Tag Archives: China

A South American perspective on the ‘rise’ of China

Is it possible to explain the phenomenon of China in South America with the North American concept of “rise”?

In the context of plural international dynamics, the idea of “rise” can be replaced by the notion of “presence”, as a point of departure to elaborate explanations about China according to the South American context. Both rise and presence would be complementary dynamics carried out into what Amitav Acharya has called “a multiplex world”

It is not surprising realists and idealists have come to see ‘the rise of China’ as the most important international phenomenon addressed by the International Relations theory (IRT). This issue has been so far addressed as a concern from the North, being the axis of two intertwined debates: the end of the American world hegemony and the power race between the United States and China.

The phenomenon of China certainly leads to uncertainty in analysing strategic contexts or project national foreign policies. Peter Katzenstein has addressed this concern: “[c]hange can lead to a degree of individual and collective insecurity and a politics of threat and fear that elicits a political and intellectual response –simplification through the creation of misleading binaries. Conditions of uncertainty and change and the search for stability are thus politically closely linked”. (Katzenstein, 2012, p. 3)

In this sense, the most important intellectual response to the phenomenon of China given by North American IRT has been the binary use of the concept of rise and whether China will be a peaceful or un-peaceful world power. However, to what extent does this search for stability satisfies South American necessities related to particular changes produced by the presence of China in the region? Does the concept of “rise” addressed by IRT’s leading paradigms explain the relation between China and South American states?

What does it mean “rise” for the IRT?

The IRT has generally assumed the idea that “rise” means a race for international power. From this point of view, China would be only the last modern case of a tragic list in which other great powers have risen and fallen during the last four centuries. The concept implies a competition between powerful states –mostly Western ones- whose rivalry has global scope because it implies the possibility of military conflicts between them.

Paul Kennedy’s book “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers” (Kennedy, 1988) was an important contribution to the understanding of “rise”, not because it was an original and assertive approach, but because it was a best seller that deeply addressed the concept at the end of the eighties, having considerable influence in the West and also on southern scholars who were up to date in Western intellectual trends during the post-Cold War years (Anthony Giddens, 1989).

Kennedy’s notion of “rise” involved the realist principle of international competence in Europe during the post-Renaissance period. According to him, “the warlike rivalries among its various kingdoms and city-states stimulated a constant search for military improvements, which interacted fruitfully with the newer technological and commercial advances that were also being thrown up in this competitive, entrepreneurial environment” (Kennedy, 1988, p. xvi). In this context, a little few years after Kennedy’s book, Kenneth Waltz described the emergence of the new structure in international politics after the Cold War as follows: “The behaviour of states, the patterns of their interactions, and the outcomes their interactions produced had been repeated again and again through the centuries despite profound changes in the internal composition of states […] States have continued to compete in economic, military, and other ways” (Waltz, 1993, p. 45).

It is worthwhile noticing that the IRT did not deeply address China as emerging power at the end of the Cold War and during the nineties. Instead, at that time the first concern was whether US had to face the return of European 19th century patterns of balance of power. Nevertheless, when the issue gained importance during the next decade, the main theoretical output provided by those previous debates consisted in realising that the interaction between US and China could lead a struggle for international power. Since then, the main theoretical dilemma has been whether China will be or not a peaceful emerging power, which is expressed in two leading theoretical approaches.

The first approach argues that China cannot rise peacefully, because powerful states are rarely satisfied with the distribution of power. Following the Waltz’s neorealist theory, John Mearsheimer argues that states want power because they have to protect themselves from each other, so despite knowing that powerful states control offensive military capabilities, it is impossible to know other states’ intentions (Mearsheimer, 2003). In this sense, states use their power to survive, ignoring culture, identity or types of regimes; while the first goal of using power is to pursue regional hegemony, the second one is to ensure that no rival great power controls another region (Mearsheimer, 2003, pp. 140-145).

The second approach argues that China will rise peacefully, because it “has powerful incentives to work with and integrate into the existing order”, which is centralised in US (Ikenberry, 2011, p. 249). This thesis has been proposed by John Ikenberry, who states that China will not proceed to rupture the international order because its capitalist economy depends on the international trade ruled by liberal institutions; moreover, China has engaged with the most important international organizations created by the American liberal order, such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. From this point of view, Ikenberry explains that if this argument was correct, the global system would retain political characteristics of a one-hub global system even as the distribution of material capabilities shifts in favour to China (Ikenberry, 2011).

Is “rise” the only way to explain China as international phenomenon?

In order to assess the theoretical meaning of rise to the case of China, what needs to be particularly emphasized is the fact that the Chinese phenomenon does not only mean a competition for global power, but also a new and unknown international actor. From this point of view, the relation between China and South America entails diverse dynamics which would reinforce a multiplex world instead of a sort of international monolith. The idea of “multiplex world” was proposed by Amitav Acharya. According to this author, it is “a world of diversity and complexity, a decentred architecture of order management, featuring old and new powers, with greater role for regional governance” (Acharya, 2014, p. 8); in the particular case of China, even if it “never becomes the leader power of the world, its rise would still fuel a desire and need for legitimizing and exporting its own values and institutions for domestic and international governance drawn from China’s own history and culture” (Acharya, 2014, p. 46).

In the context of the existence of diverse international dynamics, the idea of “rise” could be replaced by the notion of “presence” as a point of departure to elaborate explanations about China according to the South American context. From this point of view, both rise and presence would be complementary dynamics carried out in this multiplex world. There are some important reasons to argue this conceptual change.

First, rather than being a comprehensive approach to explain world powers’ behaviour, structural realist theory reflects an ethnocentric explanation about the US foreign policy towards Latin America since the Monroe Doctrine. Mearsheimer argues, for example, “[i]f China continues its striking economic growth over the next few decades; it is likely to act in accordance with the logic of offensive realism, which is to say it will attempt to imitate the United States” (Mearsheimer, 2003). The fact of assuming similar behaviours would entail serious risks for East Asian countries, particularly in terms of suffering future Chinese interventions. In this sense, some Asian states could be under Chinese threat in the future as Chile and Venezuela were threatened by Washington during the governments of Salvador Allende and Hugo Chavez, because if countries had a kind of anti-Chinese hegemony president, China’s intelligence agencies would promote a coup d’état.

Furthermore, although Mearsheimer’s theory could be correct in the future, China’s behaviour deeply differs from US today. For example, China does not have military alliances with states from South America, while the United States, in contrast, has military allies such as Japan, South Korea and Philippines. China does not carry out military exercises across the South Pacific either, while the United States recently accomplished the provocative Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP), at the South China Sea, increasing diplomatic tensions with China because of the “innocent passage” of the USS Lassen within China’s twelve nautical miles at the Subi Reef (Krejsa, 2015).

Second, the engagement between South America and China experienced since the 2000s coincided with the declining of US influence on South America under George W. Bush’s government. Such a decline was caused by several factors such as: (1) the failure of the Consensus of Washington’s policies in countries like Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina, which in turn resulted in the rise of anti-neoliberal governments; (2) the general rejection against US invasion to Iraq in 2003; (3) and the rise of Brazil’s international influence under the presidency of Inacio Lula Da Silva.

The decline of US influence in South America in relation to China is because the latter neither recommends nor obligates other countries to follow universal values. So despite the existence of a China’s Policy to Latin America, there are flexible approaches to deploy Chinese foreign interests across the region. Thus, for example, China carries out strong free trade relations with Chile, while with Argentina accomplishes technological projects on atomic technologies. With Peru there are important investments on mining exploitation, and with Bolivia, China launched the first Bolivian Satellite (Chinese Government, 2008). The US policy towards the region in the past, in contrast, had been characterised by the promotion and imposition of “American” values and the establishment of regional institutional frameworks, such as the Organization of American States (OAS), the Consensus of Washington and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

Third, it is necessary to explore the possibility of finding out southern inter-subjectivities and southern agencies as expressions of a multiplex world. In this sense, it is undeniable that Ikenberry’s approach seems inclusive in terms of describing the international order as a system where every country participates in it, independently of power, geography, ethnicity, or political system; however, the same approach oversimplifies the multiplex logics of international relations around the world, entailing the risk of omitting the study of non-Western processes or South-South relations. It also excludes any possibility of studying whether some non-Western institutions, norms or behaviours can nest in this order. For example, the principle of non-intervention coined by South American countries, after decades of Washington interventions across the region, did not reinforce a one-hub system when countries rejected the Bush administration’s plan to invade Iraq in 2003. The  Washington Consensus was also rejected by several South American countries after serious institutional crisis at the beginning of the last decade. Bolivia, Venezuela, Argentina and Ecuador experienced deep crisis after the neo-liberalization of their economies during the eighties and nineties, which in turn explained the emergence of anti-neoliberal governments. From this point of view, and given the China’s experience dealing with Western powers since the Wars of Opium, it would be likely to find more similar understandings about the principle of non-intervention between South America and China, than between these both and US.

Fourth, the emergence of China as international phenomenon must lead to realise its own particularities that are not necessarily understood according to the binary approaches provided by neo-realism and neo-liberalism. For example, in the case of realist paradigm the concepts of competence and anarchy could not have been theoretically legitimated without the European experience of disintegration in several nation-states since the Peace of Westphalia. The European disintegration and anarchy deeply differ from China’s experience, which legitimates unity and harmony as key concepts. Martin Jacques has pointed out this difference in his thesis about civilizational state: “Instead of seeing China through the prism of a conventional nation-state, we should think of it as a continental system containing many semi-autonomous provinces with distinctive political, economic and social systems” (Jacques, 2009, p. 203).


For South American countries, the rise of a new world superpower does not mean a radical change, because they have always been under the hegemony of external superpowers, such as Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. The presence of China in South America, in contrast, implies an unprecedented experience of interacting with a non-Western power whose culture, identity, values and history deeply differ from the other Western powers.

The presence of China in South America reinforces dynamics for a more diverse world, rather than a homogeneous American-led liberal hegemonic order or a system where world powers are competing for surviving. Thus, the assumption of multiple dynamics related to China is a point of departure to explain this phenomenon according to the South American context.

Both rise and presence are elements of what Amitav Acharya has defined as a multiplex world. The complementarity of these concepts can ameliorate the state of uncertainty given by the fact that this the first time in our modern era that a non-Western state—which is also a civilizational state—is becoming a global international actor. In sum, this phenomenon entails a broad range of dynamics flowing in several directions, for example: from north to south, south to south, west to non-west, or non-west to non-west.


Acharya, A., 2014. The End of American World Order. 1st ed. Cambridge: Polity.

Anthony Giddens, M. M. a. I. W., 1989. Comments on Paul Kennedy’s the Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. The British Journal of Sociology, 40(2), pp. 328-340.

Chinese Government , 2008. Official Publications. [En línea]
Available at: http://www.gov.cn/english/official/2008-11/05/content_1140347.htm
[Último acceso: 27 November 2015].

Ikenberry, J., 2011. Liberal Sources of American Unipolarity. En: M. M. W. W. John Ikenberry, ed. International Relations Theory and The Consequences of Unipolarity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 216-251.

Jacques, M., 2009. When China Rules the World. New York: Penguin Press.

Katzenstein, P., 2012. China’s Rise: Rupture, return, or recombination?. En: P. Katzenstein, ed. Sinicization and The Rise of China. Civilizational processes beyond East and West. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 1-38.

Kennedy, P., 1988. The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000. 2nd ed. London: Unwin Hyman.

Krejsa, H., 2015. The National Interest. [En línea]
Available at: http://www.nationalinterest.org/feature/the-real-meaning-behind-americas-fonops-the-south-china-sea-14195
[Último acceso: 29 October 2015].

Mearsheimer, J., 2003. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. Updated Edition ed. New York: Norton.

Nau, H., 2001. Why ‘The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers’ was wrong. Review of International Studies, Issue 27, pp. 579-592.

Reuters, 2015. Reuters. [En línea]
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/23/us-china-corruption-idUSKCN0SH08I20151023#Up18EcepK9HhvcTP.97
[Último acceso: 16 November 2015].

Waltz, K. N., 1993. The Emerging Structure of International Politics. International Security, 18(2), pp. 44-79.


Claudio Coloma is with the School of International Studies, University of Santiago of Chile

Southpaw released

Southpaw is a new literary journal of writing from  the global south. It is dedicated to the idea of  ‘south-south’ dialogue: to conversations between  writers, artists and readers about life away from  the metropolitan centres of power and culture. It is a literary left hook from the south features fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, essays, reviews and  images.

Southpaw issue 1 is focused through the theme of  displacement. Writers from South Africa, Indigenous  Australia, Philippines, Colombia, Suriname, Angola,  Indigenous Japan, China, the Horn of Africa, Tunisia,  New Zealand and non-Indigenous Australians write fascinating stories and reflect on home and eviction, migration and asylum seeking, cultural diplomacy  and political oppression, cross cultural dealings and cultural reclamation.


  • Kevin Murray on the idea of south,
  • Danilova Molintas on the city of Baguio, Kendall
  • Trudgen on diplomacy in East Arnhem Land and
  • Martin Plowman on UFOs in South America.
  • Fiction by: Karen Jennings, Tony Birch, paulo da costa, Ruth San A Jong and Paul Maunder.
  • Non-fiction by Yeeshan Yang, Karen Lazar, Batool Albatat and Aliza Amlani.
  • Reviews by Alice Robinson (Tamil pulp ction), Justin Clemens (Mapanje), Bernard Caleo (Ubby’s Underdogs), John Hughes (Planet B) and Vicki Crowley (Indigenous sexuality).

South Paw Order Form

Southpaw launch–a new literary journal

South Paw Order Form



You are invited to the launch of a new literary journal
Southpaw: writing from the global south

To be launched by
Professor Stephen Knight
Wednesday 14th December
Arena Project Space
2 Kerr Street Fitzroy
6.30 pm


All welcome

Southpaw # 1 features writing from and about Australia, Africa, China, Philippines, South America and the Pacific around the theme of displacement. It includes essays on the idea of South, power shifts in East Arnhem Land, change and development in Philippines, UFOS in South America and displacement in Colombia fiction and creative non-fiction from Angola, Australia, China, New Zealand, South Africa and Suriname; reviews of Tamil pulp fiction, Indigenous graphic novels and documentaries from the Pacific. There’s an Ainu fable re-told, a radio play and poetry from many places in the global South, much of it in new translation.

Further information: 9416 0232 or 0418 304 500.

Word, Image, Action: Popular Print And Visual Cultures

Tuesday 7th June – Wednesday 15th June 2011 

FESTIVAL OPENING @ North Melbourne Town Hall,  Tuesday 7th June, from 6pm
Music by Little John (duo)
2011 Thesis  Eleven Annual Lecture with Ron Jacobs and Eleanor Townsley Media,  Intellectuals and the Public Sphere
Opening Dinner @ The Institute of  Postcolonial Studies 8:40pm (RSVP essential, by 30th May, contact details  below)
PRINT AND VISUAL CULTURES WORKSHOP @ La Trobe  University, Bundoora campus, Wednesday 8th June –Friday 10th, 9:30am –  4/6pm
A 3 day series of lectures, invited papers, plenaries, film  screening, art exhibition, artists discussion, and live performance from punk  art band ‘This Histrionics’.
WIKILEAKS FORUM @ The Wheeler  Centre, Monday 13th June 3-5pm
Does Wikileaks Matter? A forum on  Wikileaks with Robert Manne, Guy Rundle, Peter Vale and Eleanor  Townsley

