Summer Reading: The Post-American World

Almost a Reason to Learn Chinese

After reading Fareed Zakaria’s “The Post-American World,” I began to regret having dropped Chinese Ba after one very frustrating fall semester my freshman year. Then I imagined the brutal beating my GPA would’ve probably received with one more semester of that difficult language, and the regret swiftly—and thankfully—dissipated. But Zakaria’s argument that countries like China and India will begin playing exceedingly significant economic and cultural roles on the world stage still sticks with me.

Zakaria, the prominent Newsweek foreign affairs columnist, argues in “The Post-American World” that the United States’ position as sole superpower will, due largely to its arrogant foreign policy, eventually become a thing of the past.

Throughout “The Post-American World,” Zakaria breaks the Westernized lens through which we too often view history, illuminating the Chinese history that our high school textbooks weren’t required to elaborate on. I had never heard of explorer Zheng He, whose gargantuan fleets of colossal ships in 1405 were superior to Christopher Columbus’s almost a century after. I was fascinated by Zakaria’s account of communist politician Deng Xiaoping’s speeches about economic reform in the 1950s that pointed China away from the elusive rhetoric of communism and toward more practical economic policy.

Even more interesting is Zakaria’s take on modern events, as he identifies the way countries like China and India have attempted to portray their growth as peaceful rather than threatening.

As I finished reading “The Post-American World,” my three-semester falling-out with the Asian region, ignited by my inability to learn the Chinese language, came to an end. This fall, I set out to complete a secondary field in East Asian Studies. Learning a language is thankfully not required.

—Andres Arguello