Return to Transcripts main page

Fareed Zakaria GPS

America's Higher Education Problem; North Korea's Saber- Rattling and the U.S. Response; Why Thousands of Chinese Rivers are Simply Disappearing

Aired April 07, 2013 - 10:00   ET


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This is GPS, the Global Public Square. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.

We have fascinating, important things to talk about today. We'll start with North Korea's saber-rattling and the U.S. response. Could it really lead to war? I have an all-star panel; Tom Friedman, Richard Haass, to talk about that, the global economy, much more.

Then, we found a way to convince China to start worrying about global warming. I'll explain.

And, two years ago, Morgan Stanley's Ruchir Sharma predicted that China, India, Brazil and Russia would all slow down. Check, check, check, check. So what does he say about America's prospects?

Then, we'll talk to the great historian, Ian Morris. We'll take you all the way from the ice age to the far distant future.

But, first, here's my take. It's time for the fat and thin envelopes. The annual ritual when colleges around the United States send out admission and rejection notices to well over a million high school seniors.

As you know, American higher education remains the envy of the world and it has been the nation's greatest path to social and economic mobility, sorting and rewarding talented kids from any and all backgrounds.

But there are broad changes taking place at American universities that are moving them away from an emphasis on merit and achievement and towards offering a privileged experience for an already privileged group.

State universities, once the highways of advancement for the middle class, have been utterly transformed in recent decades under the pressure of rising costs and falling government support.

A new book, "Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality," shows how some state schools have established a "party pathway," admitting more and more rich out-of-state kids who can afford hefty tuition bills, but are middling students.

These cash cows are given special attention through easy majors, lax grading, social opportunities and luxurious dorms and facilities. Now, that's bad for the bright low-income students, who are on what the book's authors, Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton, call the "mobility pathway." They are neglected, burdened by college debt and fail in significant numbers.

The country's best colleges and universities do admit lower- income students, but the competition has become so intense and the percent admitted so small that the whole process seems arbitrary.

When you throw in special preferences for various categories, legacies, underrepresented minorities and athletes, it also looks less merit-based than it pretends to be.

In an essay in the "American Conservative," Ron Unz uses a mountain of data to charge that America's top colleges and universities have over the past two decades maintained an informal quota, an upper limit of about 16.5% for Asian Americans, despite their exploding applicant numbers and high achievements.

Unz's data is not complete. That number is actually probably around 20 percent and maybe higher. But institutions that rely on more objective measures for admission have found that their Asian- American populations have risen much more sharply over the past two decades.

Caltech and the University of California, Berkeley, for example, are now about 40 percent Asian. New York City's Stuyvesant High School admits about 1,000 students out of the 30,000 who take a math and reading test that makes it twice as selective as Harvard.

It is now 72 percent Asian American. The U.S. math and science Olympiad winners are, on average, now more than 70 percent Asian American. In this context, for the U.S.'s top colleges and universities to be at 20% is, at the least, worth some reflection.

But the single largest deviation from merit in America's best colleges, far more than race or legacies, is the recruited-athletes programs.

The problem has gotten dramatically worse in the past 20 years. Colleges now have to drop their standards much lower to build sports teams and many of these students, in turn, perform terribly in classrooms.

A senior admissions officer at an Ivy League school told me, "I have to turn down hundreds of highly qualified applicants, including many truly talented amateur athletes, because we must take so many recruited athletes who are narrowly focused and less accomplished otherwise."

William Bowen, a former president of Princeton University, has exhaustively documented the damage this system does to American higher education. And, yet, no college president has the courage to change it.

The most troubling trend in America in recent years has been the decline of economic mobility. The institutions that have been the best at opening access in the U.S. have been its colleges and universities.

If they are not working to reward merit, America will lose the dynamism that has long made it so distinctive.

For more on this, go to for a link to my Time column this week and let's get started.

Let's get right to our all-star panel today. Tom Friedman is, of course, the author of, "From Beirut to Jerusalem," it won many Pulitzer prizes, the op-ed columnist for the New York Times.

Katrina vanden Heuvel is the editor and publisher of The Nation. Richard Haass is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and Bret Stephens is foreign affairs columnist for The Wall Street Journal.

So, Tom, North Korea, it feels like we've seen this movie before. They threaten, we somehow begin negotiations, they get some kind of concessions, life goes on, then they threaten again or they cheat, then they threaten again.

