Geopolitical Southwest? The Decoupling Between Latin America and East Asia In The World-System

Monday, July 14, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: 419
Oral Presentation
Antonio GELIS FILHO , FGV-EAESP, Sao Paulo, Brazil
For the last couple of decades, since the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, much of the debate about south-south relations was captured by the idea that there was a "Geopolitical South" which, if heterogeneous from many perspectives, could be envisaged as being composed by countries equally positioned inside the capitalist world-system, as semi-peripheral areas with shared interests in their relations with core countries. In this paper, I challenge such assumption by showing that Latin America and East Asia have drifted apart inside the architecture of the world-system. In order to do that, I present qualitative and quantitative data to sustain three main lines of reasoning.

First, I show that while Latin America has remained basically a provider of commodities and consumers to core areas, East Asia has become a main provider of manufactured products even to those areas situated in the core of the system.

Secondly, I demonstrate how Latin America and East Asia economic relation has changed from a  relatively unimportant one to an intense but asymmetric relation with all characteristics of core-semiperiphery relations: while Latin America keeps being mainly a provider of commodities to East Asia, it has also become an importer of Asian manufactured products. Not only that: the amount of foreign direct investment from East Asia to Latin America has been intensely increasing,  while investment in the opposite direction is tiny.

Finally, I analyze specific cases inside the geopolitical framework of the world-system that are good examples of how such transformation took place: China-Brazil economic relations, Chinese investment in South America's natural resources and the evolution of the BRICS group.

I conclude by sustaining that the expression “Geopolitical South” must be redefined, if it is to keep being meaningful. What we have today is a ‘Geopolitical Southwest’ that is increasingly positioning itself as a ‘double semi-periphery’.