In this lively polemic, Acharya takes aim at American thinkers who naively believe that rising non-Western states, such as China and India, will eventually join the U.S.-led international order as enthusiastic stakeholders. Such countries, he argues, hold different values from Western states, resent the special privileges that the United States retains as a hegemonic leader, and do not agree among themselves about what a post-American order should look like. Acharya foresees the emergence of a “multiplex” world, in which countries and regions will all (metaphorically) go to the same movie theater but end up watching different films. The book presents an imaginative vision of a less centralized, more pluralistic world, but it neglects to account for the forces of global integration that propelled non-Western states upward in the first place. The book also fails to appreciate the complex tension between non-Western countries’ discomfort with U.S. dominance of international governance institutions and their support for the ideal of an open, rule-based international order that is not strictly “American” but has rather resulted from decades of push and pull among many states, ideologies, and agendas.
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