But is there a danger here that this thing is going to spin out of control?

TOM FRIEDMAN, AUTHOR, OP-ED COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: There' certainly a danger, Fareed, and it is true, like, queue up the North Korea column. So if I queue up the North Korea column, it always comes to the same conclusion.

There is one power that can end this story very quickly, end this, first of all, human tragedy of North Korea and this incredible farce of a regime and that country's called China.

North Korea gets its food and fuel from China and by China keeping this border sealed with North Korea; it basically reinforces the prison camp.

Ann Applebaum had a good column in the Washington Post the other day in which she noted you open up that border to North Korea, it'll be just like opening the border to East Germany ...

ZAKARIA: But, of course, that's why the -- the Chinese know that and the South Koreans know it. I mean, in a weird sense, nobody wants North Korea to collapse.

FRIEDMAN: Well, we know just one thing from the Chinese, they love Korea so much, they want there to be two of them as they said about Germany and until they get out of that mode, I don't see what's going to change.

ZAKARIA: Richard, if you were in the National Security Council, as you have been, do you face this from yes, it looks like everything that Tom and I are saying, you know, is probably true, but don't you have to plan for the prospect that they might actually launch one of these missiles?

You know, they probably can't get to the U.S., but it could get to Guam or something like that or Japan. And what do you do?

RICHARD HASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, you plan for it, but the odds of it are extremely low because the North Koreans know that if they were to do such a thing, this would be not just a second Korean War, but the last Korean War because it would end without a North Korea being a separate, sovereign state.

You do it though for another reason. Not simply to deter the North Koreans, it's to reassure the South Koreans and the Japanese and (inaudible) ourselves. We still have 28,500 Americans in South Korea. We have treaty commitments.

But one of the things the United States has to think about is what's the evolving security architecture of Asia. History in Asia, as you know as well as anybody, is unfolding. It's happening. It's catching up, if you will. It's not just an economic zone anymore.

And one of the questions then is what happens and do you want, and I think the answer is now, South Korea and Japan to say we need our own nuclear deterrents. We don't trust the United States.

Well, that would be recipe potentially for instability, that kind of a transition. So what we want to do is be reassuring to our friends and our allies. At the same time, we push back against the North Koreans.

And Tom's exactly right. This is about China. If the Chinese want to stop North Korea, the guys at the border who oversee the goods going in and out, they can get the flu. And they can go on leave for a couple days, the North Koreans will get the message.

And the problem is not simply the Chinese are worried about immigrants, they are worried about unification of Korea with Seoul as the capital as part of the American security orbit.

That's part of ...

ZAKARIA: Nuclear weapons and 40,000 American troops.

HAASS: And even -- one of the interesting diplomatic things (inaudible), U.S. what we tell the Chinese, look, we're prepared to negotiate about that. It doesn't have to have nuclear weapons. Indeed, we'd be against the unified Korea with nukes.

Another possibility is we can talk about American troop presence. We can talk about a lot of things, but you have to be willing to use your influence against ...

ZAKARIA: Do you think the Obama administration has handled this well?

STEPHENS: I think, and painful and unnatural as it is for me to say this, I think they've handled it superbly, certainly in contrast to both predecessors, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

ZAKARIA: Both of whom fell for this ...

BRET STEPHENS, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Both of whom fell for this story, but not understanding that this is a regime that doesn't stay bribed and they manufacture crises in order to extract concessions from the West then you have a period of a year or two.

Meanwhile, the crisis serves the purpose of Kim Jong-un, or however, you say his name, because it helps consolidate his power base. We don't want that to happen.

Now, I agree with Tom that China is the country that can solve this, but China is the country that will never solve this because their interests are two -- I think they've had a conviction for a very long time that a reunified South Korea is a disaster for them.

It's also potentially a humanitarian problem for them. I mean there are millions of Koreans who are going to be streaming north of the Yalu River if you have a disaster in Korea. So they are going to prop up this regime for a long time.

The Obama administration and Japan and South Korea, I doubt Russia, is going to have to engineer some kind of policy towards North Korea that works to make Kim's rule shorter, that creates humanitarian avenues for North Koreans to leave, that puts public pressure on the Chinese to allow the underground -- the North Korean Underground Railroad to move people to Mongolia or Thailand or however they get out.

But so far this administration has done better than anyone.