@ State  Library of Victoria, Experimedia Room, Tuesday 14th June, 4-8pm
Half-day  public forum on the work of Zygmunt Bauman with speakers from The Bauman  Institute, Leeds and The Thesis Eleven Centre; followed by world premiere  screening of ‘The Trouble with Being Human These days’ by Director Bartek  Dziadosz. Concludes with reflections on ‘The Trouble with Being Human These  days’ from Zygmunt Bauman in conversation with Keith Tester
trailer: http://www.beinghumanthesedays.com

Christopher Pinney Impressions of Hell: Printing and Punishment in  India @North Melbourne Church Hall, Saturday 11th June, 7:30pm hosted by  The Institute of Postcolonial Studies
Ron Jacobs The Media Narrative in  the Global Financial Crisis @Melbourne University, Monday 13th June,  6:30pm, followed by dinner and drinks, hosted by the TASA Cultural Sociology  Group
Anders Michelsen Atrocious imagination: the paradox of affect –  the imagination of violence Keynote for Violence and the Imagination  Colloquium@Monash University, Caulfield Campus, Wednesday 15th June, 9  -10:30 am Program: http://arts.monash.edu.au/ecps/conferences/violence-imagination/
PUBLIC FILM SCREENING @State Library of  Victoria, Experimedia Space, Wednesday 8th June, 6 – 8pm
Public screening  of Robert Nery’s documentary ‘In 1966 the Beatles came to Manila’  

@LUMA, Glenn College La Trobe  University, Bundoora, Friday, 10th June 4-6pm
Asks how contemporary artists  remobilise vernacular cultures to interrogate and mediate the cultural ethics  of globalisation, as they engage themes including surf culture, tattoo  designs, informal architecture and colloquial language.
Curators Lecture  by Ryan Johnston, and discussion with local artists
With Punk Performance  Band ‘The Histrionics’ and the Boombox Burgers Taco Truck
FILM  AND VIDEO EXHIBITION: A POST BOOM BEIJING @Bendigo Visual Arts Centre,  View Street, Sunday 12th June 12:30 -4pm
Day trip to the Bendigo Visual  Arts Centre, including viewing of Arena: A post boom Beijing, film and  video exhibition.
Curators lecture by Laurens Tan.
Walking tour of Melbourne laneways, street art  and installations as well as local art and moving image museums (limited  places available, booking essential. Contact details below)  

@ La Trobe University  Bundoora, Wednesday 15th June, 10am – 5:30pm
Settler Societies And Popular Culture Various  speakers, including Marilyn Lake, Peter Vale, Patrick Wolfe and Anthony Moran  will discuss the popular cultures of settler societies, exploring issues of  race particularly, and looking comparatively across the experiences of  different settler societies.
Keywords Masterclass   Inspired by Raymond Williams Keywords (1983), thirteen thinkers will talk each about their chosen or nominated keyword, approaching  their topics in terms of traditional keywords (socialism, liberalism); 20th  century innovations (such as the postmodern and schemata); or exploring the  currency of other words (such as utopia, the migrant, regions, urbanism, walking and metanoia).

