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In the heady days after 1945, the authority of the United States was unrivalled and, with the founding of the UN, a new era of international co-operation seemed to have begun. But seventy-five years later, its influence has already diminished. The world has now entered a post-American era, argues Michael Pembroke, defined by a flourishing Asia and the ascendancy of China, as much as by the decline of the United States.

Michael Pembroke will discuss his book (America in Retreat: The Decline of US Leadership from WW2 to Covid- 19, Oneworld, 2021), which is a short history of that decline; how high standards and treasured principles were ignored; how idealism was replaced by hubris and moral compromise; and how adherence to the rule of law became selective. It is also a look into the future – a future dominated by greater Asia and China in particular. We are in the midst of the third great power shift in modern history – from Europe to America to Asia.

Covering wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, interventions in Iran, Guatemala and Chile, and a retreat from international engagement with the UN, WHO and, increasingly, trade agreements, Pembrokesketches the history of America’s retreat from universal principles to provide a clear-eyed analysis of the dangers of American exceptionalism.

Michael Pembroke was educated at the Universities of Sydney and Cambridge and was a Director’s Visitor in2017 at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ. A former New South Wales Supreme Court judge(2010‒20), he is the author of Korea: Where the American Century Began (2018).


University of Oxford China Centre

Dickson Poon Building, Canterbury Road, Oxford OX2