The sun never sets on the global south

The US and Europe’s “mediaeval crusade” being waged in full force in Libya, and forever looking for other ripe targets, signals their state of denial that their days of global dominance are over.

The Western dominance is no more in the Middle East because of the emergence of governments based on popular support. As the revolutions spread, the new government will be bound to assert national control over their own resources and formed strategic alliances to secure their ability to reject the dictats of the imperialist nations.

This has already been taking place in both Latin America and Asia — two continents that went through long, traumatic and bloody struggles with US- European imperialism to win that sovereignty which they are asserting today. With the phenomenal rise of China which has had an average growth rate of nine per cent for the past 30 years, there is now a practical economic alternative to US subordination for countries of the global south.

At a recent event on whether Asia or Latin America would be the world’s next superpower, Brazilian Ambassador to the UK Roberto Jaguaribe stressed that China had been “the country that has opened doors for Latin America”. In a continent that was once treated as the Yankees’ backyard of resources and labour, exports to China have soared in the past decade with predictions that it will become the second world destination of the region’s exports by 2020.

In terms of social justice for the long oppressed peoples of Latin America, this is crucial. The rise of something as simple as one alternative to the US, one which does not interfere in any country’s political system and with no military bases on any foreign soil, has enabled popularly elected leaders to stay true to their mandate by not being forced to enter into unfavourable trade agreements.

This is not to downplay the role of social movements in Latin America which have fought heroically for centuries, since Haiti became the world’s first Black republic in 1804. This was stressed by Oscar Guardiola Rivera, author of Latin America Ruled the World : “Brazil and the other countries of South America, have managed to enhance their capacities for self-rule, while deepening their commitment to democratic and egalitarian institutions dating back some two hundred years ago. The continent as a whole has become a beacon of freedom and hope around the world. The resistant nations of the Western hemisphere have consolidated a unified voice around such institutions as Mercosul, UNASUL and IPSA, overcoming the situation of dependence.”

In turn, the emergence of nations that have rejected subservient status to the US has mutually benefited China. But Western mass media misinformation about political systems in the global south gives the impression that developing countries are incapable of creating social justice themselves, in the first place China. For while we often hear the word dictator or tyrant being bandied about concerning Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the “human rights” stick is more readily used to bash China than Latin America.

As chief foreign affairs commentator for the Financial Times Gideon Rachman brazenly put it: “Unlike the other BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China), [Brazil’s] not scary. It’s not scary like China or scary like Russia and it’s certainly less chaotic than India. So, Brazil is the cuddly BRIC. It’s the one that everybody likes and they give all the tournaments to.”

Latin America fits in more neatly with the Eurocentric narrative of democracy. The degree of Europeanisation in the continent, and indeed the Americas, is greater than anywhere else outside Europe, in line with the fact that the continent’s experience of imperialism goes back further than anywhere else in the world.

But Western democracy is an elections game whereby only a candidate with adequate resources and funding can play. Deputy Director of the Legislative Affairs Commission under the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress Li Fei states “As a socialist country, we cannot simply take the Western approach.”

In China, instead of directly electing a party or a president, representatives are elected on a local level and sent to the People’s Congress. The idea behind this is that by keeping direct elections to a local level, the people can have greater influence and knowledge of the candidates they vote for.

The Chinese approach to democracy is well summarised by professor Wei-wei Zhang, who wrote in the People’s Daily : “As a ‘civilisation-type state’, China has completely different cultural traditions from Western countries. This is the starting point for us to promote political reform. The most important features of the Western tradition are a series of customs, habits and institutions based on individualism, whereas Chinese customs, habits and institutions are more based on families and the relationships derived from families.

“Given the differences in cultural traditions, the right way of constructing democracy should be combining our own cultural tradition to launch systemic innovation while avoiding disadvantages, rather than transforming our culture to adapt to Western culture and a political system under the influence of Western culture.”

If one was to judge a country’s political system by its outcomes rather than its form, then a can of worms opens. For the outcome in China has been no less than lifting 400 million people out of poverty in just 20 years, a phenomenal trend which continues.

The West seeks to continue its 500- year-old habit of pitting the nations of the global south against one another and painting such countries in the West’s image with attempts to suggest developing countries are hungry for superpower status. However, the sovereign 21st century nations of Latin America and China will not fall for this ploy.

Jaguaribe stressed that any notion of a contest between Asia and Latin America was false and instead there was a common struggle to optimise the chances of developing “horizontal” power relations amongst “diverse minded” nations. “Superpower is a name or a category which does not apply to Latin America or to Brazil. We do not aspire to that. We aspired to be in a world of more equilibrium or more cooperative stances.”

Where does this leave the West? In the US at least, the growing non- white population could well help it to adapt to a new multilateral geopolitical global scenario. Guardiola- Rivera’s prediction of an imminent Hispanic takeover in the US is borne out by recent official statistics which show that the Hispanic population will triple by 2050.

This diaspora inevitably has close links to South America, which is being shaped by 21st century socialism and its associated mobilisation of the grassroots. With that in mind, the implications of this “Latino nation within the US” merit further attention.

Nonetheless, the longer the West continues denying, and thus not adapting to, the inevitability of the decline of empire, the longer it puts off developing a serious strategy of how to fit into a new world where those countries which they once enslaved, raped and pillaged are now the real show in town.

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