A new global order

Daniel Warner
Wednesday, Mar 29, 2023

It is banal to say that the United States is in decline in economic comparison to China. It is not banal to say that the liberal international order established by the United States and other Western powers after World War II is being challenged by countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS).

Narratives of democracies versus autocracies miss these much deeper changes that are taking place. To set the context of where we are and where we were; from 1980-1990 the United States, Germany, France, and Japan made up 44.2 percent of contributions to global nominal GDP economic growth according to the International Monetary Fund. Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa made up 4.8 percent. By 2010, the numbers had radically changed. The ‘liberal’ countries made up 25.6 percent. The BRICS made up 27.5 percent.

An obvious response to these statistics is that focusing on economic indicators misses the larger question of values. While various institutions were established after WWII based on values such as human rights and international cooperation through the United Nations, it is obvious that other institutions are now being created under the leadership of non-Western actors with different values, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the world’s largest security regional organization in terms of geographic scope and population, or the economic Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with China and 14 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region with 2.2 billion people and 30% of the world’s economic output.

These new organizations feature forms of cooperation not under Western leadership or based on Western values. The United States relative decline, therefore, must be seen in the context of a larger diffusion of power.

Where is this leading? At a recent academic conference, Professor Kyle Lascurettes of Lewis & Clark College, proposed a distinction between the post WWII liberal international order dominated by the United States and Europe and an evolving global international order with no obvious leader.

His point was that functional issues, such as trade, climate and global health can be agreed upon by countries with different visions of how societies should be organized. Instead of arguing about whether democratic capitalism or authoritarian socialism are the best systems, agreements can be reached on other issues less ideological.

Global cooperation can exist in different forms in different venues. Within the liberal order, having countries be part of the World Trade Organization or the World Health Organization does not mean they will agree in the UN Human Rights Council or the UN Security Council on issues of human rights or war and peace. Nor does it necessarily lead to submitting contentions to arbitration before tribunals like the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the RCEP are not Western based and outside the traditional liberal order, but there is no reason why they cannot cooperate on specific issues with organizations like the European Union.

Excerpted: ‘US Decline in Perspective of a Global Democracy’. Courtesy: