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When a book proclaims that it is not about the decline of America but "the rise of everyone else," readers might expect another diatribe about our dismal post-9/11 world. They are in for a pleasant surprise as Newsweekeditor and popular pundit Zakaria (The Future of Freedom) delivers a stimulating, largely optimistic forecast of where the 21st century is heading. We are living in a peaceful era, he maintains; world violence peaked around 1990 and has plummeted to a record low. Burgeoning prosperity has spread to the developing world, raising standards of living in Brazil, India, China and Indonesia. Twenty years ago China discarded Soviet economics but not its politics, leading to a wildly effective, top-down, scorched-earth boom. Its political antithesis, India, also prospers while remaining a chaotic, inefficient democracy, as Indian elected officials are (generally) loathe to use the brutally efficient tactics that are the staple of Chinese governance. Paradoxically, India's greatest asset is its relative stability in the region; its officials take an unruly population for granted, while dissent produces paranoia in Chinese leaders. Zakaria predicts that despite its record of recent blunders at home and abroad, America will stay strong, buoyed by a stellar educational system and the influx of young immigrants, who give the U.S. a more youthful demographic than Europe and much of Asia whose workers support an increasing population of unproductive elderly. A lucid, thought-provoking appraisal of world affairs, this book will engage readers on both sides of the political spectrum. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.All rights reserved.