Long-term challenge for developing countries to guard own values against Westernization
Published: May 11, 2022 06:30 PM
Western democracy. Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Western democracy. Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Thirty-six years after his father was deposed, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., the son of former Philippine leader Ferdinand Marcos, is set to be the next president of the Philippines. 

Before the presidential election even began, the Western media rushed to label it a decision of the democratic future. The New York Times called it the most important election in the Philippines in decades, and one that will "shape the direction of the country's fragile democracy."

The election of Marcos Jr. was even seen by some ideologically dazed Westerners as a sign of returning to dictatorship and autocracy. This easily reminds us of the ongoing war in the heart of Europe between Russia and Ukraine, which is also described by the West as a war for the defense of democracy.

Most of the media is focusing on who is going to be the winner. The ideological battle behind the war may be a more important factor for the future of the world. 

A recent article published in the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel points out that the West has adopted sanctions against Moscow, and that economic and trade relations are beginning to draw lines based on ideology, which is an unprecedented situation.

Globalization is not a fair game, and it has created conditions for the West to spread its ideology. But as so many "color revolutions" in various countries have proved, such ideological criteria can be a strong temptation for many post-development countries, but they can also lead to long-term unrest. Because every political system grows up in the soil of its own culture, it is very difficult or even impossible to take root outside of its own cultural traditions.

Many developing countries with cultures, traditions and values different from those of the West are constrained by their dependence on the West in the pursuit of economic development. Due to the constant political influence exerted by the West in the process of globalization, the developing countries are also forced to compromise on the influence and impact of the Western ideology because they are incapable of participating in the formulation of the rules of globalization. 

However, if these countries fail to protect the values on which their nations and cultures depend in the process of their own development, and at the same time take a critical stance against Western influence, especially Western centrism, they may risk being caught in continuous social unrest.

The Russia-Ukraine war has intensified the ideological conflicts and fragmented the entire world according to American and Western standards. 

It is not only a fragmentation of ideas, but it will also inevitably carry over to many levels such as technology, trade and finance. But the ideological conflict is the one which should be more concerned.

On the one hand, these standards will create enormous political and social pressure on latecomer countries, especially small- and medium-sized ones, triggering a strong sense of fear of the West. On the other hand, it is very difficult to accept Western values entirely, which will inevitably lead to a fierce conflict between Westernization and localization and an alert to national and state consciousness.

In recent years, the emergence of measures to guard one's own culture and values in Southeast Asian countries is one of the reactive responses. 

ASEAN has embarked on measures to protect Southeast Asian indigenous cultures. At the 13th ASEAN Summit in Singapore in November 2007, leaders of member countries agreed on the development of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, with the main goal of creating a people-centered community with a high degree of social and moral responsibility.

It will be a long-term challenge to preserve its cultural traditions and find a path to modernity in the face of Westernization.

The author is a senior editor with People's Daily, and currently a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. dinggang@globaltimes.com.cn. Follow him on Twitter @dinggangchina