ZAKARIA: What do you think?

KATRINA VANDEN HUEVEL, EDITOR, PUBLISHER, THE NATION: something that we haven't talked about, it seems to me, and I don't think we can outsource our diplomacy to China.

We need to restore high-level engagement and I don't buy the argument that that is bribery. I think tough, no illusions diplomacy at the highest level, Secretary of State John Kerry is going to the region next week, is critical.

We need to restore that engagement to have that high-level dialogue and, clearly, Kim Jong-un wants it. I mean, you know, I'm not going to cite Dennis Rodman, which, you know, I mean that was crazy in many ways, but what does he come back with?

He comes back with one line which is that they want talks. So you talk clearly with no illusions and that is diplomacy. And people have done it at different times and we've seen some success in ...

ZAKARIA: So Katrina now from the left criticizing Obama. You're from the right defending him. A quick thought on this idea of, you know, talking to them, restraint ... STEPHENS: I think it would be terrible. Madeline Albright tried that in 2000. President Clinton went to rescue those two journalists. All it does is create an image of Kim Jong-un, the brilliant, young general who has brought John Kerry to Pyongyang as a supplicant to offer ...


STEPHENS: What would -- what exactly ...

VANDEN HEUVEL: No, because I think -- here's the danger ...

STEPHENS: Would Mr. Kerry be offering?

VANDEN HEUVEL: Here's the danger, there is the danger of miscalculation. America's now going to do an Asian pivot. There is going to be confrontation in the region that we haven't seen before, the danger of nuclear proliferation.

The alternatives are escalation in the region, the possibility of an unwanted war. I think to give space to a different course, a sane course, we should test every possibility because we've seen the militarization of nuclear proliferation.

Countries which have, you know, worry about U.S. military action, threatened or not, are acquiring weapons. And we need to break the cycle. And I think high-level negotiation -- John Kerry's talking about going to the region to talk about denuclearization.

STEPHENS: Not going to happen.

ZAKARIA: All right ...

VANDEN HEUVEL: It won't happen, but test, test and test.

STEPHENS: But just one thing ...

ZAKARIA: All right, we got to -- we got to ...

STEPHENS: North Korea is a giant Auschwitz. The whole world has to work to end that Auschwitz. That's the basis of any policy.

VANDEN HEUVEL: But to threaten it is not going to end that. You have to dig in.

ZAKARIA: All right, we got to -- now, we've taken up so much time on this. When we come back, the lightening round, Egypt, Israel, guns, the economy, I don't know that we'll get to all of it, but when we come back.


ZAKARIA: And we are back with Tom Friedman, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Richard Haass and Bret Stephens.

Richard, one of the big issues if you travel to the Middle East is that the United States is seen as sort of supporting President Morsi's government, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Whether it's fair or unfair, there is -- you know, there is this question what do to. This guy does seem to be thoroughly a liberal. He has usurped lots of powers. He's using emergency authorities in various ways. What should we do?

HAASS: At the moment, it's what we shouldn't do. We should not support a loan from the IMF, a $4.8 billion loan, unless it has the strictest terms.

If the Egyptians get this money, it will then allow them to go into the private marketplace to get much more support. We do not want the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to succeed on their terms.

We only want them to succeed if they're willing to play by terms that protect the rights of Egyptians and respect the interests of the United States and its neighbors.

I am skeptical whether they will do that. So we ought to basically hang very tough and say we will only work with you under some very specified conditions. It's your sovereign right to reject those conditions. It's our sovereign right then not to work with you.

There's worse things than this regime ...

ZAKARIA: (inaudible) cause a lot of instability. I mean the place is already a complete mess.

FRIEDMAN: Yes, I mean I think one of the things that surprised me, Fareed, about Egypt is just how incompetent the Muslim Brotherhood has been. I mean I didn't have ridiculously high expectations, but number one, what has also surprised me is just how feckless the opposition has been.


FRIEDMAN: And it seems to me that what we need to be doing is standing up for principles of, you know, constitutionalism. You got to rewrite the constitution. It was done in a sham and I think hasty way and was particularly abusive to women in several key areas.

I think we got to stand for elections though and we've got to get the opposition in there to play the game. And, God, look at the situation. The country's starving. They're running out of foreign currency. And the opposition is oh no, we're not going to run. This is when you run. This is when you win. You're playing their game if you don't do that.

ZAKARIA: I got to ask you about Obama's Israel trip even though it's a long time ago. As, fair to say, a consistent critic of President Obama's Israel policy, what did you think of him ...


ZAKARIA: The speech? STEPHENS: Look, I'll say this much, it's good, it's smart that he's improving the mood music. What he did in his first term was just foolish. He was alienating now only the Israeli government he was alienating a lot of Israelis and that just didn't work.

Now, I just had a conversation with Rashid Khalidi and it was one of these, you know, jokes where Israelis and Palestinians agree on the incredible naivete of the president's effort to reach terms.

The deal just isn't there. Until you have one Palestinian government, not Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank, until there is some -- I think in terms of -- until there's some real sense of stability and direction in the region, you're not going to find a deal.

So the question is where is the president's political capital going and is it really best spent on a Palestinian-Israeli deal? You've got Syria in a shambolic state. We were just discussing Egypt.

Lots of problems and there's only so much a president can do.

VANDEN HEUVEL: No, I agree with Bret on one thing.



VANDEN HEUVEL: That I -- no, I don't think that the president -- this president should expend his political capital on the Palestinian- Israeli conflict particularly at a time when the right is so powerful in Israel ...

ZAKARIA: You gave me a good segue so I'm can't let it go.


ZAKARIA: The president shouldn't use his political capital on Israel. Should he use it on gun control? Is -- I mean he's putting a lot of political capital now behind something and historically it's not -- you know, gun control is very difficult to get through the Senate.

VANDEN HEUVEL: I think we've seen extraordinary possibilities, but not -- it's not going to happen in Congress. The president should keep talking. It took five years to get the Brady Bill, the ban on assault weapons, five years ago, to get a ban on large capacity magazines.

But what we're witnessing is movement around this country in different states. It may bubble up to Congress. The president should keep talking.

I think it's very important to build that movement, that national dialogue and to understand that 90 percent of Americans -- how many times do 90 percent of Americans agree on something? They agree on universal background checks. So keep talking about those commonalities, but let the progress come, as it is, form the mobilization, the coalition of anti-gun violence activists in the states.

ZAKARIA: OK, like I said, lightning round, so I'm going to quickly ask you, Tom. You had a column this week. U.S. education, you talked about how every high school can now benchmark itself against the world.

So we don't have these big averages because we know in America ...


ZAKARIA: There's a big difference between schools in Massachusetts and schools in Alabama. Are you fundamentally optimistic about what's going on in American education? Because people have tended to think the trend was downward for a while.

FRIEDMAN: Well, the good news -- what that study really showed, Fareed, is that the education reform movement in America is showing real progress.

There was a charter school network in Newark related to uncommon schools that cracked the top 10 in the world. These are from really disadvantaged neighborhoods.

So really the conclusion is we have schools that are not only, you know, the equal of Shanghai and Singapore, they're actually better in certain categories. We're doing fantastic.

The problem is we don't have nearly enough and how to do those successful models, charter and public, and scale.

ZAKARIA: You have a new book that is coming out soon, "Foreign Policy Begins at Home: Revitalizing the American Economy, Revitalizing Education." What do you think is the key here if you were to be talking to Obama about, again, spending his political capital?

FRIEDMAN: Two things; one is immigration reform, which is -- helps in many areas. The other is beginning to talking about getting us on a fiscal trajectory we can sustain.

And what it means is talking about entitlements in a way that that ultimately we can do something politically about them. But this conversation has in common, issues have a moment where they ripen, where you can do something about them.

You can't so something right now about the Palestinian issue. You can do something about immigration reform. Gun control is down the road, but you can talk about it so maybe in a year or two you can get something done.

We've got to now -- he's got to begin to have an honest conversation with the American people, call it a fireside chat that we are basically on an unsustainable trajectory.

And what he has to do is prepare people for the fact that we have to make some changes, that we can't sustain this approach to Medicare in particular, to medical spending, 18 percent of our GDP.

This is unsustainable. Unless we do something about it, we will not be viable at home. We will not be strong abroad.


ZAKARIA: (inaudible)

VANDEN HEUVEL: Would you bring us back so we can have a big debate about that?

ZAKARIA: Next time ...


ZAKARIA: Because I can tell Katrina's dying ...

VANDEN HEUVEL: We agree with the title, "Medicare Reform," but I totally disagree with the lack of job creation and ...



ZAKARIA: We'll make sure to assign to you on the GPS blog. Thank you.

Up next, What in the World, Chinas rivers have seen dead pigs and dead ducks. Now, the rivers themselves are dying by the thousands. Why when we come back.


ZAKARIA: Now for our What in the World segment. Chinas rivers have been in the news for all the wrong reasons. First, they found thousands of dead pigs in one river. Then, they found hundreds of dead ducks in another. And, now, entire rivers are going missing, thousands of them in fact.

A new survey has found that China has 28,000 fewer rivers than previously thought. They've been built upon, overused and are drying up. the study comes from no less an authority than China's Ministry of Water Resources and the National Bureau of Statistics.

Something else has gone missing in China, clean air. A study out this week shows how air pollution in China led to 1.2 million premature deaths in 2010.

A separate study by China's Academy of Environmental Planning found that in the same year, 2010, environmental degradation cost the country $230 million. Beijing has tended to address these kinds of issues, but never at the expense of slowing down growth in any way. China's leaders seem to feel that issues of pollution and climate change while troubling, are long-term trends not immediate threats.

The Chinese Communist Party's overriding priority remains growth and, of course, its own strength and survival. That's why I'd like to recommend a book for China's leaders.

It's a collection of essays called, "The Arab Spring and Climate Change." In the preface of the book, the Princeton academic Ann-Marie Slaughter makes clear that one can't say climate change caused the Arab Spring. That's too simplistic.

But there is now enough proof to show that climate change creates stresses that can trigger social revolution. Consider some facts from the book, "In 2010, climate-driven factors led to a 33 percent drop in wheat production in Russia and a 19 percent drop in Ukraine."

"Separate climate events in each case led to a 14 percent crop in Canada's wheat output and a 9 percent drop in Australia's. As a result, wheat prices doubled in the space of seven months. Note that the world's top nine wheat importers are all in the Middle East."

Seven of them saw political protests leading to civilian deaths in 2011. Because of a truly globalized marketplace, a small regional climate event can now have a large global impact.

Again, there's no direct causality, but the links are increasingly clear. Climatic stresses on the environment can lead to shortages of water or food, which in turn can lead to anything from increased prices to disease and all this, of course, can and does lead to protests.

If there's one thing China's leaders fear most, it is wide-scale protests. Thousands of local protests take place in China every year, most of which the state clamps down on. Beijing can trace many of these protests to climate-related stress, pollution, water supplies, food production problems. So far they've never become larger challenges to central authority. Of course, protests didn't grow larger in the Arab world until in 2011, they did. Perhaps China's leaders can be convinced to find ways of more sustainable growth. It may turn out to be a simple calculation, prevention is often cheaper than the cure.

Up next, some good news for America, why a top investor says the era of the brick nations might be over. Why it's time to be positive about the United States. Right back.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington with a check of the headlines. South Korea's government says it believes North Korea may fire a missile as early as this week. Seoul says while it is taking a military readiness posture, it regards the recent hot rhetoric out of Pyongyang as the scare tactic. South Korea warns if limited war breaks out along the Korean Peninsula, the north will be inflicted with extensive damage.

A State Department worker who died in an attack in Afghanistan is believed to be the first U.S. diplomat killed since last September in Benghazi. The 25-year-old Anne Smedinghoff was delivering books to a school Saturday when the military convoy she was in was attacked. Speaking in Turkey today, Secretary of State John Kerry expressed regret about the death of Smedinghoff, whom he met two weeks ago during his visit to Afghanistan.


JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It's a grim reminder to all of us, though we didn't need any reminders, of how important and, also, how risky carrying the future is to people who want to resist.


CROWLEY: Ten Afghan children, three U.S. service members and a Defense Department worker were also killed in Saturday's attack.

Those are your top stories. reliable sources is at the top of the hour. But now back to Fareed Zakaria GPS.

ZAKARIA: Ruchir Sharma who runs Morgan Stanley's massive emerging markets fund, says that every investment idea is right for a while. In the 1980s investing in Japan made you a big winner until the '90s came around. In that decade it was all about tech stocks, then the tech bubble burst. The (inaudible) for 2000s was emerging markets. Why is that trend over and what is the next one? Ruchir Sharma's book "Breakout Nations" is now out as a paperback this month. Welcome.


ZAKARIA: So, you predicted this in the book, but let's take a look at this first chart and see how the growth in the bricks, Brazil, Russia, India, China has slowed down. It happened with all of them. Why?

SHARMA: Yes, I think that goes the main point that last decade every single emerging market boomed. But these hiked up countries of the last decade are all slowing down. And the most stunning statistic I find is this, that in the coming few years, I think, Russia, South Africa, Brazil, these countries are unlikely to grow much faster than the U.S. at about 2.5 percent or so. So, this entire concept that all these markets and economies were destined to catch up with the U.S. is now being questioned as they run into their own domestic problems.

ZAKARIA: Look at the second graph you have, which shows you what has happened in terms of the equity markets here. I mean, there's 40 percent decline.

SHARMA: What this tells you is that these markets are disappointing because growth expectations are not being met. Now, Brazil's growth rate last year was one percent. Russia's growth rate this year should be no higher than three percent. India's growth rate has slowed down from nine percent down to five percent. Now, you may say five percent is not too bad. But there are two points here, one India's per capita income is only $1500. At that per capita income level ...

ZAKARIA: Compare it with $45,000.

SHARMA: Exactly. At that per capita income level growth rate of four to five percent truly feels like a recession and, in India, that's really the mood there. There's sort of economic gloom about what's happened out there.

ZAKARIA: Talk about China, because China, after all, has grown at ten percent a year for 35 years. Fastest growth in human history. And, of course, it's going to slow down. There's - you know, the Communist Party in its, it was, I guess, seventh five-year plan says, we will slow down to seven percent. That's still a pretty high number, because China's per capita GDP is not $1500, it's now $6,500. So, they seem like they're still, Chinese growth is still considerable just from, you know, from a much higher base they're going to grow somewhat slower.

SHARMA: Yes. Listen, I've been a huge fan of what China has achieved. It is absolutely unparalleled. But here is my concern about China. That in their desire to keep growing at what is a relatively fast growth rate, they are accumulating far too much debt to do so. Just one simple statistic here. That until about 2007 it took roughly $1 of debt to generate $1 of growth in China. Last five years, it's taken more than $3 of debt to generate $1 off growth in China.

ZAKARIA: People don't think of China as indebted. They think it has this huge foreign exchange reserves, the country doesn't run. I mean its fiscal balance sheet is very good. What do you mean when you talk like that?

SHARMA: I mean if you look at the debt of the system, not just central government's debt, which many people focus on and which admittedly appears to be low. Look at the total system's debt. It is 200 percent as a share of GDP. And it's 200 percent the total debt for China is the highest for any developing country in the world today. That really is a very high number. Now, the U.S. compatible number is about 350 percent. But, remember, the U.S. per capita income today is still many fold that of China. So, in fact, adjusted for that, I would say China's debt problem today is more worrisome than that of the U.S.

ZAKARIA: How do you feel about the U.S.?

SHARMA: Well, that is the way - way sort of I end this book, which is I travel the world and I come to the conclusion that the U.S. is not such a bad place. It really feels increasingly as the best house in a bad neighborhood. And especially in the developed world. Then many things the U.S. has going for it and I think those factors have all been under-recognized for the past few years and now I think we're seeing a lot of people come to those conclusions. All of a sudden, the U.S. is making it to the cover of magazines and stuff about how the economy is being more resilient because people are seeing what is happening in Europe and they're seeing the way things are sort of unfolding in some of these large, emerging markets and all the problems which are coming to the floor and realizing that maybe the U.S. is not that bad of place.

ZAKARIA: Bottom line you point out in chart number three, if you look at the percentage share of world GDP, what you see is the big story at the end of the day, is, you know, over the last, you know, 25 years, emerging markets go up, U.S. down a bit, Europe down, Japan down, but here's the interesting part. You point out over the last few years the U.S. share has been stabilizing and flat-lining whereas Europe and Japan are declining.

SHARMA: That's right. Because - and the last year was particularly interesting. For the first time since 2003 over the last 12 months, the U.S. economy has grown at the same pace of the global average. So, therefore its share is stabilizing. Now, those happening for two factors. One, that the rest of the world is doing quite poorly, including emerging markets. The growth rate in emerging markets has come down from about 7.5 percent in 2007 toward 4.5 percent. Still growing faster, because the per capita income is lower, but the growth rates are down significantly. And Europe and Japan, the decline continues. So, we go to really look at how the U.S. looks relative to its other countries in the same per capita ...

