Turning of the Tide : A Geopolitical Quandary for the West

It is no secret today, that the world has experienced profound geopolitical implications on the larger pretext of a drastic change in international equilibrium. Gone are the days of the Cold War tinged with the hegemonic influence of the United States and its European allies, popularly referred to as the “West”, to rest in the annals of history for time immemorial, thereby leading to a significant strategic polarisation of world politics. The dawn of the 21st Century witnessed a  remarkable resurgence of new  players, once tamed by the West, as present hallmarks of international order. 

Touted as the “Eastern Horizons of Power”, the Asian and African continents have carved a niche for themselves in the changing political climate. The context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which provided the premise for the pronounced role of regional giants like China, being the epicentre, and the  effort to resort to newer forms of diplomacy, more specifically the aspect of “vaccine diplomacy”, adopted by Asian titans  like India, have shaken the very foundations of the existing notion of unipolarity. Therefore the proposition of dramatic shift of the once puissant Western sphere of influence, is highly pertinent and hardly is there a presence of a speck of skepticism.

The Decline of the West: The Historical Rhetoric and Present Implications

Joseph Nye, an American intellectual, writing in 2010 stated that “ the rise and decline of nations has always played a significant role in a more historical assessment of international relations”, hinting towards the need to understand the very subtle nuances of the twin processes of rise and fall. Taking into account this very context, it is imperative to delve into the past in order to relate to the present.  

The premises of the World Wars and the Cold War, might have lead to an institutionalization of international order skewed towards the United States and the Soviet Union. Little did one know, that the very demise of the USSR in 1991, and the consequent emergence of the very notion of “Unipolarity”, was to place the West in a perilous position. 

Despite instances of unsolicited Western interference during the Gulf War in the 90s, unfolding of conflicts in Haiti, Zaire and Yugoslavia, the latter being eminent for the “Bulldozer Revolution”, that overthrew former President Milosevic, a crumbling reputation of the West and America’s  notion of “Pax Americana”, was to become even more evident.  

Moreover, the failure of diplomacy, with regards to the situation in Afghanistan, that continues even to this day especially in the context of the return of the “Taliban” regime,  and the consequent consolidation of global terrorism, commencing from the 9/11 attacks in the US, raised unfavourable public uproar and the consequent diminishing of the role of the West in global politics, thereby propelling her to complete geopolitical conundrum. 

The Rise of Asia: An overview of the gradual implications

Surveys conducted by the Pew Research Centre in 2011, showed that the percentage of individuals who believed that China would replace the US as the major global power, rose from 40% to 49%. Moreover, the case otherwise, in favour of the US, fell from 44% to 36%, resembling the very foundations of a possible anti-Western outlook, especially after 2011, as suggested by the researchers, given the context of the 2008 financial crisis.

However, instances of China not being the sole economic superpower, have also been manifest. Extensive research conducted, shows that public opinion in countries like Mexico, Poland and Britain is not totally skewed towards the Chinese perspective and the support of the same fell to 37% in 2013. 

On the contrary, emerging Asian economies of India and Japan  to be at par. Furthermore, the rise of regional alliances such as the BRICS and ASEAN has also portrayed a sense of multipolarity and equal division, rather than excess economic monopoly. 

The more recent phenomenon of politico-economic globalisation, therefore remains inclusive of trend when more and more states would develop their respective sets of policies and schemes, bearing in mind the larger global interests.

In light of a new political order, there is a demand for a blend of international welfare and new models of supranational government and co-ordination of the overall global processes placed on the pedestal of ideological pluralism. 

The Present Day Scenario

The year 2022, has witnessed a greater sequence of events, that has lead to a significant change of strategic perception. Against the backdrop of the pandemic, the subsequent unfolding of the Russo–Ukrainian and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, and most importantly, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan — eyebrows have been raised, and incidences of political blame game have surfaced.

Certainly with the renewed tensions and the relative prevalence of an atmosphere of a “Second Cold War”, the geopolitical sanctity of the West can no longer be glossed over. The shift to Indo-Pacific is a unique international strategy of the world to turn to newer centres of powers. With raging issues of climate change, mental health and the need to annihilate global terrorism, the Asian, African and Latin American regions have played an integral in substantially laying down international benchmarks for the same.

With India surpassing the United Kingdom on certain economic parameters and the continued influence of China and Japan along with the broader levels of dialogue at regional organizations such as the SCO, BIMSTEC and the aforementioned BRICS, ASEAN and  MERCOSUR, it could be called that the 21st Century is steadily moving towards decreased Western interests, and in a nutshell, a policy of de-Westernisation, altogether.

[Photo by the White House National Security Council, via Wikimedia Commons]

Ainesh Dey is an incoming freshman at St Xavier’s College, Kolkata. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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