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Global South and the de-Westernization of the World

global-south-de-westernization-marketexpress-inThe concept of the “Global South” has been all the rage in recent months, along with that of the “de-Westernization of the world”. Is it the same phenomenon and what realities do these two expressions cover?

Let’s be careful, but let’s not bury our heads in the sand. The world is changing. We must change. The notion of de-Westernization of the world covers first of all human, economic, historical and cultural realities. But it also covers political, ideological and geopolitical positions that give the global South quite contrasting geographical forms.

Human realities are obvious first of all, since of the 8 billion inhabitants of our planet, only 15% live in what is known as the West and which claims to be so. Moreover, the demographic dynamics of the two groups are such that the weight of the non-Western world will reach nearly 90% by 2050 according to the latest estimates of the United Nations Population Division.

The economic realities are no less obvious, judging by the latest IMF growth forecasts and the sharing of world GDP expressed in purchasing power parity. Between the periods 2010-2019 and 2022-27, the weight of Western countries in world growth may fall from 21.8% to 15.3%, and their weight in world GDP will fall from 56% to 38% between 2000 and 2027.

But does this mean that the global South is united in an anti-Western front?

On the historical level, it is not wrong to feel the rise of a “Revenge” sentiment against a West that shares the colonialist and imperialist heritage, first of the Europeans and then of the United States with the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, which have traumatized all developing peoples.

On the cultural level, it is the notion of “Renaissance” that unites the countries of the South with the rise of nationalist movements that rely on a rereading of a civilizational past that is supposed to be prestigious, as in China, but also in India, Turkey, Southeast Asia and clearly in Africa at the moment.

On the political level, the confrontation between Western countries and the global South takes two distinct forms. On the one hand, the widely shared observation that “the values of the West have always stopped where its interests begin”. On the other hand, not the questioning of the democratic ideal, but two very different readings of the priorities and sequencing between economic and social development on the one hand and modernization of political institutions on the other, between prosperity and individual freedoms. The Indian economist Amartya Sen, in particular, contributed to enriching the ‘development as freedom’ approach in the 1980s by breaking it down into ten or so socio-economic criteria which became the UN 17 so-called SDG or Sustainable Development Goals. They are clearly the priorities of the global South as seen during the last G20 Summit in Bali (Indonesia) and again with the Indian presidency, not so for the West much more focused on fighting inflation and the war in Ukraine and the confrontation with Russia and China.

On the geopolitical level, however, things are much less clear-cut. The global South is not a homogeneous entity, but a multilayer reality around a multitude of international or regional organizations where geography carries its weight. However, three approaches can be identified. On the one hand, there is a clearly anti-Western group that wants to confront the West, led by China with its diplomatic strategy of the Tianxia or celestial vault under which all non-Western countries would fall. The conquest of technological supremacy and military parity are its two priorities. Then there is the group of pure non-aligned countries of the neither-neither type, neither the United States nor China-Russia, or neither liberal capitalism nor a planned authoritarian model. This is the heir to the hard core of the Bandung summit in Indonesia in 1955, but which has never managed to find a viable third way, either economically or politically. Finally, there is the group of and-and opportunists: “and” the West when it is profitable, if not the other side. The best example here is India, which imports Russian oil to export it in a refined form to the United States or Europe. The last international trips of the new Brazilian president Lula da Silva seem to go in the same direction. Turkey’s position could be similar, even if the desire to reconstitute an autonomous Ottoman empire is increasingly asserting itself, this time against both sides.

The Global South is thus an increasingly powerful economic force, with the exception of a few key sectors such as finance and high technology. It is also united in its desire to de-Westernize the world, but it is far from being on a confrontation line with the West, as shown by the votes at the UN last year on the war in Ukraine. Between bipolarity and multipolarity, his preference is clearly for the second option, whether it be economic or diplomatic. And the actual process of de-dollarization is interesting to follow with a growing number of agreements to experiment various solutions quite pragmatically. Another evidence is that in “Global South”, there is ‘global’. The developing countries express their desire to remain in an open, non fragmented, non protectionist, and pluralist world. Either the growing confrontation will lead to a South-South globalization, as is in fact the hope of China, whose 90% of investments are now made in the South. Dialogue and the will to compromise will prevail, as in the case of world trade regulation or for a fair and equitable distribution of the climate change burden. Still the Western countries have a card to play with their strong assets in technology and markets. But will cooperation prevail? Not sure at all.