THE GREAT CONVERGENCE : Asia, the West, And The Logic Of One WorldKishore Mahbubani
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Outlines How The Global Governance Systems We Currently Use Are Flawed & How Reform Is Necessary
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In this visionary roadmap to the twenty-first-century, Kishore Mahbubani prescribes solutions for improving global institutional order.
In The Great Convergence, Kishore Mahbubani explores the ways that our world has become increasingly interconnected and the need for increasing global governance, and multilateral organizations.
He diagnoses seven geopolitical fault lines most in need of serious reform. But his message remains optimistic: despite the archaic geopolitical contours that try to shackle us today, our world has seen more positive change in the past thirty years than in the previous three hundred.
The twenty-first century has seen a rise in the global middle class that brings an unprecedented convergence of interests and perceptions, cultures and values.
Economic issues (such as the 2008 financial crisis) have developed more and more into global, not national problems; as have issues of climate change, cyber security, global health, foreign aid, and nuclear proliferation; and these global problems require global solutions.
Kishore Mahbubani is optimistic.
We are creating a new global civilization. Eighty-eight percent of the world’s population outside the West is rising to Western living standards, and sharing Western aspirations.
Yet Mahbubani, one of the most perceptive global commentators, also warns that a new global order needs new policies and attitudes.
Policymakers all over the world must change their preconceptions and accept that we live in one world. National interests must be balanced with global interests.
Power must be shared.
The U.S. and Europe must cede some power.
China and India, Africa and the Islamic world must be integrated.
Mahbubani urges that only through these actions can we create a world that converges benignly.
This timely book explains how to move forward and confront many pressing global challenges.
Geopolitics used to be about the West and Rest. The west now is losing relative power to the rest especially India and China.
The world is converging in economic and political power. This is for the most part good news for the worlds population. There are fewer battlefield deaths, less absolute poverty, more education worldwide than ever before.
Of course the catching up of the rest is going to diminish the west’s relative (not necessarily absolute) power and this is going to cause some trouble.
The convergence also poses Environmental, economic, resource, and Geopolitical challenges as the world shifts to this new environment.
Our fate is now more than ever is a global one.
Those stickers “think globally, act locally” on backs of idealists’ cars are now a reality that we must practice in our lives.
The book maps out some problems to this new reality like ,
– The west vs. the rest,
– U.S. vs. China,
– China vs. India,
– The Global Consumer vs. the Global Producers,
– The economy vs. the environment,
– The national interest vs. The global interest,
– The west vs. Islam
To name some of the most pressing problems that the world must face if the good times that the world’s population (not necessarily the west) are now experiencing are to continue.
A good primer on global issues.
Too many forces have been unleashed to shrink the world. They will only gain momentum in the coming decades.
And if we look at our lives carefully, no matter where we live, we can clearly begin to see that our lives are being affected daily by events or decisions made all across the planet.
The great minds of our planet will therefore have no choice but to focus on how we manage the small, dense, and deeply interconnected global village we have created.
The traditional units of old global social and political order, including the veritable nation-state, are proving to be less and less useful in managing these great changes.
We have to keep searching for new approaches and new solutions.” Mahbubani suggests that we need to strengthen and reform multinational organizations such as the UN in order to better deal with global problems.
We cannot reasonably expect any nation-state to act in any interest other than their own self interest, this is true on every political level from municipal, to state, to federal good governance is required, so too should we seek stronger global governance to help address the issues of an increasingly interconnected world.
This book also makes the case for some specific reforms to the UN, especially the UN Security Council, and also increased funding for the UN.
One example that Mahbubani brings up is in the decline of wars and combat deaths, “The number of people killed in battle–calculated per 100,000 population–has dropped by 1,000-fold over the centuries as civilizations evolved.
Before there were organized countries, battles killed on average more than 500 out of every 100,000 people. In 19th century France, it was 70.
In the 20th century with two world wars and a few genocides, it was 60. Now battlefield deaths are down to three-tenths of a person per 100,000.”
It is this observation of declining wars that leads Mahbubani to make the case for greater funding for the institutions of peaceful global governance.
“In 2010, global GDP stood at $63 trillion. Global defense spending amounted to $1.63 trillion in 2010.
The UN regular budget stood at $2.58 billion per year for the year 2010-2011, or 0.16 percent of global defense spending.
If humanity as a whole cannot find the wisdom to transfer 0.16 percent from increasingly unnecessary global defense expenditures to increasingly necessary multilateral expenditures, then it has stepped off the escalator of reason.
This is not inconceivable: humanity is capable of enormous stupidity. Humanity is also capable of changing course if it can be persuaded of the wisdom of such a move.
Now that it is clear that stronger multilateral processes and institutions would serve long-term Western interests and also be very cheap, we should embrace them.”
“Charles Dickens famously wrote that it was the best of times and the worst of times. Many in the West today believe these are the worst of times. Yet, in many ways, these are the best of times for the West and the Rest.
Global poverty is disappearing. The global middle class is booming. Inter-state wars have become a sunset industry.
Never has so large a percentage of the world’s population been as well-educated and well-travelled as it is today.
We are becoming more integrated and interconnected. The potential for a peaceful new global civilization is evolving before our eyes almost unnoticed.
Yet challenges remain. Seven major geopolitical fault lines have to be resolved. Institutions of global governance need serious reform. The IMF and the World Bank cannot remain in western pockets.
The UN Security Council must reflect contemporary great power configurations. The world order has to be reconstructed. And it can be done.
Kishore Mahbubani’s book could not be more timely. He masterfully describes how our world has seen more positive change in the past 30 years than the past 300 years.
