Berggruen and Gardels’ central claim is that the era of American-led globalization is giving way to a new era of more “inclusive” globalization, creating profound crises of domestic and international governance. China and other countries in the East are catching up with the West, but their technocratic, authoritarian regimes increasingly suffer from political illegitimacy and corruption. Meanwhile, the United States and other Western countries are struggling to reconcile liberal democracy with the complex demands of global economic and technological interdependence, failing to manage deficits and debt and to address growing income inequality. Berggruen and Gardels argue for a “middle way”: a synthetic approach to governance in which “China would need to lighten up while the [United States] would need to tighten up.” The book identifies virtues and defects in both the Chinese and the American systems and speculates about a hybrid model of government that would preserve Western constitutional democracy but build in more room for Eastern-style “accountable meritocracy.” Yet the authors are a bit elusive when it comes to how this model would actually function.
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