“One land, one family, one future” (II)
Miguel Ángel Velasco cmf
Licentiate in Systematic Theology
Master in Development and Diplomacy
A multipolar, unipolar, bipolar or…
Is it multipolar, i.e., is a large group of countries making coordinated decisions about the world? Is it bipolar, with two comparable world powers, as the US and the USSR were during the Cold War? Is it unipolar, as in the years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, with the United States as the hegemonic power? Let us try to make a brief analysis of the possibilities.
Let’s start with the idea that the United States has been, up to now and since the collapse of the USSR, the hegemonic nation; is it still so? Many of us turn our eyes to the Chinese giant, but some things could be improved, considering China to be on par with the USA. The differences are very significant, in favor of the United States, concerning the productive system, technological advances, per capita income, research equipment, universities, and military capacity by land, sea, and air. All this, not to mention the absolute stability that a democratic system gives a country, although the United States has many things to revise. China is an enormous country with a huge Gross Domestic Product that is still fundamentally the most excellent factory in the world; it is a great power with much international influence but far from what the USA represents.
China has profited enormously from its entry into the World Trade Organization without complying with some of the principles of liberal economics required of all other countries; indeed, the decision to admit China into the WTO under these conditions was taken by the USA, which has the real decision-making power in the WTO. China’s growth has been based on manufacturing all kinds of low-value-added goods or components to assemble high-value-added products from Western countries. It has started a solid technological expansion, but at present, it is a vast nation with an average economic structure, which has yet to take the step to become a modern economy in its entire production system. Significant imbalances exist between the populations in the area of the great rivers of the east and the inland and western regions. The average age of Chinese citizens is increasing, and the birth rate is falling, as is the number of inhabitants and young people of working age. It is possible to venture that in a few decades, it may have a demographic problem similar to that of Europe but has yet to leap to being a tremendous innovative, productive power, except in some fields.
The COVID-19 pandemic, the invasion of Ukraine, and the possible, albeit improbable, invasion of Taiwan are causing many Western production centers to relocate to South Korea, Vietnam, and Indonesia or to return to the countries where the parent companies are located (USA, EU, Japan, South Korea). The relocation of companies and the fears and reticence provoked by China are taking their toll on an economy that needs to be sufficiently balanced.
The European Union
The European Union is now a bloc of 27 countries that practically identify with the European space; most countries that are not part of the EU, but are part of Europe, would like to be part of the Union. The historic turn brought about by Germany and France’s decision to join forces to forge a Europe without war has borne fruit; however, things are necessarily moving slower than some of us would wish. The invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s Russia has accelerated the realization of the need for a European Union that does not influence the world ONLY through “soft diplomacy” (soft diplomacy based on subsidies and aid) but also through a cohesive relevance in military defense.
The common strategies regarding the Green Agenda and the Social Agenda, the creation of a Parliament directly elected by the citizens, the standard rules in the economy, and even the flexibility regarding inflation and the external debt ceiling, speak of a European Union that is slowly but surely moving towards a reality between a federation and a confederation of states. The invasion of Ukraine has catalyzed resuming a quasi-federal construction of the EU, which had come to a standstill. The European Union is a partner of the United States, but the differential nuances, sometimes much more than nuances, reveal significant differences concerning social laws, values, and positions in international relations.
India is already the most populous country on earth. It will be the fifth country globally by Gross Domestic Product (GDP): US$3,498 billion by 2022. Could it be the substitute for a China hostile to the West, especially to the USA? India is part of the G-20; specifically, 2023 is the year it is chairing this “forum,” where 80% of the world’s GDP is represented. The invasion of Ukraine has brought to light its clear desire for independence in international relations concerning the United States, Europe, China, and Russia. India’s relations with China are conflictive due to border disputes in Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh (on the western and eastern Himalayan borders). Despite these border conflicts, which are dangerous for world security, trade relations between the two demographic giants are essential. However, India is indeed limiting the influence of Chinese companies in its economy as much as possible.
