Zakaria on the would-be powers
In today’s Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria subscribes to the "they’re not ready to lead yet" view of the emerging powers: The newly rising powers — China, India, Brazil — rightly insist that they be more centrally involved in the structures of power and global decision making. But when given the opportunity, do they step up ...
In today's Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria subscribes to the "they're not ready to lead yet" view of the emerging powers:
In today’s Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria subscribes to the "they’re not ready to lead yet" view of the emerging powers:
The newly rising powers — China, India, Brazil — rightly insist that they be more centrally involved in the structures of power and global decision making. But when given the opportunity, do they step up to the plate and act as great powers with broad interests? On trade? Energy use? Climate change? No. Many of these countries want to be deferred to on matters of regional peace and stability. Yet they continue to pursue their national interests even more zealously. Perhaps the most egregious example is South Africa, which insists that it is Africa’s natural leader. Yet the country has been shamefully absent in the efforts to rescue the people of Zimbabwe and Sudan from the tragedies unfolding in their lands.
At many levels, I’m sympathetic to this view, and former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda made many similar points a few weeks ago. But the argument very easily collapses into an insistence that emerging powers see the world as the established ones do before they’re given the reins of power. Is it fair to say of Brazil or South Africa that they shouldn’t be given more say in key institutions until they accept a certain view of the relative importance of environmental protection and economic growth or the balance between national sovereignty and human rights? Zakaria chides South Africa for its hands-off stance on Zimbabwe. Does believing that Zimbabwe should sort out its own problems disqualify South Africa from global leadership positions?
Zakaria also seems to be hinting at a slightly different problem with the emerging-power world view. He suggests that they don’t think globally enough and that they don’t yet have any sense of ownership when it comes to the international order. They pursue "narrow" national interests instead of "broad" ones. But if that’s the problem, presumably part of the solution would be giving them more ownership and thereby fostering that worldview. There’s a good argument to be made that admitting China to the inner sanctum of the Security Council in 1971 amounted to a gradual "tutoring" process, by which the country’s leaders were introduced to some of the dilemmas of global leadership. In the nearly forty years since China joined the Council, it’s moved from being a rejectionist power that spurned most U.N. activities to one that supports or at least acquiesces to all sorts of international conflict management.
David Bosco is a professor at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. He is the author of The Poseidon Project: The Struggle to Govern the World’s Oceans. Twitter: @multilateralist
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