GIGA Focus International Edition English

The Decline of Europe and the US: Shifts in the World Economy and in Global Politics

GIGA Focus | International Edition English | Number 01 |

The world is facing a dangerous power vacuum which may last for decades. This vacuum is developing because Europe and the US are currently in a phase of relative decline while China, India and Brazil are claiming international standing without being able to fill this role.

A close look reveals several significant changes in global politics and the world economy:

  • China, India and Brazil are becoming global actors and are gaining relative strength. Together with other regional powers (e.g. Turkey, South Africa, Indonesia), they are influencing global energy, climate, security, trade, currency, and development policies.

  • At the same time, however, the aforementioned nations are too weak because they – despite strong economic growth – are unable to eradicate poverty in their own countries, and an extremely imbalanced distribution of income and wealth prevails, resulting in massive social problems. The weak infrastructure, technological underdevelopment, and low levels of education of the majority of the population are characteristic of their economic and social situations.

  • Their ability to effectively lead on a global level is limited as they do not yet provide enough global public goods (security, monetary arrangements, development aid). Furthermore, they are often not recognised as leading powers in their own regions.

  • Their alliances, such as IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa), BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, soon South Africa as full member) and BRICSAM (BRICS plus Mexico), show a low degree of institutionalisation and a large gap between rhetoric and reality. Additionally, the new regional powers disagree on many issues and thus do not constitute a counterpole to the West.

  • There is a growing normative disconnect between the regional powers, Europe and the US.

Related Research at the GIGA

Suggested Citation Style

Kappel, Robert (2011), The Decline of Europe and the US: Shifts in the World Economy and in Global Politics, GIGA Focus International Edition English, 01, urn:nbn:de:0168-ssoar-288915


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The German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) – Leibniz-Institut für Globale und Regionale Studien in Hamburg publishes the Focus series on Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and global issues. The GIGA Focus is edited and published by the GIGA. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the institute. Authors alone are responsible for the content of their articles. GIGA and the authors cannot be held liable for any errors and omissions, or for any consequences arising from the use of the information provided.

General Editor GIGA Focus Series: Prof. Dr. Sabine Kurtenbach