Festival of  Ideas Project
Thesis Eleven Centre for Cultural Sociology
La Trobe  University
ph: +613 9479 2700
fax: +613 9479 2705
email: thesis11@latrobe.edu.au <outbind://95/thesis11@latrobe.edu.au>

Coloniality and De-colonial Thinking Workshop (Hong Kong, June 2011)

One of the objectives/themes of the Hong Kong Advanced Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Studies is to examine the construction and the legacies of modern Euro-centered epistemology, especially the links between the development of Western rationalist scientific and technological “advances” and the construction of a differential, hierarchical ordering of peoples and their knowledge. This hierarchy has implicitly engendered colonial and neocolonial violences (both physical and also epistemological); and nowadays in the academic world it is present in the structural asymmetry within the distribution of scientific production between Euro-American intellectual spaces as loci of production of knowledge and the rest of the world reduced to the condition of an object of study or of branches of Euro-centered categories of thoughts and its institutions.

Therefore, we seek to examine various aspects of these epistemological imbalances and to promote a more insightful understanding of global coloniality.  We are interested in examining the epistemic and political potential of geopolitical of knowledge to redress the imbalance that coloniality has created and naturalized. Moreover, the analytic of coloniality is always already de-colonial thinking and it implies going beyond the conformity of established disciplines and their organs of authority. With this in mind, this exploratory workshop invites international researchers known for their engagement with these critical challenges, to lead discussions on coloniality and de-colonial thinking with the objective of finding common grounds, and to explore possibilities of mounting international collaborative research projects.

More information here.

After the Missionaries

Please note the following events related to ‘After the Missionaries’ issue of Artlink.

FORUM Has the world changed?

  • Has the Kyoto Protocol changed how rich and poor countries relate to each other?
  • Is Australia moving away from the Anglosphere?
  • Is the Global Financial Crisis a time to look at alternative economic models?
  • Is ethical the new black?
  • Have artists changed in how they related to the world around them?

You are invited to join a discussion in real time with live people in the same space. These people will include contributors to the ‘After the Missionaries’ issue of Artlink. With luck, there will also be some copies, hot of the press.

TIME: 6.00 -8.00 pm Wednesday 10 June
PLACE: Domain House, Birdwood Drive, Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne
For more information, click here. To submit a question, email here.

This conversation is in association with the exhibition Journey to the Surface of the Earth (22 May – 16 June) featuring Tony Adams, Caroline Banks, Jasmine Cairns, Chaco Cato, Domenico de Clario, Daniel Gustav Cramer, Carla Dinale, Sarah Farquharson, Dean Glanville, Alice Hardie-Grant, Chiho Hasegawa, Madeline Hook, Elliot Howard, Ash Keating, Courtney Lubrooke, Alya Manzart, Dylan Martorell, Charissa Maria, Katarina Matic, Darren Munce, Jacinta Murphy, Lindsay Parkhowell, Roberta Nelson, Anna Noonan, Elizabeth Presa, Joel Ralston, Annie Sumner, Joseph Scott, Lisa Wilson. This exhibition forms the outcome of an inter-disciplinary seminar at the Centre for Ideas (Southbank) taught by Elizabeth Presa and Elliot Howard. This event itself occurs in the context of Evolution – the Festival and the Amnesty of Ideas program of Southern Perspectives.

LAUNCH After the Missionaries issue of Artlink

The ‘After the Missionaries’ issue of Artlink will be formally launched at Craft Victoria, Saturday 20 June 4pm, by Dr Connie Zheng, senior lecturer in management at RMIT and expert in how Chinese do business. This will be preceded by a forum on working with traditional artisans (for more details, see here).

THEREAFTER ‘After the Missionaries’

There will be an opportunity to reflect on the questions raised by After the Missionaries at the Institute of Postcolonial Studies (early September, date to be advised).

Copies of Artlink will be on sale from 15 June.

Mexico and China – another North in disguise?



Chinese President Hu Jintao (2nd L) holds talks with Mexican President Felipe Calderon Hinojosa (4th R) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, July 11, 2008.



Fans of the Chinese and Mexican national teams root for their teams during a soccer match between Mexico and China at Qwest Field.

Romer Alejandro Cornejo Bustamante is Professor of El Colegio de Mexico specialising on China from a Latin American perspective.