ZAKARIA: Other rich countries.

SHARMA: Exactly. Other rich countries. And in that respect, it really seems to me that the U.S. is still at the leading edge.

ZAKARIA: And if you look at the future, you look at, you give us chart number four and you say, still a reason for optimism for the U.S. because look at this percentage share of global RND. Other people are catching up, but at the end of the day when you take a snapshot, we still dominate.

SHARMA: We still dominate, because the U.S. is the largest economy in the world. But even as a share of the economy, the amount that the U.S. spends on R&D is very high. I think only a couple of other countries in the world, such as South Korea and Israel maybe spend a bit more, as the share of GDP. But what the U.S. spends is a lot.

So, then, a lot of sort of negatives about the infrastructure out here, but we sort of tend to overlook the fact that the U.S. is still spending a lot of right things. And so, therefore, a lot of cutting edge products in the world are still coming out of the U.S., even compared to Japan. What the U.S. has done is really remarkable, because it spends so much on software in terms of R&D and remains at the cutting edge of innovation.

ZAKARIA: Ruchir Sharma, pleasure to have you on.

You've heard the outlook for the next decade or so, my next guest takes a longer view from the Ice Age, all the way to the distant future. The historian Ian Morris on whether we're going to make it as a species.


ZAKARIA: We all want to know if the East will eclipse the West. Is it inevitable that China and India will become more powerful than Europe and the United States. My next guest says, that if you take the long view, the West rise is actually the anomaly. A blip in history. Ian Morris wrote the best selling "Why the West Rules for Now." And he has a new book out, a continuation, essentially, called "The Measure of Civilization." Morris is a professor at Stanford University, but we managed to drag him to New York. Welcome.

IAN MORRIS, AUTHOR, THE MEASURE OF CIVILIZATION: Well, thanks for having me here.

ZAKARIA: So, what do you mean by a blip? Do you mean that for most of the previous history, the East was dominant just because these were large, vast countries, agriculture was the basis of most economic productivity, but that governments didn't do anything with it. They didn't mobilize that wealth in any way.

MORRIS: Yes, well, through most of history, you get powers and civilizations that are dominant to just one part of the world. That through, if you go back all the way to the end of the Ice Age, 15,000 years ago. The most developed part of the world has usually in fact been at the Western end of Eurasia around the Mediterranean Sea. But there was a great limit on how far they could project the power. And it's not really until you get to the industrial revolution that all of a sudden these nations, mostly around the shores of the Atlantic, can suddenly project their power anywhere in the world. So, about 200 years ago the West quite abruptly starts to dominate the whole planet.

ZAKARIA: Why does America rise?

MORRIS: Well, I think this is a continuation of the same kind of processes. That through most of history, of course, the Americas completely separate from the rest of the world and doing their own thing and developing in their own ways, then they start getting drawn into an economy based on Europe, starting in the 16th, 17th, 18th centuries and initially it's all driven from Europe, by the European capitals and the people coming out from Europe. By the time you get into the 19th century, though, and you are able to start building railroads and the telegraph comes in. Distances are shrinking, and increasingly as this happens the Americans are able to move from being a kind of a periphery to a European global system. So, in the sense of a global system themselves, and it's all about the shrinking of space. The geography is driving the story, but what the geography means keeps changing.

ZAKARIA: So, if you look at China, most importantly in India are to a lesser extent rising. At the very time that you are having this dramatic shrinking of space ...

MORRIS: Yes. ZAKARIA: Does it, does it matter as much? Do you know that - will they -- will it have the same kind of impact, of the rise that the West had?

MORRIS: Yeah, I think it will. I think - and we've got this long story here where we're seeing similar kinds of processes unfolding in different parts of the world. So, first of all, you've got the Atlantic Ocean shrinking from about 1400 on this, pushes the West, Western Europe up to the top of the pile. Atlantic Ocean shrinks more, North America kind of shrinks, too, in the 19th century. This pushes North America up to the top of the pile. And then the 20th century because we've seen the shrinking of the Pacific Ocean, which is so big, that right up until the late 19th century, it's just very difficult for people to exploit the Pacific.

ZAKARIA: Even now, I'm always struck when you travel to Asia, you take those flights and you suddenly realize how (inaudible) that Pacific is along ....

MORRIS: Yes. Yes. And I think I mean it's really illuminating, just to look at a globe. You know, you turn the globe and you face the Atlantic, and you see the continents on the either side. Turn the globe around toward the Pacific, and it basically fills the entire field of vision. Just huge thing. But as the 20th century went on, of course, the technology shrink, this continualization (ph) comes in, the Internet, jet airliners and I think what we're are seeing now with East Asia, and particularly China, is that like the United States 200- ish years ago, they're now being drawn into a global economy and for quite a while, they were a periphery, some still are, really, a periphery to an American dominated global system. But the big trend is pushing toward then rising to the top of this global system.

ZAKARIA: And do they have experience of that - you know, two views. One is, look, China was - it was always a backwater, there was, the Middle Kingdom, fine, they dominated their own little part of Asia, but they had no real interaction with the world. They stopped building big boats because - part because they got less interested in all of that.


ZAKARIA: And so, they actually have no experience with this. It's going to be a very new thing. And then there are those who say, no, no, no, this is 5,000 year civilization.

MORRIS: Yes. Yes. I think you can look at the history and I can see how people can draw both of these conclusions. But what strikes me most in the long-term Chinese history is that China has always been just as interested in the rest of the world as every other major power. A lot of the time, though, they would get into situation where there just wasn't much attraction for them to be sending out voyages to the other end of the world or people across Central Asia to reach to India and Iran and to Europe. But whenever it has been attracted, whenever there's been something to gain, they have not hesitated to do so. And when people will sometimes say, you know, we're going to see a very different world order with China at the center where new kind of diplomacy will come to the floor. And people won't be using forces much to achieve national goals. Again, if you look back over Chinese history, they have been as aggressive as anybody else in pursuing their own interests. Whenever - whenever the use of force seemed like a good way to gain those interests. So, my guess would be that a world system dominated by China would not be so very different in the way it runs from the kind of world we used to today.

ZAKARIA: Ian Morris, pleasure to have you on.

MORRIS: Well, thanks very much for having me here.

ZAKARIA: Up next, when is a solid a liquid? Now, it's not black magic, it is the longest running lab experiment in the world. I'll explain when we come back.


ZAKARIA: In 1997, the H5N1 strain of avian influenza first infected humans causing global concern. Since 2003, there have nearly 600 human infections from that strain. Then in 2009, we had the swine flu pandemic. H1N1. Now, there's a new bird flu. It's claiming lives and authorities are watching it closely. And it brings me to my question of the week. What is the name of this new killer avian influenza strain? A, H2N1, B, H6N2, C, H7N9, D H9N7. It's a tough one this week. Stay tuned, we'll tell you the correct answer. Go to for more of the GPS Challenge and follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Also remember to go to if you ever miss a show or a special.

This week's book of the week is a good one. This explains everything. Deep, beautiful and elegant theories of how the world works. John Brockman, the publisher of the asks some of the world's best minds for their favorite explanations of anything. The result is a collection that reads like the best TED talks ever. It's an absolute pleasure to read. And now, for the last look.

Good signs sometimes takes a very long time. It was 11 years after NASA was founded that we landed on the Moon. The human genome project took 13 years. It's been almost 50 years since the Higgs- boson particle was first proposed. And it still hasn't been conclusively proven. But Australia's home to the world's longest running lab experiment. It's on the verge of a breakthrough of sorts. 86 years ago a professor at the University of Queensland initiated this pitch drop experiment wanting to show that some things that look solid can actually be a little bit fluid. Pitch, you see, is a derivative of tar and it is so solid, you can crack it with a hammer, but it can also drip and drop. Over the past 86 years, eight drops have fallen. And the current custodian of the experiment thinks the ninth drop is coming soon. They've set up a webcam so you can watch. Go to our Website for a link to this historic moment. The webcam is only a little less exciting than watching grass grow. But there is an upside to watching, nobody has ever seen a drop actually fall. You could be the first. The correct answer to our GPS Challenge question is, C, the H7N9 strain of the bird flu virus was first known to infect humans in February, in China. If you're wondering how these virus strains get these names that makes them sound even scarier, there's a reasonable explanation. The H and the N refer to proteins on the flu virus and the numbers to the small differences in the shape of the proteins.

Two science lessons at the end of one show. Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week. Stay tuned for "Reliable Sources."