Welcome Brazilian elect Dilma Rousseff. And as the International Monetary Fund has shown, it is Brazil’s role to show the world that it is time for a new class of nations to start warming up for the next stage in international order. The American model is entering its second phase. Her disciples are on the world stage brandishing burnished credentials – growing foreign affairs budgets and a new international eye. With large youth populations and high gross domestic products, Brazil and other once-emerging countries have certainly emerged.
Their promise is international affairs driven less by ideology and more by economic and infrastructural development. This ought to be a very good thing indeed, if it were possible. What we will likely see is a middle ground between Western rhetoric of liberal democratic reverence for human rights and democracy, and China’s blunt foreign policy.
The news began with a historic shift. Voting rights at the IMF changed at last week’s Group of 20 meeting. The recession-age’s capstone leaders’ summit decided that it was time international institutions mirrored the shift in power. From that angle, one discerns that the relative strength of one of the world’s largest economies, the European Union, has fallen to the might of Asia. Two of the EU’s nine IMF seats will become rotating chairs, shared with the new global powers.
But what has come to define these powers in the recent past bears noting. Not because they reveal something endemic, but because they help us get to know each other. I was born in India, the West’s favorite newbie powerhouse. I have British citizenship, perhaps making me the poster-child of the decline of the West. How these two worlds interface during this twilight of America’s predominance will define our adult lives. Essentially, if today’s leaders get it right now, we ought to have a cooperative climate come our time, in 20 years or so.
Today in China, consumerism is rearing the ugly head it has shown in the West. Brand consciousness is rising, as is materialism. China’s full-throated resistance to currency deflation shows its government is aware of these pressures. The same is happening in India, where a middle class, very at ease with materialism, learned this weekend that Ferrari will soon grace its shores.The contrast is impressive: Italian racing cars meters from the ubiquitous third-world epidemic of stray dogs, flies, cesspools, broken pavement and the city’s poorest merchants.
These nations have emerged. Vignettes of South Africa and Turkey are equally rich. This weekend in Istanbul a suicide bomber took it upon himself to explode in Taksim Square, the central plaza of the city. Fingers have been pointed at the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (also known as the PKK), the Kurds who want to carve a chunk of southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq into Kurdistan. South Africa of course faces the continued trauma of the Zuma administration, perhaps only slightly less absurd than Uganda’s insane, murderous homophobia.
Meanwhile Russia continues its re-emergence, as halting and frustrating as it has been. There political killings, the abolition of voting for local government and mayoral positions, and the near-impossibility of forming political parties have evoked the wrath of a leading figure: Mikhail Gorbachev. While certainly defending his late Soviet reforms, his recent commentary on the pathetic state of democracy in Russia and the disgraceful prevention of the ability for citizens to exercise civic rights, is remarkable. Garry Kasparov of course must be mentioned in the same breath as well as Yury Luzhkov, the popular and recently ejected mayor of Moscow.
It is a mixed picture, just like ours, and one we should get familiar with as these nations begin to take their seats, literally at the IMF, and figuratively as their relative geopolitical strengths rise.
Udayan Tripathi is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. He can be reached at udayanthehoya.com. THE INTERNATIONALIST appears every other Tuesday.