This Brave New World: A book review by Bob Morris

Brave New WorldThis Brave New World: India, China and the United States
Anja Manuel
Simon & Schuster (2016)

How and why the United States, China, and India – indeed must – create a positive brave new world

As Anja Manuel explains, “The phrase ‘brave new world’ has famously been used twice. William Shakespeare coined the expression when his heroine Miranda paints a rosy picture of the future in The Tempest, a play that reacted to the discovery of the new world. Aldous Huxley later used the words ironically to describe the dystopian world in his novel Brave New World (1931), set in the year 2540.”

I often wonder what kind of a world my grandchildren and their children will have. That will probably depend on whether or not the United States will be able to accommodate the ambitions, insecurities, values, concerns, and other issues of greatest interest among the leaders in two new great powers, China and India.

Why did Manuel write this book? “If you want a glimpse into the future of the world economy, look no further than the corridors of power and boardrooms of China and India. They are the world’s most populous countries; and in a decade or so, they will be the world’s largest and third largest economies, have more than one billion Internet users, be consuming the most energy and resources, and creating the most pollution. Like it or not, they will have veto power over many [most?] international decisions.”

Manuel draws upon two decades of experience negotiating with Delhi and Beijing at the State Department, “traveling the backroads of each country, and now advising American businesses how to navigate their often opaque systems. I wrote this book to help explain what makes these two Asian giants ‘tick,’ and how we can work together for a future where we can all prosper, instead of working against each other and — in the worst case — slipping into a new cold war with China.” This book certainly provides more than a “glimpse” into the future, one that is certain to become even more ambiguous, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous than it is today.

With meticulous care, Manuel creates a context and case for each of her recommendations. They include:

o Instead of viewing and interacting with China as an adversary, the U.S. should treat both China and India “with the same subtlety that Britain used for the upstart United States.” We need to coach them on how to become great powers. “To extend a world order based on American values, we must make a sustained, long-term effort to bring China and India along rather than alienating one or both.”

o As with the U.S. relationship with the U.K. throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, we must be in direct and frequent contact with China and India. When disagreements occur — and they will, especially with China — it cannot be “USA versus”; rather, for example, “we should press India, Japan, Australia, and European nations to also express their concerns about China land grabs and cyber-hacking.” It makes so much sense to treat both China and India as valued members of an exclusive club and then respond to unacceptable behavior as fellow members rather than as antagonists.

o We should also “keep encouraging both China and India to accept open investment and trade regimes. This is hard work…U.S. officials should encourage Delhi and Beijing to push economic reforms. This will help China stabilize its economy and help India to jump-start the growth it needs to benefit from the demographic dividend.”

o It would also make sense to encourage companies from all three countries — U.S., China, and India — to invest in each other. “This creates jobs that benefit all three, and produces a strong constituency in each country for good relations with the others. It may take a decade or more [if not a century or more], but this is the patient work that creates lasting partnerships.

Manuel is convinced that the future is “ours to lose.” I agree, although I remain uncertain what specifically “winning” and “losing” could — and probably will — mean in the brave new world ahead. The current presidential campaign certainly suggests more questions than answers. I also wonder what roles Russia, North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan will play. Finally, what about terrorism?

Perhaps, just perhaps, if India, China, and the United States can create and then strengthen the partnership that Anja Manuel envisions, all the other issues will be addressed. Yes, “it may take a decade or more [if not a century or more], but this is the patient work” that can perhaps create such a lasting partnership.

What are the alternatives?

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