1. Can you briefly describe your research

Tengo dos proyectos de investigación, uno es sobre las relaciones entre China y América Latina, con especial énfasis en México, y el otro es sobre los cambios en el sistema político de China.

I have two research projects, one is on the relations between China and Latin America, especially Mexico and the other is on changes in the political system of China.

2. For Mexico, how does the relation to China differ from that towards USA?

Difieren mucho, primero en términos de percepciones, en México ha existido un movimiento racista anti chino en el pasado y aún quedan reminiscencias de ello. Se conoce muy poco sobre China y en todo caso se asumen las posturas que predominan en la prensa internacional. El racismo ha revivido ante una relación comercial  extremadamente deficitaria para México, en muchos sectores hay una percepción de amenaza. En el caso de Estados Unidos la situación es contraria, predomina una gran admiración por el vecino del norte. Gran parte de la elite política y económica ha estudiado, vivido o tiene inversiones en Estados Unidos. Se acepta sin muchos reparos su calidad de potencia mundial. En el pasado la construcción del nacionalismo tenía, entre otros elementos, el anti Estados Unidos, pero esa construcción por muchas razones se ha esfumado.  La relación económica es muy estrecha y con excedente para México.

They differ widely, first in terms of perceptions. In Mexico there was a racist anti-Chinese movement in the past and there are still vestiges of it. Very little is known about China and we mostly take the position prevailing in the international press. Racism has been revived since the extreme commercial deficit in Mexico; in many areas there is a perceived threat. In the United States the situation is contrary, where there is a great admiration for the neighbor to the north. Much of the political and economic elite has studied, lived or has investments in United States. It is accepted without much hesitation as a world power. In the past, the construction of nationalism had, among other things, been anti-US, but for many reasons that focus has vanished. The economic relationship with the US is very close and with a surplus for Mexico.

3. Do you see particular concepts that emerge from Mexican thought that have
relevance beyond Mexico?

No. Por lo menos no en las ciencias sociales, éstas son una calca de las de Estados Unidos y Europa, aún en los estudios subalternos. Tal vez en la creación literaria y artística haya creaciones de relevancia, muy probablemente en lo que concierne a la cultura de frontera, a la asociación entre cultos religiosos y actividades fuera de la ley, en la cultura de las bandas delictivas.

No. At least not in the social sciences, they are a replica of the US and Europe, even in subaltern studies. Perhaps in literary and artistic creations there is relevance, most probably in terms of border culture, the association between religious worship and activities outside the law, in the culture of gangs.

4. What do you think is the usefulness of ‘south’ as framework for
intellectual dialogue?

Creo que es extremadamente útil. Por ejemplo en el trabajo que actualmente hago sobre la relación entre China y América Latina, el diálogo con mis colegas es sumamente difícil pues en su mayoría tienen una perspectiva desde el “norte” con respecto a China, concebida ésta como un “sur” irracional, incapaz, poco creíble y amenazante porque lo ven como un “sur” empoderado. Desde mi perspectiva, China es “norte” venido a menos y en proceso de reivindicación. Esa perspectiva me facilita mucho la comprensión de las decisiones de la elite de ese país. Además la perspectiva del “sur” me remite a planteamientos filosóficos y antropológicos en la explicación de la conducta humana individual y políticamente. Recomiendo repensar algunas cosas a partir de esta película  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0250258/

I think it is extremely useful. For example, in the work we do today on the relationship between China and Latin America, the dialogue with my colleagues is extremely difficult because most have a view from the “north” with respect to China. They conceive it as a “southern” – irrational, incapable, not very credible and threatening because they see it as a “south” power. From my perspective, China is “north” fallen on hard times and in the process of reclaiming its place. That perspective gives me much understanding of the decisions of the elite of that country. Besides, the prospect of the “south” to me refers to philosophical and anthropological approaches to the explanation of human behavior individually and politically. I recommend to rethink some things from this movie http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0250258/

To reform or to start again? An argument across the south

In Kuala Lumpur 24-26 January 2009 there was a south-south event titled The International Conference on Hegemony, Counter Hegemony and Alternatives to Hegemony: Implications for the South. This event was part of a ‘scholarly collaboration program’ between three major academic networks across the South – CODESRIA, APISA and CLACSO. The participants represented a tri-continental range of views, with particularly strong representation from Nigeria, Malaysia, Colombia, Mexico and Argentina.

