Why The End Of Western Hegemony Is Not (Necessarily) The End Of The West
The West is losing influence on many fronts, embodied in the rise of the BRICS alliance as a kind of "counter-G7." But Western leaders will need to decide if they want to be part of this change, or its victim.
PARIS — It's a concept that comes up ever more regularly: the "de-Westernization of the world," a loss of influence that manifests in economic, geopolitical, and of course, demographic terms.
It arose again during last week's summit of the BRICS nations, this club of emerging countries that has now decided to expand from five to 11 members. Their main unifying characteristic is simply being non-Western, a negative definition that provides a common ground for countries as diverse as China, Saudi Arabia and Argentina.
Yet we must be cautious not to jump to hasty conclusions. At first glance, de-Westernization is undeniable: the expanded BRICS represent 46% of the global population and over one-third of the global GDP. The Western G7 accounts for barely 10% of the population and 30% of the world GDP.
Numbers, however, rarely tell the whole story.
Assumption of division
Drawing a conclusion is difficult, primarily because the countries united within the BRICS, or even the entirety of the "global South" – as the established term goes – do not constitute a coherent bloc.
Within BRICS, China and Russia are pushing to turn the club into a "counter-G7," with a pronounced anti-Western ideological dimension. Others, like India or African nations, primarily see it as an instrument for South-South cooperation. They share the desire to escape from a world shaped and led by the West, particularly by the "dollar deity," but they fear being enrolled in a bloc dominated by Chinese ambitions; they don't want the looming Cold War to gain momentum.
Thus there is more than a single nuance between these two "stances," and Western countries would do well to notice this before an assumption of division between "the West and the rest of the world" takes hold.
Reorganising the world?
The first response is to listen to the legitimate demands for equality from those countries in the Global South. In June, during the Summit on New Global Financing Pact in Paris, Kenyan President William Ruto, who is anything but an adversary of the West, had a strong exchange with French President Emmanuel Macron.
"There is a problem with your project," he told Macron. "You want to reform international institutions so that they continue to give us orders. We want institutions where we'll be at the decision-making table." These words articulate the current state of affairs.
This is an longstanding demand for equality, but one that has taken a more political, confrontational turn, especially in light of the Russian war in Ukraine and the refusal of some Southern countries to engage. Russia and China are riding this sense of injustice aimed at the West.
The reorganization of the world will happen, with the West if they accept it — or against them. From this standpoint, what is at play, within the BRICS or elsewhere, is more the end of Western hegemony than any kind of "de-Westernization" that is far from inevitable.
— Pierre Haski
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