The Second World: How Emerging Powers are Redefining Global Competition in the 21st Century

Khanna, a widely recognized expert on global politics, offers a study of the 21st century’s emerging geopolitical marketplace dominated by three first world superpowers, the U.S., Europe and China. Each competes to lead the new century, pursuing that goal in the third world: select eastern European countries, east and central Asia, the Middle East Latin America, and North Africa. The U.S. offers military protection and aid. Europe offers deep reform and economic association. China offers full-service, condition-free relationships. Each can be appealing; none has obvious advantages. The key to Khanna’s analysis, however, is his depiction of a second world: countries in transition. They range in size and population from heavily peopled states like Brazil and Indonesia to smaller ones such as Malaysia. Khanna interprets the coming years as being shaped by the race to win the second world—and in the case of the U.S., to avoid becoming a second-world country itself. The final pages of his book warn eloquently of the risks of imperial overstretch combined with declining economic dominance and deteriorating quality of life. By themselves those pages are worth the price of a book that from beginning to end inspires reflection.” - Publishers Weekly

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REVIEWS

“A savvy, streetwise primer on dozens of individual countries that adds up to a coherent theory of global politics.”
- Robert D. Kaplan, Author of Eastward to Tartary and Warrior Politics

“A panoramic overview which boldly addresses the dilemmas of the world that our next president will confront.”
- Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Former National Security Advisor

“Parag Khanna’s fascinating book takes us on an epic journey around the multipolar world, elegantly combining historical analysis, political theory, and eye-witness reports to shed light on the battle for primacy between the world’s new empires.”
- Mark Leonard, Executive Director, European Council on Foreign Relations

The New York Times Sunday Book Review
“Khanna is something of a foreign policy whiz kid.” (Ray Bonner)

The New York Times
“He strides the world in seven-league boots, armed with a powerful thesis: in the postcolonial, post-cold-war era, three superpowers have emerged with a ravenous appetite for energy and natural resources….The Second World is rewarding simply as a primer on contemporary geopolitics. Anyone curious about the lay of the land in Algeria or Tajikistan can get answers, and a dash of local color, in Mr. Khanna’s succinct chapters, which envelop the reader in a whirlwind of facts and figures….” (William Grimes)

The Financial Times
“Khanna is nothing if not ambitious…The expression “a young man in a hurry” was made for him…While his contemporaries busied themselves with macroeconomics, democratic peace theory or counterinsurgency doctrine, Khanna was devouring such dusty old tomes as Toynbee’s 12-volume A Study of History and the geopolitical theories of Halford Mackinder and Nicholas Spykman. I can think of much worse preliminary reading for a world tour….The best thing about The Second World is that it takes us to a whole series of important places we might be disinclined to visit for ourselves and gives us glimpses of life on that messy borderland between the second world and the first. There are some wonderful vignettes: the gleaming statue of Bruce Lee in Mostar; the mis-spelling of the word “bank” on Kazakhstan’s 2006 banknotes; the uneasy ethnic mix in Uzbekistan’s Ferghana Valley; the “narcotecture” along the road from Kabul to Herat. Khanna is especially good on pipelines, the vital conduits of imperial energy, such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, for example, or the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline. Highways, tunnels, bridges, refineries, canals and liquid natural gas terminals also catch his eye. And he has a keen eye for the new acronyms of which we shall doubtless hear much more in the future such as SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation). It is this kind of thing that lends credibility to his case for relative American decline and rapid Chinese advance. There seems little doubt that Beijing is doing a much better job than Washington of cultivating second world energy exporters. And in a world where economic growth is out-stripping fossil fuel production, that may well pay off in future.” (Niall Ferguson)

The Washington Post
“Khanna is a serious scholar. He has read widely. He correctly calls attention to our growing inability to convince or cajole even as we continue to warn and intimidate.” (Charles Gati)

The National Review
“A thrilling tour d’horizon…which interior of this book accomplishes magnificently: giving the reader a series of witty, intelligent, insightful portraits of regions and countries struggling to find their way amid globalization’s explosive advance.” (Thomas Barnett)

Democracy: A Journal of Ideas
“As a primer on many of the globe’s most important yet distant places, one will find it hard to read this book and not come away enlightened.” (Derek Chollet)

Publishers Weekly
Khanna, a widely recognized expert on global politics, offers an study of the 21st century’s emerging “geopolitical marketplace” dominated by three “first world” superpowers, the U.S., Europe and China. Each competes to lead the new century, pursuing that goal in the “third world”: select eastern European countries, east and central Asia, the Middle East Latin America, and North Africa. The U.S. offers military protection and aid. Europe offers deep reform and economic association. China offers full-service, condition-free relationships. Each can be appealing; none has obvious advantages. The key to Khanna’s analysis, however, is his depiction of a “second world”: countries in transition. They range in size and population from heavily peopled states like Brazil and Indonesia to smaller ones such as Malaysia. Khanna interprets the coming years as being shaped by the race to win the second world—and in the case of the U.S., to avoid becoming a second-world country itself. The final pages of his book warn eloquently of the risks of imperial overstretch combined with declining economic dominance and deteriorating quality of life. By themselves those pages are worth the price of a book that from beginning to end inspires reflection.

Kirkus Reviews
George Orwell was right: The future will see three contending world powers, their alliances and rivalries with one another ever shifting, and scarcely any peace. So says think-tanker Khanna, a fellow at the New America Foundation, who posits that the world turns on three empires: the United States, the European Union and China. “Big is back,” he writes. “It is inter-imperial relations—not international or inter-civilizational—that shape the world. Empires—not civilizations—give geography its meaning.” These great superpowers, he adds in a somewhat questionable metaphor, are like bumper cars, sure to careen into each other at some point but without any knowledge of how fast they’ll be hit. History tells us that empires are transitory things, while the poor will be with us always. Somewhere in the middle are the states of the “second world,” which “are frequently both first- and third-world at the same time,” mostly without a middle class but frequently with plenty of wealth and resources. Khanna, in the manner of Robert Kaplan, travels widely in these pages, visiting and writing about such far-flung places as Xinjiang, Chile, Iran and Belgium, as well as the capitals and principal cities of the empires. The second-world states, he suggests, will, like Turkey, find it expedient to maintain relations with all three. Turkey, for instance, will seek ties with Russia and China while seeking partnership in the EU and American-led alliances alike. Thanks to the Iraq War, he notes, the scale is being tipped around the world between the “two Wests” in the EU’s favor, while China is extending its international influence to places such as Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela, which “now resembles Iran prior to the overthrow of the Shah.” The near future, Khanna provocatively writes, will see more seesawing. But, he adds, “the tripolar world should be thought of as a stool: With two legs it cannot stand long; with three it can be stable.”

Claremont Review
“Among the most readable of the new books on this continuing competition is Parag Khanna’s The Second World…..The sketches that he draws are useful, streetwise, and sometimes very funny; if I were undertaking a geopolitical world tour, I would want him as my guide.” (Colin Dueck)