Due to India’s troubled relationship with China, the relationship with Russia is relatively good. Russia is a regular supplier of arms, oil, and gas to India, much more so at a time when Russia is selling heavily discounted oil to India. India’s relations, however, are not confined to Russia; India is part of the “Quad” (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue), the “cooperative” alliance between the US, Australia, India, and Japan, which is of increasing concern to China. In short, India is seeking independence in terms of international relations.
Regarding the productive system, India has important production centers such as Bangalore, Calcutta, New Delhi, and Mumbai. Still, it has much work regarding communication networks, energy, and balanced development of all the country’s regions. Regarding its military importance, its suppliers are Russia and, especially, the United States. The internationalization of its economy is very high. However, as in the case of China, the bad experience had during COVID-19 regarding the supply of commodities manufactured in India, as part of the production chains that end and begin in Western countries, is causing India to abandon the country and relocate its factories to safer Western countries.
Many experts believe that Sub-Saharan Africa will replace China as the “factory of the world.” If this were the case, this situation would bring about development in Africa like that of China; Sub-Saharan Africa would go from a place with outstanding deficiencies to an adequately developed area. The countries of Africa desire, more than any other area of the world, absolute independence from the great world powers. We can cite as an example the influence that France continues to exert over its former colonized countries. As a symbol of this neo-colonial situation, we can mention the existence of the Cefas Franc as a currency, controlled by France, and legal tender in countries such as Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Niger, Equatorial Guinea, and Guinea Bissau. We could also refer to the indiscriminate exploitation of Africa, which China and Russia have been carrying out for decades.
The African Union and some countries, such as South Africa, seek freedom in their international relations. Mistrust of the former colonizing powers grew with their attitude towards vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic. The European Union indeed provided vaccines, but not enough and, in some batches, with expiration dates that had not been met. It is true that the vaccines from China and Russia had all kinds of delays and inconveniences, but couldn’t the European Union have made a generous effort with an area to which it has a historical debt and which it defines as a priority in its external action, especially in cooperation? In the same vein, would it not be possible for Western countries, mainly Europe, to make good on their promises to provide funds to mitigate the consequences of climate change in Africa? The African continent is tired of hearing acceptable words that still need to be fulfilled and wants its voice and strategy.
What can we say about our beloved Latin America? It is surprising how little relevance Latin America has in magazines specializing in international relations. While there are hundreds of books and studies on China, Russia, and Europe, comparatively few deal with Latin American political issues. We could speak of silence similar to that of Africa. The world comprises only the European Union, the United States, Russia, China, and the Pacific countries. Latin America lives in a situation of constant convulsive transformation; it is urgent to seek a convergence of projects above the political signs of the changing governments; it is necessary to look toward a future of collaboration.
We can take a quick, and therefore inaccurate, look at the region; I apologize, in advance, for the simplification. Mexico’s situation is conditioned, at least, by the tyranny of drug trafficking. The countries of Central America swing between left and right, but with a balance that seems to be the dictatorship of one or the other sign. Venezuela, Bolivia, and Peru with populist regimes that have taken advantage of the disinterest of the powerful classes for the underprivileged groups to settle in power. Chile is searching for its new constitutional identity between the left and the right. Argentina is always rich and constantly changing. Brazil, taking up the path of Lula again after the Bolsonaro disaster. Haiti, the failed state mysteriously impossible to govern. Cuba, with its dictatorship still hugely influential in its environment. Colombia, with its almost perpetual problem of inter-group violence. We could go on and on across this beloved continent.
Latin America must seek common spaces and joint supranational projects. In passing, a relevant project that would help to this end is a closer link to the European Union, from where many of its inhabitants come from. Therefore, let us hope that the signing of the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and Latin America, now blocked by French interests linked to French farmers, will soon become a reality.
Miguel Ángel Velasco cmf