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Soft (Drink) Power

By:  Ian Bremmer Apr 29, 2013
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Muhtar Kent

The head of the world's most global beverage company on climate change, power in the post-crisis era, and how Coke's secret formula stays safe from hackers.

The financial crisis altered the very nature of the international balance of power. Five years later, the presumption is that the crisis is in the rearview mirror -- and that the volatility that shook markets and felled governments is behind us too. But we've entered a new order that's vastly more uncertain than what preceded it. International coordination is breaking down. Global challenges like climate change and nuclear proliferation are becoming more intractable as no one country or group of countries is in a position to set the international agenda. The G-20 is too crowded and conflicted; the U.S.-led G-7 can no longer run the show. In such an environment, we have to ask: What are the big question marks for sustainable global prosperity going forward? How are the roles of the United States and China evolving? And where are the world's next big opportunities?

I sat down in New York not long ago with Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of the Coca-Cola Co., to talk about how global power dynamics are shifting and what that means, tactically and strategically, for a $180 billion company dealing with customers and governments in more than 200 countries, from Suriname to Vietnam. Coca-Cola is a quintessential American brand -- and the largest private employer in Africa. In my conversation with Kent, everything from China's rise and the dubious fate of Europe to the safety of the secret Coke formula was in play.