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Historians have long struggled to explain how the West became the preeminent political and economic force in the modern world, and why so many people aspire to emulate the lifestyles, fashions, and popular culture of America and Western Europe.
In his new book, Civilization: The West and the Rest, historian Niall Ferguson credits six "killer apps." He argues that Western countries developed a unique set of social institutions, from competition and the rule of law to modern science, a unique work ethic and a thriving consumer society, that enabled them to surpass their non-Western neighbors.
But China, he says, is quickly catching on — and catching up.