The session began with an introduction by the organisers, Hari Singh (Malaysia), Adebayo Olukoshi (Nigeria) and Alberto Cimadamore (Argentina). They contextualised this initiative within the  sense of discomfort that the only way colleagues in the South could learn about each other’s counties was through northern centres, such as the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. The aim of this event was to share ideas about the hegemonic relation of North towards South in a broad manner, including perspectives beyond international relations.

So the conference began with a discussion of ‘verticalism’ which explored the cognitive dimension of the South. In discussion, the Western orientation towards the highest point in the landscape was countered by a Botswana perspective, where the top of the hill is considered a lonely place far from the centre of power in the valley. And the Western focus on the setting sun was also differentiated from the Pakistani poetry in praise of the rising sun. This phenomenological approach to the idea of South seemed a fruitful dimension of comparison.

The first of many debates began with the Colombian situation. There were strong differences over whether FARC guerrillas were a spent force in Colombian politics, with one arguing that they had lost support through their violence and another claiming that the issues they represented were still relevant, even though they were denied by the middle class elites that dominated politics.

The second and parallel debate concerned the issue of language. It was proposed that languages in different regions needed to be consolidated around a lingua franca, such as Hausa in West Africa and Swahili in East Africa. This consolidation was seen as necessary to develop regional capacities, though it was countered by a defence of linguistic diversity. This argument seemed to reflect an ongoing division between the realist and romantic positions in the South – whether the answer lay in adapting existing structures of power to Southern interests or in dismantling those structures in themselves.

China was a dominant topic in the second day. It began with a critique of the damage that Chinese imports had inflicted on the Nigerian textile industry. Almost all textile factories have now turned to vegetable oil production.  Part of the problem seemed to lie not just with the Chinese, but also Nigerian entrepeneurs that too often sacrificed quality for the sake of low price. The discussion developed around the hope that China might provide an alternative hegemon to the United States. But it seemed that China had little interest in competing with the US for global leadership, and was simply looking to further its own interests. In the course of this discussion the positive dimension of hegemony was revealed as the promise of a leadership that would seek to establish common interests. The broad argument between reformist and revolutionary positions raised the question whether the solution was to establish a new fairer hegemon or try to find an alternative to hegemony per se.

During the course of these discussions, questions were often raised about the meaning of South. What is the ideological link between countries of the South? Is there a common interest beyond contestation of the global hierarchy? It seemed in this context that the idiomatic use of the word ‘South’ played a important role in opening up the problem of global equity. ‘South’ provides a more neutral identity than the negative concepts such as ‘developing’ or ‘third’ world. But giving identity to this ‘South’ is an important challenge that still lies ahead. Future discussions are likely to be around the ethical dimension of the southern perspective.

Finally, there was discussion about Australia’s position as a country of the geographical South yet of the Global North. Australia’s ongoing perspective on these issues, particularly from a Pacific point of view, was warmly welcomed.

Presenters included Franca Attoh Chitoh (Nigeria), Olga Castillo-Ospina (Colombia), Romer Cornejo (Mexico), Jerónimo Delgado (Colombia), Gladys Hernández (Cuba), Brendan Howe (South Korea), Ijaz Khan (Pakistan), Bárbara Medwid (Argentina), Lipalile Mufana (Zambia), Kevin Murray (Australia), Kolawole Olu-Owolabi (Nigeria), and Kenneth Simala (Kenya)

The paper on ‘verticalism’ is available here.