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Geopolitics

No, The West Is Not In Decline

Europe, the United States and other parts of the so-called West may not be booming, but they're not about to be superseded either. Quite the contrary, in fact.

Holding steady
Holding steady
Yves Montenay

-OpEd-

PARIS — Let's begin by clarifying what we mean by "West." The Western world is an intellectual, economic and military ensemble gathering Western and Central Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and Israel. And, now, Japan.

Demography

The proportion of Western population in the world is decreasing, it's true. But that's also the case for China and Russia. India, where areas of low fertility rates are spreading, will likely follow suit.

On the demographic level, the West is not, therefore, being replaced by Asia. Both instead are being pushed by Africa. That said, Africa isn't an economic, military or cultural rival for the West, so its demographic growth in no way represents a decline of the West.

Economy and Military

Is the West declining economically? After its concern late last century regarding the rise of Japan and other Asian Tigers, it's now worried about Chinese expansion. And yet, China's very real catch-up is coming to an end, and the next step will be a slow and difficult one. Its authoritarian regime will inevitably restrict innovations to the benefit of insider interests.

With 22% of the world population, it's only natural that China recovers a certain rank in the global economy. But that doesn't make it a cause of economic decline for the West.

Let's not forget that all developing countries systematically copy the West. And they do so by reproducing — if not stealing — its technical formulas as well as its legal, managerial, and educational organizations. This is anything but a sign of decline.

What about India? It's a country that's deeply paralyzed ethnically, religiously, socially and bureaucratically. Cows there get a better pension than farmers; fiscal barriers between states hinder trade; roads and electricity are lacking ... Sure, things are finally getting better in India, and it will probably become a very important client; but it's far from being a new China. As for Africa, the future demographic giant is extremely weak economically, despite showing a few encouraging signs.

The West remains, in comparison to its competitors, very creative and economically attractive for investors and entrepreneurs the world over. Its standard of living is still the highest in the world — by a huge margin. The United States military budget is four times bigger than China's and 10 times bigger than Russia's, even though mistakes in economic management or military strategy sometimes make us forget that.

Culture

Western culture provides a decisive advantage, including on the economic level, through the individual, political and religious freedom it allows. The resulting intellectual energy created, fueled by permanent reflection and self-criticism, is an unmatchable strength.

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Checking in — Photo: Luca Sartoni

And this isn't just about the media or the entertainment industry. Of course, these are important, especially for the U.S. and its champions (Hollywood, Facebook, Amazon, etc.), as it gives them an undeniable influence. It's about much more than that: The West is a unique and complex product.

As French philosopher Philippe Nemo rightly put it in his book What is the West?, it's a combination of Ancient Greece and Roman legalism, of a vision of the world shaped first by early Christianity, then later by the Gregorian Reform, the Renaissance, Protestantism and the Enlightenment, all leading to our liberal democracy, a framework that allows for a free and innovative intellectual life.

The West wouldn't have needed colonialism to establish itself. Whenever they're in contact with the West, populations invariably choose it. For the same reasons, it is despised by dictators or traditionalists, especially now Islamists, and their accusations of imperialism and decadence are convenient tools to help them contain that influence.

Japan has become part of the Western world because it's a liberal democracy where individuals, and not only practices, have westernized. In China, an authoritarian regime, leaders do their utmost to prevent this from happening— blocking the Internet and throwing those who have been "contaminated" in jail.

Languages, finally, play their part in the process. English, French, Spanish, Portuguese are all spoken in vast parts of the world, whereas Mandarin Chinese and Hindi, despite their great number of speakers, remain regional languages.

And as for Africa, let's not forget that despite its growing demographic importance, its cultural capital cities are actually Paris, London or New York. This isn't neocolonialism; it's about the opportunities we bring to that continent.

The West isn't declining. On the contrary, the rest of the world is westernizing.

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Geopolitics

Patronage Or Politics? What's Driving Qatar And Egypt Grand Rapprochement

For Cairo, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil,” with anger directed at Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, and others critical of Egypt after the Muslim Brotherhood ouster. But the vitriol is now gone, with the first ever visit by Egyptian President al-Sisi to Doha.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with the Emir of Qatar in June 2022 in Cairo

Beesan Kassab, Daniel O'Connell, Ehsan Salah, Hazem Tharwat and Najih Dawoud

For the first time since coming to power in 2014, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi traveled to Doha last month on an official visit, a capstone in a steadily building rapprochement between the two countries in the last year.

Not long ago, however, the photo-op capturing the two heads of state smiling at one another in Doha would have seemed impossible. In the wake of the Armed Forces’ ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, Qatar and Egypt traded barbs.

In the lexicon of the intelligence-controlled Egyptian press landscape, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil” working to undermine Egypt’s stability. Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, was banned from Egypt, but, from its social media accounts and television broadcast, it regularly published salacious and insulting details about the Egyptian administration.

But all of that vitriol is now gone.

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