An op-ed published Tuesday in the Financial Times draws some powerful conclusions about the ongoing decline of the West’s position in the world. Titled “It’s time for the west and the rest to talk to each other as equals,” it’s written by Kishore Mahbubani, former diplomat and geopolitical consultant from Singapore, who was Singapore’s ambassador to the UN for 11 years and served as president of the UN Security Council from 2001-2002.
He starts by saying, despite the centuries of leadership which the Western world provided, “the west is now losing this respect.” He asserts that “It wasn’t western values that made the west pre-eminent, but performance.” This proceeded after the end of World War II, he writes, but has now been eroded: “Incompetence has replaced competence. Societies that were once well-ordered have become deeply troubled and politically volatile.”
The former diplomat describes how the economic strength once manifested in the West is rapidly giving way to Asia, despite the fact Western countries have a larger GDP. From 2010 to 2020, members of the ASEAN group of nations in south-east Asia contributed more to global economic growth than the EU, even though their $3 trillion in GDP is dwarfed by the EU’s $17 trillion.
When it comes to geopolitics, he pointed out that, despite the West’s full-throated support for Ukraine over the recent two years and demands that the rest of the world follow suit, 85% of the world’s population live in countries that never imposed sanctions on Russia. Therefore: “Does this indicate Russian isolation? Or the opposite?”
Mahbubani makes the point that, as with the Covid pandemic, “the massive amounts of aid sent to Ukraine only confirmed the growing belief in the global south that the west doesn’t really care for it,” he writes. This, along with the internal fissures within the US (he views Trump as epitomizing these problems), show that the U.S. “can no longer serve as the ‘shining city on the hill’ for the rest of the world.”
In conclusion he writes: “All of which is to say that something profound is happening in the world—a kind of metaphysical detachment of the west from the rest. Where many people in the rest of the world once saw the west as the answer to their problems, they now realize that they will have to find their own way.”