For centuries, the self-righteous West has been obsessed with transplanting its own culture and systems into other countries, inflicting countless deaths and suffering in the lands it deemed as “uncivilized” or “underdeveloped.”
Colonialism is a case in point. According to incomplete statistics, during the colonial period, the West took the lives of tens of millions of indigenous people in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and enslaved 12 million Africans.
Today, the West is exporting its system in the same logic: some still believe they know the best about the interest of the lands and peoples they once exploited, despite the fact that such kind of forced system transplanting has typically resulted in nothing but a continuity of tragedy.
THE POISONED APPLE
One of the most notable failures is the transplantation of the Western democratic system.
Neither competitive elections nor multi-party systems have led to fair and efficient governance in developing countries. On the one hand, frequent election campaigns make politicians cater to their voters with unreasonable campaign promises, especially in countries with high poverty rates.
On the other, inconsistent policies for short-term gains, the inevitable byproducts of frequent changes of government, prove fatal in nations in dire need of long-term developmental projects to achieve growth and modernization.
Another fatal danger is that Western system is more prone to party rivalry than consensus. When competing political parties have to swallow the win of their rivals in the election, they tend to work against rather than with the government, if not attempting a coup d’etat.
In fact, coups d’etat have happened more than 200 times on the African continent between 1950 and 2021, making disorder a norm. Extensive civil and religious wars, regional conflicts, economic and demographic declines, and the rise of terrorism have turned the so-called “Arab Spring” into the “Arab Winter.”
Some countries in Latin America continue to experience violent protests and political crises under so-called Western democracy.
THE TROJAN HORSE
Apart from Western-style democracy, financial support is often used as key venue for exporting Western values and systems.
Western-dominated multilateral financial organizations have offered loans on the strict condition of introducing radical neoliberal economic reforms based on the Washington Consensus, a drastic economic strategy described by some economists as shock therapy.
For developing countries, without robust, competitive domestic industries, the so-called free market is only a one-way street: products from the West quickly flood in to further weaken the local businesses.
As a consequence, Western countries deprive low-income countries of the chance to boost growth, create jobs, or generate tax revenues, making debt repayments based on sustainable development a goal beyond their reach. Look no further than some Latin American countries. Economic growth halved in the 1990s after launching reforms based on the Washington Consensus.
Economic failure enables the West to tighten its control of developing countries. In Eastern Europe, state-owned giants with no access to Western markets quickly went bankrupt after privatization, most of which were later acquired by Western multinationals.
THE DISCOURSE TRAP
In many cases, Western models of social governance are depicted by Western elites and media as the last straw for crisis-ridden developing countries.
The “Let Them Eat Tweets” style of governance and ill-regulated social media have paved the way for the prevalence of populism where emotion could triumph over reason. Political participation is plagued with disinformation, rage and a meaningless war of words. Street demonstrations, far from being a symbol of freedom, have been exploited by political parties to take down their opponents. The angry voters, having voted out the incumbent government, only find their appeals ignored by the next.
In Arab countries where the West successfully instigated anti-government protests and violence through Western-dominated NGOs (non-governmental organizations), media and the Internet, people live either in economic stagnation or constant chaos.
If an emerging economy has been lucky enough to hop over the above traps, there is still one more challenge that may potentially ruin all their efforts: the Discourse Trap.
With its agenda-setting and discourse dominance, the West peddles concepts that are detrimental to developing countries at their level of development. The discourse dominance is also exploited to stigmatize countries the West deems as potential adversaries. Labels such as “Tacitus trap,” “failed state” and “pariah state” could bring misery to a developing country for decades.
The West’s bigotry to force system transplantation upon developing countries is attributable to its outdated thinking. It cares about not the well-being of the developing world but maintaining its globally dominant position. While for developing countries, transplanting Western system has proven only a recipe for disaster, and a scourge of misery.