By prescribing brilliant and pragmatic solutions for improving our global order – including a 7-7-7 formula that can finally break the logjam in the UN Security Council – Mahbubani maps a road away from the geopolitical contours of the nineteenth century that have shackled us, and identifies the defining condition of our era: the great convergence.”
Highly recommended reading this if you want to understand how the world will evolve geo-politically. Also, this is a complementary follow-up to ‘the new asian hemisphere’.
Review From London School of Economics :
In The Great Convergence, Kishore Mahbubani’s reflections on the shifting world order, the future of international organizations, and the prospects for progress on key global issues are relevant and provocative.
However, their discussion constitutes a small share of an unbalanced, repetitive volume that rehashes establishment views on globalization without breaking new ground, writes Jonathan Ossoff.
In The Great Convergence, Kishore Mahbubani attempts a manifesto on the future of world politics. Singapore’s former UN ambassador proposes a “theory of one world”, urging leaders to acknowledge converging global interests and values and to embrace a more multilateral world order.
He argues that US and European dominance of international affairs must abate as new powers rise and outlines major trends, risks, and opportunities.
Mahbubani’s perspective on the changing configuration of world power and the future of international organizations is timely and provocative.
But for most readers – already thoroughly steeped in globalization jargon and familiar with the most obvious political, economic, and technological trends – Mahbubani’s reflections are old hat. This lack of originality and a lack of balance undermine the work, for this reviewer at least.
Mahbubani opens with an optimistic review of human development. He proclaims the birth of “a new global civilization”, citing “fewer wars and combat deaths”, a “steady decline in absolute poverty and its effects”, “a more educated world population”, and “more people joining the middle class”.
He observes “increasingly common patterns of behavior among policymaking elites” informed by common “acceptance of the frameworks of modern science, reliance on logical reasoning, embrace of free-market economics, transformation of the social contract between ruler and ruled, and increased focus on multilateralism”.
This rosy assessment counters the pervasive gloom-and-doomism that belies the record of human progress since World War II.
Yet Mahbubani’s confident predictions of enduring peace and prosperity – “wars among major powers have become a sunset industry” – may downplay risks of resurgent nationalism, populism, or resource scarcity.
Similarly, his contention that governments around the world are “converging on a certain set of norms on how to create better societies” minimizes world powers’ divergent views on individual rights, political freedom, and the economic role of the state.
Despite his uplifting point of departure, Mahbubani proceeds to bemoan the insular priorities of contemporary politicians, whose focus on short term national interest prevents policymaking in the global interest.
They lack, he proposes, the necessary intellectual framework. To fill this gap, he offers a “theory of one world” defined by “four key pillars of convergence — environmental, economic, technological, and aspirational — that are driving humanity to acknowledge that we live in one world.”
This thin theory amounts to little more than a standard description of globalization.
Beyond proposing to enhance the authority and legitimacy of international organizations, Mahbubani neglects to describe how policymakers could be induced to take the long, global view in the face of competing immediate national priorities. For example: he implores, “The minds of leading policymakers must focus on the single global economy as the first priority.”
But how? Does he expect politicians to be so moved by his exhortations that they will neglect the immediate interests of domestic constituencies that empower them?
This crucial missing link never materializes. Instead, Mahbubani wastes pages on Tom Friedman-esque banalities about globalization.
He notes the spread of market-based economic ideology, intensifying interdependence and cultural convergence as a function of “cell phones, computers, and aircraft,” that “we all live together in a small global village,” that global challenges require global solutions.
Such truisms consume an appalling share of the reader’s time. The Davos set has recited the same cliches at conferences and university speeches for more than a decade, yet the tired narrative is presented with the airs of a visionary navigating intellectual terra incognita.
The latter half of the volume, a critique of US and European foreign policy and a rundown of pressing global issues, is more effective.
Mahbubani observes that increased economic and political empowerment of historically marginalized states and societies will make unabashed North Atlantic domination of the UN, the IMF, and the World Bank untenable.
He argues that the United States would better pursue its interests by enhancing, rather than undermining, international institutions like the UN and the ICC. He details a provocative proposal for reform of the UN Security Council, where he represented Singapore.
Mahbubani’s digest of key global issues includes the rise of China and India, US-China relations, Asian maritime disputes, interreligious and sectarian conflict, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the global environmental crisis. It is hardly an innovative list, but the reflections are timely, provocative, and well informed.
Throughout, Mahbubani’s kid-glove treatment of China hurts the volume’s credibility.
While he unsparingly attacks US policymakers for jealously guarding national sovereignty, their relentless pursuit of national interest, and their inconsistent record on human rights, he fails to acknowledge that China’s record is worse in all three categories.
His decision not to criticize Chinese authoritarianism and assess its implications for the future of human freedom reflects either a deliberate lack of balance or a blasé attitude toward individual rights.
Singapore’s diplomats are famous for shrewdly balancing complex relationships with the US and China. Such balance is absent here. Mahbubani has gone out of his way to present a narrative sympathetic to the Chinese leadership, it is clear to this reviewer.
Mahbubani’s reflections on the shifting world order, the future of international organizations, and the prospects for progress on key global issues are relevant and provocative.
But their discussion constitutes a small share of an unbalanced, repetitive volume that rehashes establishment views on globalization without breaking new ground. For readers with limited time, a few reviews will more than suffice.
About the Author
Kishore Mahbubani is a writer, professor, and a former Singaporean diplomat who served twice as ambassador to the UN. Currently, he is the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at National University of Singapore. A prolific writer, he has published three books and numerous articles in leading global journals and newspapers, like Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and the Financial Times. Foreign Policy listed him as one of the top 100 global thinkers in 2005, 2010, and 2011.
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