The Second World: How Emerging Powers Are Redefining Global Competition in the Twenty-First Century


In The Second World, scholar Parag Khanna, chosen as one of Esquire’s 75 Most Influential People of the Twenty-First Century, reveals how America’s future depends on its ability to compete with the European Union and China to forge relationships with the Second World, the pivotal regions of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, South America, the Middle East, and East Asia that are growing in influence and economic strength.

Informed, witty, and armed...

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In The Second World, scholar Parag Khanna, chosen as one of Esquire’s 75 Most Influential People of the Twenty-First Century, reveals how America’s future depends on its ability to compete with the European Union and China to forge relationships with the Second World, the pivotal regions of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, South America, the Middle East, and East Asia that are growing in influence and economic strength.

Informed, witty, and armed with a traveler’s intuition for blending into diverse cultures, Khanna depicts second-world societies from the inside out, observing how globalization divides them into winners and losers–and shows how China, Europe, and America use their unique imperial gravities to pull the second-world countries into their orbits. Along the way, Khanna explains how Arabism and Islamism compete for the Arab soul, reveals how Iran and Saudi Arabia play the superpowers against one another, unmasks Singapore’s inspirational role in East Asia, and psychoanalyzes the second-world leaders whose decisions are reshaping the balance of power.

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Editorial Reviews

Charles Gati
In this fact-filled volume full of pithy observations and summaries, [Khanna] identifies "three relatively equal centers of influence: Washington, Brussels, and Beijing." He is not the first to argue that the European Union and China have become our competitors for global influence; the point was made years ago by, among others, Charles Kupchan in The End of the American Era. Nonetheless, Khanna's study is noteworthy, primarily for his analysis of "the second world": some 100 transitional countries, such as Brazil, Ukraine and Iran, that do not qualify either as rich advanced industrial states or as least developed nations…Khanna, who directs a global governance initiative at the New America Foundation, is a serious scholar. He has read widely. He correctly calls attention to our growing inability to convince or cajole even as we continue to warn and intimidate.
—The Washington Post
William Grimes
…sweeping, often audacious survey of contemporary geopolitics…The Second World is rewarding simply as a primer on contemporary geopolitics. Anyone curious about the lay of the land in Algeria or Tajikistan can get answers, and a dash of local color, in Mr. Khanna's succinct chapters, which envelop the reader in a whirlwind of facts and figures…
—The New York Times
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 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
George Orwell was right: The future will see three contending world powers, their alliances and rivalries with one another ever shifting, and scarcely any peace. So says think-tanker Khanna, a fellow at the New America Foundation, who posits that the world turns on three empires: the United States, the European Union and China. "Big is back," he writes. "It is inter-imperial relations-not international or inter-civilizational-that shape the world. Empires-not civilizations-give geography its meaning." These great superpowers, he adds in a somewhat questionable metaphor, are like bumper cars, sure to careen into each other at some point but without any knowledge of how fast they'll be hit. History tells us that empires are transitory things, while the poor will be with us always. Somewhere in the middle are the states of the "second world," which "are frequently both first- and third-world at the same time," mostly without a middle class but frequently with plenty of wealth and resources. Khanna, in the manner of Robert Kaplan, travels widely in these pages, visiting and writing about such far-flung places as Xinjiang, Chile, Iran and Belgium, as well as the capitals and principal cities of the empires. The second-world states, he suggests, will, like Turkey, find it expedient to maintain relations with all three. Turkey, for instance, will seek ties with Russia and China while seeking partnership in the EU and American-led alliances alike. Thanks to the Iraq War, he notes, the scale is being tipped around the world between the "two Wests" in the EU's favor, while China is extending its international influence to places such as Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, which "now resembles Iran prior tothe overthrow of the Shah."The near future, Khanna provocatively writes, will see more seesawing. But, he adds, "the tripolar world should be thought of as a stool: With two legs it cannot stand long; with three it can be stable."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780141027784
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 4/28/2009

Meet the Author

Parag Khanna

Parag Khanna directs the Global Governance Initiative in the American Strategy Program of the New America Foundation. He has been a fellow at the Brookings Institution and worked for the World Economic Forum and the Council on Foreign Relations. During 2007, he was a senior geopolitical advisor to U.S. Special Operations Command. Born in India, Khanna was raised in the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and Germany. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and is completing his Ph.D. at the London School of Economics. He has written for major global publications such as The New York Times and Financial Times and appeared on CNN and other television media around the world. Having traveled in close to one hundred countries. He is a member of the Explorers Club.

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Table of Contents

Preface     ix
Introduction: Inter-Imperial Relations     xiii
The West's East
Brussels: The New Rome     3
The Russian Devolution     10
Ukraine: From Border to Bridge     16
The Balkans: Eastern Questions     26
Turkey: Marching East and West     36
The Caucasian Corridor     47
Conclusion: Stretching Europe     60
Affairs of the Heartland
The Silk Road and the Great Game     65
The Russia That Was     71
Tibet and Xinjiang: The NewBamboo Curtain     78
Kazakhstan: "Happiness Is Multiple Pipelines"     85
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan: Sovereign of Everything, Master of Nothing     93
Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan: Men Behaving Badly     98
Afghanistan and Pakistan: Taming South-Central Asia     108
Conclusion: A Change of Heart     115
The End of the Monroe Doctrine
The New Rules of the Game     121
Mexico: The Umbilical Cord     132
Venezuela: Bolivar's Revenge     137
Colombia: The Andean Balkans?     144
Brazil: The Southern Pole     152
Argentina and Chile: Very Fraternal Twins     159
Conclusion: Beyond Monroe     166
InSearch of the "Middle East"
The Shattered Belt     171
The Maghreb: Europe's Southern Shore     176
Egypt: Between Bureaucrats and Theocrats     191
The Mashreq: Road Maps     204
The Former Iraq: Buffer, Black Hole, and Broken Boundary     220
Iran: Virtues and Vices     227
Gulf Streams     234
Conclusion: Arabian Sand Dunes     252
Asia for Asians
From Outside in to Inside Out     257
China's First-World Seduction     269
Malaysia and Indonesia: The Greater Chinese Co-Prosperity Sphere     278
Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam: The Inner Triangle     292
Size Matters: The Four Chinas     300
Conclusion: The Search for Equilibrium in a Non-American World     321
Acknowledgments     343
Bibliography     353
Notes     377
Index     443
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