Castañeda: Lula has sinned of excessive enthusiasm 5:01

Editor's Note: Jorge G. Castañeda is a CNN contributor. He was Mexico's Secretary of Foreign Affairs from 2000 to 2003. He is currently a professor at New York University and his most recent book, "America Through Foreign Eyes," was published by Oxford University Press in 2020. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. You can find more opinion pieces on

(CNN Spanish) -- Over the past few months, the notion of the Global South has regained new vigour, referring to a group of countries and a set of positions adopted by them that can transform the world order. Sometimes we talk about the "new" Global South; China is sometimes included in this grouping; The reasons that explain this advent are multiple, but they possess a certain force. It is one of the current trends in the international firmament that has most attracted the attention of analysts, historians and diplomats.

What is the Global South? In some senses it is most, if not all, countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia that somehow do not belong to the highly developed, prosperous world that has imposed its hegemony on international institutions since the Second World War. It includes countries that may also belong to other blocs, among which Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, in Latin America, generally stand out; South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt in Africa; and of course India and Indonesia, in Asia.

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China is sometimes incorporated into the Global South, although for multiple reasons it is not necessarily, as we shall see, an obvious inclusion.

Argentina seeks to join the BRICS 0:53

The reasons for this resurgence of what many years ago became known as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) are more or less well known. Hence perhaps the adjective "new" that accompanies the Global South. First, if we include China, the economic weight of these countries as a proportion of world GDP is infinitely higher than what the non-aligned countries could have had in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Secondly, the re-emergence of this idea comes from the fact that there is a new bipolar rivalry in the world, which replaces that of those years between the Soviet Union and the United States and which pits that same United States, but now with China. The Global South would be a third pole, apart if it does not encompass Beijing, or part of a pole if it is included.

Third, as a manifestation of this novel concept, it is frequently pointed out how a large number of governments in Latin America, Africa and Asia have not followed Western countries in their visceral condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and rather have sought to maintain a certain neutrality or even relative partiality in favor of Moscow.

Next, it points to the emergence of leaders of some countries of the Global South who have expressed, for various reasons and in recent times, ambitions for leadership, and in particular, for example, for mediation in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia for different reasons. These include, of course, Narendra Modi in India; Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil; and of course, if China's inclusion in the Global South is affirmed, Xi Jinping in China. But there would be many more who have also shown some interest or leadership aspirations such as Cyril Ramaphosa in South Africa, or President Joko Widodo of Indonesia.

Beyond specific junctures such as Russian aggression against Ukraine, the Global South seeks to reform the international system, that is, the international institutions created in the wake of World War II, be it the United Nations, or the financial institutions of Bretton Woods. One of the most important ambitions of some of these countries - obviously not all of them - is to expand the number of permanent members of the United Nations Security Council with veto power. It is about the search, for many years, by the way, for that permanent seat by Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, although then there are also other countries outside the Global South – and here the scheme is already a bit complicated – such as Germany and Japan that also seek the same thing. Another approach to reform the international system concerns the voting and contribution rates of certain countries to the resources of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. This in particular affects China, but also other nations.

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Recent announcements, probably more rhetorical than achievable, include, for example, the idea of using other currencies as reserve currencies in the world in addition to the dollar or the euro. Or, in any case, if this were not achievable in the medium term, at least carry out exchanges between countries of the Global South in different currencies, either mainly the Chinese yuan or, where appropriate, some type of new currency, as when the somewhat crazy idea of creating a "South" that would serve for exchanges between Brazil and Argentina arose.

In the same way, it has sought to replace or complement the Bretton Woods institutions through the creation of new projects, including the BRICS Development Bank, located in Shanghai, and chaired by a former Brazilian president; or the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, created by China but to which many other countries have partnered.

Beyond the stridency, nostalgia for the NAM, and an affinity between certain countries to be exporters of raw materials and importers of manufactured goods, services and technology produced by Western countries, there are valid reasons why the Global South can be considered as an idea whose future has arrived. But the viability of this notion and its coherence should not be exaggerated.

To begin with, the inclusion of China, and in an extreme case of Russia, in the Global South does not represent only a geographical dilemma, since much of the territory and population of both nations is located north of the Equator. While Russia is an underdeveloped country, except for its military and space industry, which exports raw materials and imports manufactured goods, China is the opposite. Moreover, it is the manufacturing factory of the world. In addition, China is precisely one of the two poles of the bipolar rivalry that prevails in the world today and Russia is a close and almost unconditional ally of that pole. But, at the same time, the exclusion of Russia, and especially China, from the Global South detracts an enormous weight from its participation in the world economy, as well as its population, its military power, and its financial and technological capacity. There is no easy solution to this imbroglio.

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But above all, the Global South encompasses a great diversity of countries that do not necessarily have common interests. It is true that there is a preponderance of primary exports among their economies, but this is not the case of Mexico, nor of Singapore, nor of Taiwan, nor of China of course, nor of several other countries.

More importantly, it includes democracies – even if they have been or are under threat – such as Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Senegal, Nigeria, India and Indonesia. It is not clear that the possible community of economic interests should prevail over the political diversity and even political incompatibility of many of their countries.

The Global South is a great slogan, it includes part of a claim and a grievance, both justified, and will undoubtedly influence the design and construction of a new international order when this happens. But it's not going to happen tomorrow. The goals set by the major countries of the Global South will not be achieved in the coming years, and to think that only a series of contradictory votes in the UN General Assembly on the war in Ukraine are enough to create unity within this enormous diversity is a chimera. One more, after the NAM, the Group of 77, the North-South Conferences of the 70s and 80s, the oppressed poor of the world.