"The communities of mankind, like every human achievement and contrivance, are subject to endless variety and progression."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"The international system of the 21st century will contain at least six major powers: the United States, Europe, China, Japan and probably India, as well as a multiplicity of medium-sized and smaller countries."
-- Henry A. Kissinger
"Of the eight billion people expected to populate the earth by 2020, five billion will live in Asia, and of this, one billion will reside in 50 cities with more than 20 million inhabitants each."
-- Riccardo Petrella1
This book is about the transition of the international system from bipolarity into a more complex, essentially multipolar, order. In this system, the key actors are powerful nations leading free-trade spaces, the latter of which will assume their roles as increasingly competitive politico-military blocs. 2 This historical development had its most visible manifestation when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. That event presented symbolically a social revolution as well as one in international relations. While many of the trends and processes evident in Europe and in other continents before 1989 are present and will remain powerful for years to come, we are now better able to understand--in Joseph Nye's terms--that "the tectonic plates have shifted" in world politics as a result of the events of 1989-91. 3
After the end of the Cold War, it was often repeated that the events of the end of the 1980s symbolized "something fundamental that happened in world history." Some observers concluded that the old political world map had become obsolete. Many agreed with Alvin and Heidi Toffler