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Economics

Shifting of power from West to Rest – An analysis

Introduction

Early twenty first century is facing a new truth of shifting of power from West to Rest. Though it is believed that this change is more prevalent in politics only in reality change is taking place in every aspects. Western power is declining relatively and Rest is rising politically and economically. One of the factors that contributed to this is the global financial crisis that had a severe effect on western economy. Western engagements in the issues of Middle East added to this as there was several difference of opinion with regard to role of West in this (Sisodia and Krishnappa). Third world countries, considered as economically down are now rising to a new position with its developments accelerating at fast pace. The difference between Western countries and developing countries with regard to technology and economics is now reducing in a faster pace than expected. One of the reasons that contributed to this change is globalization along with other economic crisis and activities of West. This paper tries to analyze the role of globalization in the transition of power from the West to the ‘Rest’.

Globalization

Concept of globalization became more common during 1980’s and this resulted in the increase of integration among various economies of the world. Integration was more in economic aspects as there was an increase in financial flows and trade across the globe. This also led to enhancement of electronic communication and technologies. Developing countries began to get more foreign direct investment and at the same time companies from these countries began to make investments in Western economies (Mahbubani). Globalization also increased competitive pressure enormously across business world throughout the globe. This was mainly due to liberalization of trade and new technologies of information and communication. This increase of global competition forced firms to become more innovative in its products and methods of production. It is in this era that BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) countries developed. These countries began to change the power dynamics of almost all world affairs. They began to challenge the authority of Western countries, especially US in world affairs. BRICS countries began to spread their power and also started demanding more role in all aspects of decision making.

BRICS countries represent 40% of world population and 25% of GDP of the world. They also hold foreign reserve amounting to $3.93 trillion and this is more than one third of total foreign reserve in whole world. Though financial crisis had a major effect on Western countries, BRICS countries were not much affected by that. They were at the same time forced to find a new financial system to face any crisis in future. One of the biggest advantages of BRICS is that they are offering opportunities of investment to investors and thus poise an opportunity of economic growth. Multinationals are also investing in large amount to gain advantage of these markets. It is expected that GDP of BRICS countries will grow by 14% by 2015 while that of America will decrease by 3% from 25% to 22%. During the same period global exports is expected to grow to 21.1% and currently this is 14% (Cox, Power Shift and the Death of the West? Not Yet!).

In a span of 15years it is expected that China will become world’s largest market for luxury goods and in another ten years it will become largest aviation market in the world. According to a report of Goldman Sachs in another ten years it won’t be possible for Western Countries to compete with four countries forming BRIC (excluding South Africa) in terms of incremental consumption and growth and this will continue in future also. With these shift of consumption political power will also be realigned. BRICS as part of this is already asking for a change in the leadership structure of World Bank and IMF. They are demanding that the governance of World Bank must not be a systematic rotation between Europe and US any more. IMF has also made an agreement to shift 6% of voting power to developing countries. IMF has not made such a large shift in its voting power in history. Hence this can be viewed as an indication of acceptance of shift of power. Though BRICS is demanding change of leadership structure at IMF and WORL Bank united, they are not joint when it comes to United Nations. China is against any elevation of status of India, Brazil and South Africa in Security Council of UN. But at the same time BRICS is also committed for increasing their role in UN.

BRICS will emerge as an economic strength if they are standing united. This is an undeniable fact. These countries are attracting further foreign direct investment and this is because multinational companies are hoping to invest in these countries for gaining access to the unexplored market of middle class in these countries. BRICS countries are also rebalancing their domestic consumption to a great extent so that they can achieve more models of sustainable growth. With an increasing political and economic power BRICS countries are also trying to leverage their desires and needs to international arena. It is as part of this that they are asking for change of leadership at IMF and World Bank. They have also shown this in Doha Round. Such situations can be expected in future international negotiations and agreements for these countries keep on growing both politically and economically (Cox, Power Shifts, Economic Change and the Decline of the West?).

Before globalization developing countries were dependent on consumers of United Nations and Europe for powering their growth. But with globalization as more and more companies began to invest in these countries this pattern shifted and these developed countries began to satisfy the needs of their own market rather than foreign market. They are not merely investing more in their own infrastructure and development by attracting investments; they are doing this in a sustainable manner. Thus growth of these developed countries is based on sustainability to an extent and hence they will not be affected by any immediate crisis as happened to Western countries.

Though it is argued that military power is not that important in present age of asymmetric war, it is to be accepted that military power has a great role in establishing strong and weak. Those countries that are strong in their military power has some dominating role over others. It is also a known fact that military power of United States and Europe together is more powerful than the military of whole developing countries together. United States is having a high military man power capable enough to mobilize to all corners of the world. They are also the main security provider to Asia as well as Europe. They are spending almost 45% of whole amount spend on defense and it is this fact that makes others accept America as a super power. Military power of no other state can be compared to that of America and for a mere comparison it is a fact that China’s one aircraft carrier compares with 11 aircraft carrier groups of America. United States is also spending more on security and they have expanded by five times in this regard (Mahbubani). Thus it is the most important aspect that keeps America as the super power above all other Asian countries.

