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Thursday, June 08, 2006

How Long Will America Lead the World? - By Fareed Zakaria

The United States is still the dominant force in technology, innovation, productivity and profits. But Americans don't quite realize how fast the rest of the world is catching up.
June 12, 2006 issue - Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, held in London on June 22, 1897, was one of the grandest fetes the world has ever seen: 46,000 troops and 11 colonial prime ministers arrived from the four corners of the earth to pay homage to their sovereign. The event was as much a celebration of Victoria's 60 years on the throne as it was of Britain's superpower status. In 1897, Queen Victoria ruled over a quarter of the world's population and a fifth of its territory, all connected by the latest marvel of British technology, the telegraph, and patrolled by the Royal Navy, which was larger than the next two navies put together. "The world took note," says the historian Karl Meyer. The New York Times gushed: "We are a part ... of the Greater Britain which seems so plainly destined to dominate this planet'."
 
An 8-year-old boy, Arnold Toynbee, who became a great historian, watched the parade while sitting on his uncle's shoulders. "I remember the atmosphere," he later wrote. "It was: well, here we are on the top of the world, and we have arrived at this peak to stay thereĀ—forever! There is, of course, a thing called history, but history is something unpleasant that happens to other people."
 
Well, Americans have replaced Britons atop the world, and we are now worried that history is happening to us. History has arrived in the form of "Three Billion New Capitalists," as Clyde Prestowitz's recent book puts it, people from countries like China, India and the former Soviet Union, which all once scorned the global market economy but are now enthusiastic and increasingly sophisticated participants in it. They are poorer, hungrier and in some cases well trained, and will inevitably compete with Americans and America for a slice of the pie. A Goldman Sachs study concludes that by 2045, China will be the largest economy in the world, replacing the United States.
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