sure that we counter and contain it. But it’s not World War 3, it’s not the end of the world. An Iran with nuclear weapons will be contained, will be deterred, will be on the defensive because all the regional powers will be against it, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia on the same side for the first time. I say time is on our side. 25 years from now, the Iranian regime is going to be in more trouble, more unpopular, more dysfunctional, if it’s not already dead. 25 years from now, every Western government will be exactly as it is today. So we should have the confidence in knowing that we can outlast them. They are a small problem, but a real problem.
Johannes Bahrke – euronews: If the US stay strong, and the rest rises, where is Europe going to be?Fareed Zakaria: Well it’s a good question, because in fact if you look at the percentages of global GDP, the share of global GDP, for the next 20 years by most projections, the US stays the same, Asia rises, and Europe declines. And the reason why Europe is declining is because it is not really facing this fundamental challenge to the global system, which is the new competitiveness of these countries, the new energy that they have. And what that means in Europe is very painful structural reform that everybody understands, there’s no secret to what you need to do in Europe. It’s just the political courage to do it.
Johannes Bahrke – euronews: But what does it mean politically wise? Is Europe declining in terms of influence in the International sphere or?Fareed Zakaria: Not yet, but that is a choice Europe can make. Because Europe is still 400 million people, 27 countries. But it is not acting with one voice in foreign policy. It is not able to project power in defence policy. And the whole idea that you can be a global player, you can have impact on the world without a full “complement” of power is fantasy. You have to be able to project military power and economic power and cultural power. You know, there’s no way we can just, the US can just do the military power and you do the nice work of funding the schools. What both Europe and America have to do : look at this challenge and adapt to it.