Western colonialism was on the rise in the 1800s. The 1914 poem “The Congo”, by Illinois poet Vachel Lindsay condemning Belgium’s King Leopold’s brutality while extracting rubber and ivory in Congo writes: “Listen to the yell of Leopold’s ghost, Burning in Hell for his hand-maimed host.” All human atrocities transpired in the quest for money and power. The Congo Free State of Leopold was characterized by horrors and brutality, with forced labour, torture, murder, kidnapping, and the amputation of the hands of men, women, and children when the quota of rubber was not met. This monopoly of Western trade domination continued for a few centuries. Germany was a zooming economic power in the early 1900s overtaking both Britain and the United States in steel production and one must have heard of the exquisite watchmakers from Germany in the early 1900s. This rapid progression toward industrial maturity ushered in a massive transformation in Germany’s economic landscape, transitioning from a primarily agrarian economy to a mega exporter of finished goods. By 1913, Germany had cemented its dominance in all European markets, making it one of the world’s largest exporters by 1914. International alliances were formed, the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Italy, and the Triple Entente was formed between Great Britain, France, and Russia. The objective of these alliances was to dominate the opposite politically and economically. The Triple Entente wanted to crush Germany, which had emerged as a formidable nation with a robust economy and an expanding military following its unification. In response, the Entente suggested measures to limit Germany’s growth. On the other hand, Germany lagged in colonial pursuits, lacking possessions in the Americas compared to Great Britain and France. Despite losing many American colonies, Germany shifted its focus to Africa. However, significant portions of African territory were already under the control of Great Britain and France. Nevertheless, Germany persisted in pursuing and asserting dominance over territories such as Cameroon and Tanzania. Europe became a ticking time bomb due to all these factors. The main economic consequence during and at the end of World War 1 was the loss of money and resources on both sides. The countries involved had to invest many resources in weapons, strengthen their armies, and the developing new technological advantages. Before the war, Germany had emerged as a new industrial power. However, by losing the war, they lost most of that industrial power. After World War 1, in Europe, the gap between rich and poor increased. While many people from high economic strata did not take as long to recover or did not suffer losses, many working families lost their sources of income. Other families suffered from the death or disability of people who supported the family income. Germany plunged into an economic crisis after being forced to pay for damages. This generated resentment and discontent in the population. This would later be one of the reasons why World War 2 would be triggered. After these two deadliest wars in human history, World War I which took 17 million lives and World War II which killed 75 million people, Germany was reduced to rubble and its economy to ashes. Germany has never been able to rise as a superpower again. Before the war, Britain and France were the world’s largest economic powers. Despite winning, the devastation of World War 1 affected their economy. Given this, the United States emerged as the leading economic power, taking advantage of being part of the winning side without hosting battles in their territory. One immediate outcome of World War I was the occurrence of revolutions in various nations. The abdication of the emperor transformed Germany from a monarchy into a democratic republic, the Weimar Republic faced ongoing challenges, including a severe economic crisis that triggered staggering inflation, rendering the German currency, the Reichsmark, virtually worthless. During this time, The Economic War, commonly referred to as the Blockade of Germany (1939–1945), was a series of operations conducted during World War II by the British Empire and France. The objective was to impede the supply of essential resources such as minerals, fuel, metals, food, and textiles to Germany and later, Italy, blocking them from continuing war. The Allies against Germany inflicted a naval blockade as well as strategic bombing of economically significant targets and the proactive prevention of neutral countries from selling war materials to Axis powers. Huge changes transpired after World War II when all German factories were disassembled and transported to the Soviet Union where they were put into operation. Economic planning put a huge emphasis on industrialization, and by the time dictator Joseph Stalin died in 1953, steel production in Russia was double what it had been before the war. The reconstruction of war-ravaged Western European nations not only averted another economic depression but also played a major role in the escalating competition for global supremacy between the United States and the USSR. The intensifying conflict between capitalist and communist countries heightened the determination of American leaders to counteract the spread of communism in Western Europe, promoting capitalist initiatives instead. The significant investment by the United States in rebuilding economic markets, aimed at bolstering its own products and preventing the recurrence of a global war, utilized the Marshall Plan as a mechanism to disseminate capitalism throughout Western Europe, thereby slowing down the global power and influence of the Soviet Union. After the Axis powers were defeated, the ideological and political differences between the United States and the USSR marked the beginning of the Cold War. Eventually, the ultimate fall of the Soviet Union with the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev was hailed for his role in ending the Cold War and introducing new political and economic freedoms in the Soviet Union. The collapse of the Soviet Union boosted the influence of the United States as a global power while opening avenues for corruption and crime in Russia. Additionally, it triggered significant cultural shifts and social disruptions in former Soviet nations and smaller neighbouring communist states. From 1989 to 1991, the gross national product in Soviet countries hurtled by 20 percent, marking a phase of comprehensive economic breakdown. The USA, while forcing countries to choose communism versus capitalism rose to power as the global leader with powerful alliances and military equipment, and built NATO and the World Trade Organization where they set the rules, establishing rules about trade, economics, humanitarian laws, and justice on Western philosophical values. While the USSR empire ruled with a different set of rules, values, and philosophies, trading with their own block and working with their alliances eventually collapsed. This facilitated the USA and its Allies to rule the global stage. In modern times, this in particular was why Vladimir Putin tried to put pressure on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky not to join NATO, which in turn exploded into the Russian-Ukrainian War.
With BRICS emerging with new countries joining, the West will have checks and balances from the East. Slogans such as “Choose Diplomacy, Not Destruction” and peaceful conflict resolutions such as “Make Art, Not War” form the foundation of the new world. The new world is moving forward swiftly to explore uncharted waters and this may bring the brightest changes in the coming years.
After the fall of Germany and the USSR after World War 2, the USA expanded and strengthened its empire through free trade all over the globe. Being the global leader, the USA called all the shots with advanced military technology and spending with a mega-budget that dwarfs those of other nations. While the USA violated their own rules, peace ruled because countries understood that aligning with the USA signified their own economic growth thus fighting against the American system signified their downfall where they would be sanctioned and cut off from economic deals, so they backed down feeling fighting the superpower was not worth a war. The good side of the coin of the American system was it boosted trade lending and stability reducing global poverty. With America dominating the world scene, China, the second-most populous country on Earth has now risen to be the world’s second-largest economy benefiting from the USA’s open trade policies. Feeling bullied by the USA, China is presently calling America the world’s policeman accusing them of only following the rules that benefit calling the USA as the new “modern-day colonization” country. On the other hand, China’s hegemony of four hundred years of East Asian domination weakened other Asian economies making them solely dependent on it. China has stealthily built its powerful military strong enough to ignore the rules of the global superpower. Setting their own rules to engage with the world differently while investing around the world, using state-backed money to plough money into infrastructure projects around the world, China now has a presence in many new countries and often these countries get into Chinese debt, which works for China as future leverage. China is going to fragment the globalization and networking that has soared over the last 70 years after World War 2. In March 2023, Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China announced his Global Civil Initiative where he stated, “Countries must refrain from imposing their own values or models on others’ and advocates that countries need to keep an open mind in appreciating the perceptions of values by different civilizations, and refrain from imposing their own values or models on others and from stoking ideological confrontation. He strips away the hypocritical rules-based order constructed to benefit one group. The Chinese system will be based on common interests, beneficial deals and opportunistic alliances. In March 2023, China sent diplomats to the Middle East in the first major effort to broker a peace deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which the US could not do, revealing their dwindling influence on the world stage. America still remains on the top and will continue to do so as long as it can control the economic and financial systems that the world operates on. Since 2009, the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa with now the inclusion of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iran, and Egypt signifies the inaugural representation of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the group, while Argentina’s inclusion was advocated by Brazil, a member of the group. The BRICS expansion aligns with its strategy to assert dominance and redefine global governance by fostering a “multipolar” world order, where the voices of the Global South take centre stage in the global agenda. Over the last year in 2022, BRICS has been stepping up their cooperating, meeting annually, creating a new development bank to invest in their countries, and coordinating on various policies and even want to create their own currency other than the dollar that would weaken the USA’s dominance on the global stage. The BRICS will also become a rival to the G-7 countries which represent the US-led order of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as the European Union. This would be a huge setback for the US dollar, currently the standard for international trade. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a big pushback against the Western security and economic order, revealing which countries would fall on which side of the divide. Diplomatically, most countries are not taking sides with Russia or China or with the Western Block. Brazil and India are playing both sides, with the USA, China, and Russia, getting cheap oil and nearly half their weapons from Russia, a quarter from Europe and recently received 200 billion dollars from the US for Indian technology startups. Saudi Arabia gets nearly all their weapons from the USA but is distancing itself from the USA, turning to China as their top trading and technology partner. While Turkey is with NATO and the West, they also have strong economic ties with Russia and do not want to lose out on China’s economic expansion. Pakistan, aligned with the USA, and a partner in war and terror also has strong ties with China in investment and trade along with a 62 billion dollar investment from China’s Belt and the road initiative. China had invested in Africa with over 254 billion dollars in 2021 while the US only traded 44 billion dollars. In the past, the USA dominated the system to force countries to choose a side according to ideological values, between capitalism or communism, but now nonaligned countries will exploit the bidding war between the superpowers to get the best trade. This is now happening in Brazil, which was once an ally of the USA, but now as a member of BRICS refuses to sell weapons to Ukraine even after they requested a deal. South Africa cut its ties with Israel due to the humanitarian crisis in GAZA inflicted by Israeli bombs. The US is clipping off China’s access to Western technology to weaken its economic and military progress. America and its Asian allies are encircling China with their warships in the Pacific Ocean to intimidate China investing in billions of dollars and weapons. China is now working with BRICS to develop an alternative economic block. All these major growing economies will only become globally powerful in the next five years to a decade. The world is now in a state of imbalance because too much power and money is concentrated in the hands of one country. The present war between Israel and Gaza with 20,000 Gazans killed by Israeli bombs with 12,000 being children and babies in just seven weeks, the largest massacre of children in modern history in such a short time reveals how handicapped the United Nations and other nations are to stop this because a couple of countries dominated the global amphitheatre. The world needs the balance of another economic power in the East to rise again. The dawn of hope lies in BRICS which could help balance the slanting globe between East and West dismantling the Western supremacy dominating the global network both economically and militarily at unequalled levels. While there was a big economic gloom after World War 2, there was also a bloom for some nations. There are 25 smaller countries not under the influence of the USA that hold the largest economies according to the Economist Intelligence Unit These countries are playing both sides to their benefit. During the Israel-Gaza conflict, Qatar which holds the title of the “richest country of the world, with a size of 11,571 km, one of the smallest countries in Asia by area was able to broker peace between Israel and Hamas, (though temporary at present) once again revealing the declining power of the USA, despite still being the most powerful nation in the world. Now, with BRICS emerging with new countries joining, the West will have checks and balances from the East. Slogans such as “Choose Diplomacy, Not Destruction” and peaceful conflict resolutions such as “Make Art, Not War” form the foundation of the new world. The new world is moving forward swiftly to explore uncharted waters and this may bring the brightest changes in the coming years.
(The author is a freelancer. The views, opinions and conclusions expressed in this article are those of the author and aren’t necessarily in accord with the views of “Kashmir Horizon”.)