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Global Leadership Stories

US President Joe Biden (2R) and France's President Emmanuel Macron (R) share a light moment as President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen (L) and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau follow on before the family photo at the start of the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall on June 11, 2021. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

The United States’s hurried withdrawal from Afghanistan revealed the messy space where the discourse about international leadership meets leadership on the ground. Even as many are criticizing the role that various Western fantasies of nation-building/democratization/containment/management have played in the debacle, it’s still unclear what a Western reckoning with these fantasies will look like.

This is in part because the fantasy mill has never stopped churning. In fact, it’s currently ramping up, gaining energy from much meatier fuel: China’s global rise. The last two decades have shifted the landscape in the United States, deepening bipartisan divides and sharpening anxieties about a national decline. Any soul-searching about those stale old fantasies now has to make space for urgent new fantasies about China.

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