The West vs the Rest – or the Core vs the Periphery?

What is the main dividing line in the modern global politics? The flavor of the season is “the West vs the Rest” paradigm. The declining West is trying to preserve its global domination, while the rising Rest is fighting for an alternative world order denying the universalism of the Western institutions, principles and values.

Russia and China are leading the rebellion of the Rest with Moscow questioning the US security hegemony and Beijing challenging the West-centered economic and financial system. The epic fight be- tween the West and the Rest will define the new world order to come. Is it really the case? I find it difficult to subscribe to this vision of the contemporary global trends.

The US might be overstretched, the EU might be in a deep crisis, and liberal values need to be reviewed and revised to fit the realities of the XXI century. But I fail to see ‘the Rest’ as a viable and comprehensive alternative to the West in either economic, or social, or political or philosophical sense. ‘The Rest” grows in importance and influence only as much as it westernizes itself.

I cannot identify an inherently non-Western middle class in Russia, in China or in India; it may well be anti-US or even anti- EU, but in terms or lifestyles, consumption models, career aspirations, value systems it can hardly be labeled as non-Western. It would probably be more accurate to look at the modern world through “the Core vs the Periphery” paradigm, where peripheral and semi-peripheral countries are desperately trying to penetrate the Core, while the Core is trying to protect its exclusiveness. Most of the rising powers aspire to become deal-makers instead of being mostly deal-takers, but they are not ready to challenge the system that allowed them to rise and to prosper.

If so, it makes little sense to talk about a fundamentally new world order based on a set of mysterious un- specified non-Western values. The task is more practical and more realistic – how to make the existing world order more inclusive, more democratic and more receptive to legitimate grievances and aspirations of rising powers. 

Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council.