Globalisation is a ‘process by which capital erodes and minimises the significance of national and local borders, opening the way for global markets, trade, and capital flows’ (Smith, 2005). Through this process the major powers in the West, such as the US have been able to exploit the South. Since the world has become more interconnected through advances in technology, transport and communications, transnational corporations (TNCs) and nation-states in the West have been able to exploit resources and cheap labour in the South, such as in Africa and Asia. Countries in Asia were then able to develop as TNCs invested in them, injecting capital and educating the country’s workforce. For example, in the 1960s we saw rise of the ‘Asian Tigers’ which soon ‘catapulted into the top ranks of national economies’ (Smith, 2005), followed by South East Asia, and most recently the rise of the BRICs. Whilst these nations have developed and gained a substantial foothold in the world’s economy we have seen a shift in power from West to East. China now has the world’s second largest economy and India sixth, overtaking countries such as France. This suggests that transatlantic predominance of the West and a Eurocentric world is a ‘thing of the past’ (Fritz-Vannahme, 2009) and that we are moving towards, or arguably are already in a multipolar world.
Multipolarity can be defined as ‘the rise of regions that are now distinct in therms of their economic size, political power, approaches to democracy and liberty, and their cultural norms’ (O’Sullivan and Subramanian, 2017). The idea of a multipolar world is that the world’s economy rests on a number ‘pillars’, power is spread across the globe and not just concentrated in one place. The rise of China has been hugely influential on the rest of the world and has faded visions of a unipolar world, ‘China’s rise signals the emergence of a new kind of multipolar international order’ (Clegg, 2009). The West now has to compete with newly emerged nations such as the BRICs for resources in the Global South. The BRICs now have the economic power and advances in technology, transport and communications to exploit the global South. China has had great success by deepening its relations with the developing world, promoting a South-South relationship. It has developed a particularly strong relationship with Africa and has invested heavily in the continent. At the China-Africa Summit held in Bejing in November 2006 representatives from 48 African countries showed up, many of which were heads of state. China has extended credit loans and invested in infrastructure projects in many countries in Africa in return for extracting essential raw materials. Through building relationships with the global South, China has been able to exploit it’s resources, meaning the West will start to loose out. Despite many agreements, Horace (2008) describes the relationship between Europe and Africa as neocolonial. After two decades of the West’s involvement in Africa, conditions of the African poor have got worse and levels of exploitation and deprivation have increased (Horace, 2008). At the China-Africa summit China told African leaders that they ‘will honour and support their independence, sovereignty, political systems, and traditions and lifestyles’ (Sheng, 2008), and that they will invest in business that will benefit Africa instead of exploiting it. Alliances with China have seemed like an attractive option to Africa as Chinese investment provides potential economic development for African countries. As the relationships between China and Africa, and the rest of the global South strengthen, the West will have less influence, loosing out on vital resources and trade.
The West will also be able to exploit less due to it’s declining demography, particularly in Europe. The world’s population today is at 7.6 billion people. The United Nations (UN) (www.un.org , accessed 5/01/18) predict that this figure will rise to 9.8 billion in 2050. However, this growth is occurring in developing countries, and we have started to see a decline in population growth in the West. Whilst Europe’s working age population is starting to shrink, the size of the working force population in developing countries is getting bigger leading to economic growth and development (Van Langenhove, 2010). Van Langenhove (2010) puts bluntly that ‘Europe will have neither the people nor the economic weight to become a global power’, and we have recently witnessed Europe loose out on voting rights. At the COP15 meeting in Copenhagen in 2009, Europe was excluded from all final decisions. Ultimately, Europe will be less able to exploit the global South as it has increasingly little say in multilateral organisations and does not have the power or workforce to continue exploiting the South in ways it has done previously. It will start to loose out to new economic powers such as China that are now extremely influential and have a powerful working population.