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Sovereign Wealth Funds and the Rise of the “Global South”

First published: The Globalist, 31/08/2007

The West is becoming increasingly anxious about the rise of sovereign wealth funds (SWFs), powerful investment tools used mainly by Asian and Middle Eastern governments. As George Magnus argues, this fear, borne of insecurity over the West’s declining economic power, is a far-from-constructive reaction.

 Sovereign Wealth Funds and the Rise of the “Global South”

Have you ever wondered how — maybe three centuries ago and more — the peoples of Asia and the United States might have felt about the commercial activities of “foreign” entities like the East India Company? That institution lasted 274 years, lay at the heart of the British Empire, was empowered to make war and peace — and created monopolies in key commodities and trading routes.

Revealing history

The results of its business operations included the Boston Tea Party, which triggered the United States’ War of Independence and widespread resentment and violent opposition in India. If we look back even further to the late 14th and early 15th centuries, we slip into a world that was essentially Sino-centric — not Euro-centric, as we are mostly taught. Christopher Columbus set sail to find markets and gold in East Asia. Vasco da Gama was trying to get to India, and Magellan wanted to find a westward route to the spice islands of Indonesia.

Depending on Asia

Asia’s riches and development, in fact, have been argued by historians to have been the basis for the growth and concentration of wealth and trade in Europe, particularly in Venice and Genoa. If you go to these cities even today, the historical connections to Asia and the Middle East are obvious and unmistakable.In effect then, Southeast Asia was one of the most important, richest and oldest civilized regions in its own right long before the bi…more