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Decline of the West – Rise of the East?

Academic Discipline: Economics/International Politics
Assignment Subject: Decline of the West – Rise of the East?
Academic Level: Undergraduate-4th Year
Referencing Style: APA
Word Count: 1,038

Decline of the West – Rise of the East

In the past few decades, most people believed that the world is dominated by the United States of America (USA). This worldview has been challenged by academic scholars from time to time, but American foreign policy has exerted supremacy over most parts of the world for many decades (Beeson, 2020). Since the end of World War II in 1945, Western powers have set the benchmark when it comes to governance and trade-related issues. However, the financial crisis of 2008 exposed the internal weaknesses of American and European economies. The economic depression that followed the financial crisis revealed severe fractures in capitalist societies and Western political systems (Spagnol, 2020). In the past couple of years, COVID-19 has again brought to light the growing perception of “the great divergence” between the West and the East.

In 2020, the American economy suffered a huge setback due to two black-swan events: COVID-19 and the political upheaval in the USA (Vatikiotis, 2021). The United States of America didn’t fare well during the COVID-19 crisis as people were unsure of the integrity of American leadership. The failure of the Trump administration in the USA and the Brexit in the United Kingdom (UK) showed that as the Western powers engulfed themselves in the establishment of white supremacy (Wight, 2020), China emerged in the East as the new global economic and geopolitical powerhouse. As a result, the common perception today is that the western powers have lost their dominion as guardians of the world (Vatikiotis, 2021).

The Asian Development Bank estimates that by 2050, Asia will have a 51% share of the global economy (Saunders, 2014). Europe will account for 18% and North America will account for only 15% of the global economy (Saunders, 2014). This is because the West is currently suffering from “tides of isolationism and fragmentation” (Spagnol, 2020, p. 1). At the same time, the East is undergoing a massive transformation when it comes to trade and relationship building. Decisions of geopolitical importance are being made in Beijing, New Delhi, and Moscow; not in London, Washington, and Paris (Spagnol, 2020). Moreover, in an attempt to “westernize” the whole world and grow their influence, the Western powers have sabotaged relations with their key allies. It is high time that the West accepts that other countries perceive things differently and that democracy or liberalism is not the only ideology that can be used to marshal a society.

The Unstoppable Rise of China
Till the 19th century, China was considered to be a great economic and military power. It was the world leader in commerce, technology, and international politics. After lagging behind the West for more than two centuries, it seems that China is all set to regain its position as a supreme power. In 2019, China’s total value of exported goods and services was equal to $2.6 trillion. In the US, this figure was $2.5 trillion (Vatikiotis, 2021). The United States of America might still be ahead of China when it comes to military capabilities, but academic scholars believe that China is inching away in this field too and a military conflict in the Eurasia region would not bode well for the US. Vatikiotis (2021) believes that there has been a permanent shift in power from the Western colonial powers to the Eastern colonies. It is not just China that is racing ahead and establishing its supremacy; other countries such as Japan, South Korea, India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore are thriving with entrepreneurial activity and brimming with energy (Vatikiotis, 2021).

Is the West really declining?
There is another school of thought that asks the question, “if the East is gaining strength, does it really mean that growth is stagnating in the West?” Saunders (2014) states that even though the West is not growing at the rate that Asia is growing, it is not declining in absolute terms. Even though the West is growing at a slower rate than Asia, income levels and quality of life have remained relatively stable in the past few years. What’s happening is not a decline, but a rebalancing of power and industrial growth. The East is becoming more like the West.
The rise of the East is contributing to the good quality of life in the West. Saunders (2014) states that this is the best time to be living in America or Europe because, in a globalized world, people in the West have access to a wide variety of goods and services. Also, the rise of the East is playing a big factor in the financial and economic stability of the West. As it stands currently, China imports more goods and services than the United States of America. More than 50% of the global exports are imported by countries in the East. This means that China and other Eastern countries are a big market for Western businesses. Saunders (2014) also believes that the phenomenal growth in the East has brought significant investments into the Western part of the world. Countries like Canada and Germany have reached high employment levels because of their business with burgeoning Eastern economies.

The Asian hinterland is blessed with a plethora of natural resources. The Middle East, Central Asia, and Russia have huge reserves of oil and natural gas (Spagnol, 2020). China has rare elements such as terbium, silicon, and dysprosium. Moreover, China and Russia have complementary resources; if they unite with each other, they can form a new world order. Russia is rich in natural resources and weaponry; China has access to huge amounts of capital, modern technologies, and advanced manufacturing capabilities. Russia is underpopulated, China has an abundance of people which translates to cheap labor. Both countries detest ceding power to the United States of America. As the old saying goes, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” (Spagnol, 2021, p. 2). This is the ideology that is getting China and Russia together.

To sum up, Western countries will have to work hard to manage the global transition or rebalancing of power. They would also need to manage internal conflicts and motivate their people to come up with innovative ideas so as to stimulate growth and maintain their relevance in the future world order.

Beeson, M. (2020). “The decline of the west”: what is it, and why might it matter? Asiaglobal Papers, 1-44.

Saunders, D. (2014, January 18). Why the decline of the west is the best thing to happen to us. Retrieved from The Globe and Mail:

Spagnol, G. (2020, November 21). Is the west declining or is the east rising? Retrieved from European Institute of International Relations:

Vatikiotis, M. (2021, January 16). Asia’s rise and the steady decline of the west. Retrieved from Nikkei:

Wight, J. (2020, October 8). COVID has accelerated the decline of the West and the rise of the East – why we should embrace it. Retrieved from Medium: