He did us the honour of giving an interview to M&B.
Mining&Business Magazine: Your research focuses on the major impact of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In what way was the event crucial?
Bertrand Babie: Because the fall of the wall marked the definitive and real transition from a world shared by the powers of the North to a truly globalized world. Bipolarity and the Cold War had somehow frozen the domination of the former powers and this rivalry fuelled the mainstream of international news. Once this rivalry disappeared, the world finally harnessed its full potential.
M&B: The end of the east-west divide?
BB: Yes, absolutely. And the “Congo crisis” in 1960 was a major moment in the projection of EastWest bipolarity in the recently decolonized world of the South. The disappearance of the wall will have highlighted the artificial nature of the alignments between the “old” powers and the countries of the South. This has made it possible to remove the misunderstandings, and permitted a full and complete process of globalization.
M&B: You often say that the former so-called “Westphalian” powers have entered into interdependent relations with other countries, but they have difficulty understanding them. Can you elaborate?
BB: The old Westphalian world, that is, the one born out of the Treaty of Wesphalia in 1648, which was the birth certificate of the European powers, still invites nostalgia. Nostalgia for a bygone era when European powers were truly alone in the world and others were rejected and cast as inferior, dominated or even non-existent. To this must be added the fear that this global regime, which is completely favourable to the powers of the North, will gradually disappear.
M&B: You go so far as to talk about strategic blindness....
BB: Yes, absolutely. And this strategic blindness comes from the fact that the great powers resolutely want to continue to do as they did yesterday, that is, to decide alone, in the absence of the other, and far too often, to substitute themselves for the other in the management of their conflicts or in the management of their internal affairs.
M&B: Is Africa the next continent on the emerging list?
BB: In Africa, inequalities between States are still deeply marked, but above all, the very notion of emergence is a notion in constant evolution. The first emergence was the new Asian and then Latin American economies, which challenged the predominance of European and North American economies. Today, emergence means more than anything else the substitution of an old world for a new one without economic performance necessarily being the dominant criterion. Other criteria will be taken into account. Demography, for example, makes Africa increasingly important. Natural resources also applies. We must not forget that Africa still contains more than 30% of the world’s natural resources.
M&B: For you, globalization is one of the essential criteria, isn’t it?
BB: That’s right, but in the new vision of what globalization can be. This is where we find the most remarkable new form of emergence. We are witnessing not only a reconstitution of the international agenda around new actors, new countries, new powers, but also, a reevaluation of major international challenges according to new parameters.
M&B: What are these major issues?
BB: Human, food, health, environmental and food security... And on these different subjects, Africa is emerging to build a new approach.
M&B: You have just returned from the DRC. With what you have seen, you have a more precise vision on the future of Congo. Does this future depend on its subsoil, its arable land or its fresh water?
BB: We always tend to consider that the future of a country is essentially determined by its human resources... Well, concerning Congo, and apart from its ability to control the great resources that everyone needs, what has struck me most is the extraordinary dynamism of Congolese youth.
M&B: Without any transition What is your opinion on the role of China in Congo and what you have seen of China in Africa in general?
BB: Mm-hmm! I addressed the Foreign Affairs Committee of the French National Assembly and 80% of the questions focused on China in the world. That’s the current obsession! What I have seen is a fairly common Chinese presence in the DRC. I expected it to be more visible.
M&B: Can you tell us a few words about your relationship with Africa?
BB: I have a special relationship with Africa that goes back a long way. African art has always fascinated me. There has always been an intuition in my mind that led me to Africa... My dual Persian and French origins have always led me to take an interest in otherness. And for me, African art is a source of inspiration in the face of this principle of otherness to which I am very attached. I am also fascinated by a humanity that is much more expressive than representative…
M&B: You’ve published your 19th book, you tell us a few words about it?
BB: The 19th I’ve written alone... and the 40th if we take into account those I’ve written in collaboration. It is called “Contested hegemony” and is a bit like an extension of its predecessors. The thesis I defend is that our modern age may have given the Cold War era the illusion of hegemony achieved through American hegemony... But since the fall of the Wall, we see that it no longer works... The United States no longer wins wars and fails to impose the international order of their dreams… Western culture is being challenged... Other cultures and models are asserting themselves and showing themselves to be more resistant and more visible than those carried by power. That is, in a way, the argument of the book.
M&B: Bertrand Badie, thank you.