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Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, people have realized that the world has entered a new age, one characterized by lower levels of political discord among the great powers, free markets, free trade, and an information revolution. The shorthand is, of course, "globalization." And the assumption has been that as globalization increases, the individual ingredients of the pie will also increase in strength. Market forces will get stronger; technology will become more pervasive, giving individuals greater autonomy; and political conflict among the great powers will become more costly. But a funny thing happened on the way to an open global economy -- the rise of a global market has led to a rise in the wealth of large nations, and this in turn has led to a rise in the importance and power of the governments of these countries.
Bremmer has best identified this new twist to the story of globalization in his book The End of the Free Market. The title is a misnomer. The book is really about the rise of state capitalism, also the subject of a recent essay by him in this magazine. Whereas 20 years ago, the list of the largest companies in the world was dominated by private firms, it is now dominated by state-owned entities, many from emerging markets. China's state-owned companies now not only utterly dominate its economy -- of the country's top 100 companies, 99 are state controlled -- but also increasingly play a large role on the global landscape. They play by different rules and have different goals than do private corporations from the West.
This age-old tussle, between the rise of the state and the pervasive influence of the market, has taken a new form in modern times, and Bremmer has written an important account of it in his book.