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Who Will Win the Twenty-First Century?

For years, Europeans were lulled into thinking that the peace and prosperity of the immediate post-Cold War period would be self-sustaining. But, two decades into the twenty-first century, it is clear that the Old Continent miscalculated and now must catch up to the digital revolution. 

BERLIN – The first two decades of the twenty-first century are beginning to cast a long shadow over the Western world. We have come a long way since the turn of the century, when people everywhere, but particularly in Europe, indulgently embraced the “end of history.”

According to that illusory notion, the West’s victory in the Cold War – the last of the three great wars of the twentieth century – had given rise to a global order for which there could be no alternatives. Thenceforth, it was thought, world history would march steadily toward the universalization of Western-style democracy and the market economy. The new century would merely be a continuation of the previous one, with a triumphant West extending its dominion.

The world is wiser now. The web of alliances and institutions that sustained the West’s dominance is proving to be a product of the twentieth century, its future now in doubt. The global order is undergoing a fundamental change, as its center of gravity shifts from the North Atlantic to the Pacific and East Asia. China is on the threshold – economically, technologically, and politically – of becoming a world power and the sole challenger of the incumbent hegemon, the United States.

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