Richard Stengel: Voice of Influence

Fareed Zakaria, one of the world's most agenda-setting thinkers, joins TIME as a regular columnist and cover-story writer

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Platon for TIME

Fareed Zakaria

This week marks the debut of our new columnist Fareed Zakaria. I almost wrote "foreign-policy columnist," but that would be wrong because it limits the range and breadth of what Fareed does. Fareed is quite simply one of the foremost public intellectuals of our time. He does something that is rare: he connects the dots on foreign policy, politics, the economy and the larger culture to make sense of the world's most important ideas and trends. And he does it with a subtlety that is nevertheless clear and accessible. For him, politics and international affairs are complex and gray, not black and white. "I resist being part of an ideological or intellectual pack," he says. "I'm heterodox because life is heterodox."

That unique perspective comes across in his piece this week, which accompanies Fareed's exclusive interview with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on CNN. Fareed expresses skepticism about the political world's intent to get China to revalue its currency. As he writes, the idea is "pointless posturing and at worst dangerous demagoguery." And it doesn't reckon with the present or future challenge from China.

As well as being an author, columnist and academic, Fareed is the host of CNN's Sunday show Fareed Zakaria GPS. Fareed's presence at TIME creates a true partnership with our sister network CNN. We will be collaborating on the show as well as building a significant Web presence that covers everything that Fareed does.

Fareed's worldview comes in part from being a naturalized American citizen who was born in Bombay and grew up outside the U.S. in what was then decidedly a country of the developing world. His academic background — a B.A. from Yale and a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard — also gives him a set of analytical tools that few of us have. "Most journalists ask the 'what' question very well," he says. "My training is to ask the 'why.' " Fareed will be writing a regular column for us and as many as half a dozen cover stories a year. Each week he will also talk about his TIME columns and covers on CNN. "I love the challenge of writing for a large, intelligent audience like that of TIME," he says. "I'm not in journalism to play parlor games with elites. I want to help people become more thoughtful and engaged about the world." That's our mission too.

This week, Joe Klein's agenda-setting cover story will get the political world talking. It is a nuanced view — beautifully written, in the way only Joe can — of what people in America are really concerned about in the last few weeks before the midterms. The story, which avoids the cable-news-show clichés of left and right, is the result of Joe's 6,782-mile journey across the country, which he wrote about every day on TIME.com's Swampland blog.

In addition to this week's cover story, you can read all of Joe's diary entries on TIME.com, view the Google Map "Joe Tracker" showing which states he visited and click through a gallery of photos by Peter van Agtmael, who spent 24 days on the road with Joe charting his trip and the American conversation. You can even find a playlist of Joe's favorite driving songs. Enjoy them — and Joe's unerring sense for what concerns America today.