United States in its attempt to maintain top position is undergoing a defense transformation with the help of technological advancements it is possessing. They are exploring innovative methods of warfare and along with that are exploiting advantages of US intelligence, strengthening joint operations and are taking complete advantage of technology and science. They are also maintaining a very good relation with Europe who are also possessing large military power. They together cannot be destroyed even if all the countries of BRICS are uniting. But at the same time it cannot be denied that China is emerging as a new military power and India with its nuclear tests is achieving some military power at least capable enough to protect them. If BRICS can find new allies they can outgrow America and this is likely to cause a threat to world order (Mahbubani).

Though BRICS are emerging as a strong political and economic power there is a big issue that is there among them. It is that the group is not at all in harmony regarding certain matters. China cannot afford the increase of role of India in United Nations Security Council. Likewise Brazil is against currency policies of China. Thus these countries though they are growing at fast pace is having so many differences of opinion and hence cannot be expected to stand together in all matters.

What affected United States in its move is the urge to make money and selfishness. United States considers them self as supreme power and is not at all concerned about others. Shift of economic power was not a fast process, and neither was the situation of political shift. It was mainly the result of capitalism that was globalized. It was United States who stood in front of this move and they lost their foresight to see that developing countries are there waiting for an opportunity. Though globalization was not at all welcomed by majority people of developing countries they are the ones who benefited most from this. It is with globalization that economic power began to shift from Western countries to developing countries (Cox, Power Shift and the Death of the West? Not Yet!).

According to reports by Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) India and China along with other countries of the world will eclipse the west in another 50 years span. According to this report China will overtake United States by 2017 and will become the largest economy of the world. India too will overtake Japan and in another 20 years India will outgrow Europe economically. This will certainly reduce the number of follower states for United States and this will result in complete shifting of economic power. Now it can be seen that United States is dominating other countries only in military power. Political domination is already found in international bodies and this will also lead to economic domination. Sustainability model of growth adopted by BRICS countries will help them to survive any economic instability and will thus protect the economies of those countries for long term.

Though it is an accepted factor that globalization has contributed extensively to power shift from West to Rest, there is some concern from various sectors about the impact of this shift on world order (Sisodia and Krishnappa). With the emergence of new powers both political and economical in nature and United States remaining as a military power it is believed that the world will change from unipolar to multipolar in nature. This is irrespective of malign or benign form this achieves.

Challenges

Though formation of multipolar world is for certain there are some factors that are not at all certain but need to be faced in this situation. One of the things is the need to have greater unity and cooperation. It also necessitates progress of technology to solve problems that are likely to arise worldwide. Another issue will be constraining on energy sources. At present majority of energy sources are either owned or operated by United States. With the upcoming of new powers they will find it difficult to gain access to such sources as United States will stand against this. It is also likely that countries producing oil and gas might increase their political and economic power. If this happens it will result in the formation of three groups one under United States, another under OPEC countries and third under BRICS (Mahbubani).

Though it is evident that the economies of developing countries especially BRICS countries is developing there are few issues these economies face. South Africa one of the parties to BRICS is not able to achieve as much growth as other four countries. But at the same time other four countries are trying to increase the participation of South Africa. Another fact is that these economies are facing a big challenge in coming years. They need to maintain a growth rate of five to seven percent which will be really difficult. According to the predictions of IMF and ADB these countries might be able to graze by these targets. According to Lawrence Summers if these countries can achieve seven percent growth and maintain it for coming decades they will be able to improve their standard of living by 10,000 times in a lifetime (Cox, Power Shift and the Death of the West? Not Yet!).

Other than economic challenge these countries especially India and China will be facing political challenges also in coming years. As emerging powers China and India will be expected to give more leadership globally for steering other countries in situations of global challenges. Even if they hesitate to accept global leadership they will be forced to do so. This because it is not that easy to remain as a free rider of open globalization for the people of these nations does not believe in that. People of these countries are developing their own perspective about challenged faced globally.

Conclusion

It is an accepted fact that power is shifting from Western countries to developing countries and it is BRICS that forms major countries among third world. Recent economic recession and policies of America has catalyzed this shift. It is the group of five developing countries short named as BRICS that has emerged as a major power among third world countries. Among them China and India is expected to outgrow US by 2060. Though shifting of political and economic power is happening at fast pace it is not easy to outgrow America in military power. America is expanding its security by five times which is far more than any other country in the world. Though China is also increasing its military power it is very less in comparison to that of America. At the same time BRICS are also facing several issues like member countries are not of the same opinion in all matters. Policies of some countries are criticized by other and it is not an easy task to keep these countries together. Thus though globalization has contributed to a great extent to shifting of power from west to BRICS it cannot be expected that they will emerge as world leaders, at least in near future.

References

Cox, Michael. “Power Shift and the Death of the West? Not Yet!” European Political Science (2011): 416–424.

Cox, Michael. “Power Shifts, Economic Change and the Decline of the West?” International Relations (2012): 369–388.

Mahbubani, Kishore. The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East. New York: PublicAffairs, 2009.

Sisodia, N, S and V Krishnappa. Global power shifts and strategic transition in Asia. New Delhi: Academic Foundation, 2009.