Fareed Zakaria rarely fails to impress. Nobody understands and expresses the dynamics of globalization better than he. In his keynote at the SmarterPlanet Shanghai conference, he pointed out that the relationship of the world’s developed countries and the emerging ones has changed dramatically in the past half-decade. In earlier days, the developed nations could usually be counted on to employ sophisticated, disciplined financial controls and economic policies. The emerging nations: not so much. But Zakaria pointed out that China, India and Brazil are managing the current global economic crisis better than the Western giants. China, for instance, controlled growth and built up a budget surplus during the boom years. The United States, on the other hand, built up huge deficits with tax cuts and wars, and promoted unsustainable economic growth. As a result, China was able to respond more effectively when the crisis came. “The world has turned upside down,” said Zakaria.
But Zakaria also gently chided China. He said one of the keys to China’s success since Deng Xiaoping began liberalizing the economy three decades ago was its willingness to learn from the rest of the world, to adopt best practices, and to remain modest about its accomplishments. Today, however, Zakaria senses the emergence of an “arrogance” that concerns him. He urged the Chinese leaders in the audience to heed Deng’s guidance and remain modest and willing to learn. “Stay open to the world,” he said.
Zakaria is optimistic about the future. He said Al-Qaeda will ultimately go down as nothing more than a footnote in history, and this era will be shaped much more profoundly by three pillars of global economic strength: political stability in the wake of the end of the Cold War, better economic management in emerging nations, and global electronic connectivity. “These elements are what knits the world together,” he said.