In the 21st century, we no longer live in a G-7 or a G-20 world. The world has gradually started spinning in a new direction, turning away from traditional U.S. leadership toward an environment characterized by growing global uncertainty.
These were the key points made by analyst Ian Bremmer, author of the new book Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World and president of Eurasia Group, in a lunchtime discussion at Asia Society New York yesterday with Susan Shirk, Asia Society Associate Fellow, professor at UC San Diego and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.
Bremmer's "G-Zero" world is one in which no single alliance or country has the will or capability to assume a position of global leadership. Bremmer attributed the erosion of American leadership to the rise of "the other," or recently emerging markets and countries. This has moved the world onto a path of greater "divergence," Bremmer feels, causing the attrition of international institutions like the World Trade Organization and International Monetary Fund and propelling more unstable regions such as Asia and the Middle East into conflict as the G-Zero persists.
As Bremmer sees it, the 21st century is a time in which many of the traditional geopolitical relationships are becoming "unmoored," in that so many countries are newly free-floating in their dealings, without the anchor of global leadership that prevailed until the 2008 financial crisis.
Turning specifically to China, Bremmer said that he was "generally aligned" with the Obama administration's strategic pivot toward East Asia. He noted a tendency to euphemism in official U.S. statements, however, such as an avoidance of the word "containment" in China-related contexts. Bremmer drew a laugh when he added that "China is the Voldemort of countries" because it's "the country whose name must not be spoken" in some of the statements coming from both Washington and the campaign trail.
With regard to a potential Romney administration's stance toward China, Bremmer dismissed Romney's pledge that if elected he would immediately name China a currency manipulator as pure politics, agreeing instead with Shirk's suggestion that a Romney presidency would effectively continue the current "bipartisan approach to China."