TFF Associate in Beijing
December 14, 2020
When numbers do not add up anymore,
people turn to faith…
I couldn’t suppress the feeling of a sense of a religious undertone when I went through the following report of more than 70 pages, released a little while ago by the US Secretary of State: The Elements of the China Challenge. It’s a 10-step blueprint for confronting the ‘China Challenge’ or maybe better phrased the 10 Commandments to counter the severe threat of China to the current world order – ‘the free world’.
A senior administration official told the Washington Examiner that “over the coming weeks, the Trump administration will continue to expand the depth and breadth of the historic actions it has taken over the past four years to protect the vital interests of the United States and its allies countering Beijing’s predatory and coercive behaviors”.
Originally published at Gordon Dumoulin’s LinkedIn profile
Also in Europe, there is an increasing stance against China being a threat to the Western world with national policies being drafted on how to deal with China. Even last week, the Dutch political party D66 announced the need for a parliamentary investigation into the “threatening Chinese interference in Dutch society”.
Read more about the why and how the policies by Western countries with regard to China came about in my recent article “A glimpse behind the facade of Western China policies“.
At this stage, there is an extraordinary movement going on, directed by the United States traveling the world and preaching the absolute need for a grand alliance to protect the free world from the risk to be overthrown by China’s ‘predatory’ ambitions.
Many leaders and politicians in Europe and other parts of the world might have been relieved when President-elect Biden won the elections last month from President Trump but make no mistake about the course of foreign and geopolitical policies in coming years.
Biden and his team might be much more charming and eloquent priests in their sermons, seemingly more understandable and seeking dialogue. However, there is no sign in their agenda about America’s position in the world and especially in the Biden team’s stance against China that can be interpreted to be much different from the 10 commandments.
During the election race, the next American leader has denounced Xi as a “thug”, criticized the ruling communist regime as a “dictatorship”, and warned of “swift economic sanctions” against human rights violations in Chinese territories.
“The United States does need to get tough on China,” Biden wrote earlier this year in an essay in Foreign Affairs.
The policies that shall live up to the commandments might differ though. Biden’s administration will probably be more successful to get the grand Western alliance together and moving forward by a collective engagement which was obviously missing in the communication between the Trump administration and their allies, especially with those in Europe.
The separation between China and the USA (with other Western nations in the slipstream) might intensify by switching from withdrawal policies to politicizing multilateral institutions such as NATO or WTO with more ideology.
Moreover, Trump’s legacy of his China agenda with continuing policies against China expected during the last months of his presidency has set the China course for next decade(s).
John Ullyot, Trump’s National Security Council spokesperson, told the media, “Unless Beijing reverses course and becomes a responsible player on the global stage, future US presidents will find it politically suicidal to reverse President Trump’s historic actions.”
Dr Henry Kissinger urged last week at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum to restore lines of communication with China, he said “unless there is some basis for some cooperative action, the world will slide into a catastrophe comparable to World War I” further mentioning that military technologies available today would make such a crisis “even more difficult to control” than those of earlier era.
Cambridge historian Christopher Munro Clark observed in his classic account of the origins of World War I, The Sleepwalkers, “On both sides, they imagined that ‘bluffing’ would suffice to achieve success. None of the players thought that it would be necessary to go all the way. The tragic poker game had begun.”
Even though none of the major powers expected nor desired war, “the protagonists of 1914 were sleepwalkers, watchful but unseeing, haunted by dreams, yet blind to the reality of the horror they were about to bring into the world,” the historian added.
As Clark observes, the end of Cold War “invites comparison with the Europe of 1914” because of “a more complex and unpredictable array of forces”, including the rise of China and the relative decline of the US.
Biden will hopefully heed Kissinger’s advice to some extent for “some cooperative endeavors” in order to “alleviate” tensions between the West and China to a manageable level. This is at the minimum a dear necessity for a glimpse of light towards the future.
However, current circumstances pose severe risks to this hope. The pandemic with its unavoidable, unprecedented economic crisis aftermath all over the world in coming years – together with a potentially growing divide and unrest in political and social movements – makes us stand, beyond doubt, at a civilizational crossroads.
The choice we have to make is either to start walking the steep trail up for a long term, structural agenda for innovation, economic reforms and solving the environmental malaise in global strategic collaboration or slide down the slippery slope toward further separation, polarizing and politicizing ideologies with short term destructive policies at increasingly uncontrollable speed and force.
During the coming years, foreign policy agendas in Western nations, especially with regard to China, depend foremost on how well Western governments will perform in their domestic lands, managing the pandemic, economic reforms and creating social stability for their people.
This will have to happen under the Damocles sword of political divide, economic pressures and general decay. Nonetheless, the ambition to remaining in or grasping power today still seems the greater good compared with pursuing the vision of the much-needed economic, environmental and social transformations for the people and for the common global good.
Sadly, for “this greater political good” pursued by the few, any tactic is permitted, irrespective of political colour or individual.
The faith in Sinophobia
When numbers or facts no longer provide the desired support for political agendas anymore, people turn to faith. Politicizing faith is the ultimate escape from carrying out agendas without the need of showing evidence or proof anymore – and so is the fabrication of ‘evidence’ with a urpose.
Sooner or later, such faith and belief simply turn into truth and reality.
Western exceptionalism has been in place since WWII and has documented by numbers (facts, statistics) a welfare, prosperity and norms and freedoms as indisputable facts and as superior to any other form of governance or human community in the world.
This perception is now being challenged in recent years by several new geopolitical, economical, social and high-tech perspectives from both outside but also not the least from within.
The ‘numbers’ backing up this Western exceptionalism and superiority seem to simply no longer be credible.
Two schemes, or scenarios, pop up in one’s. The first scheme is that the West self-adapts and repositions itself to meet the new circumstances; preferably this would take place through a dearly needed new multilateralism in which we tackle the global challenges.
This first option would definitely be a huge, unprecedented task, not only for leaders anywhere in the world but also for humankind. Although we can see a few discussions and initiatives in this direction, we must nervously ask: Will that multilateralism strategy be sufficient to withstand or at least balance the second scheme in operation now – that of faith-based confrontation?
Simply ut, Sinophobia means a fear or dislike of China, or its people or culture. The faith of Sinophobia has systematically and meticulously been created over the years as a new pillar in Western exceptionalism and is meant to protect the ‘ideology’ and providing support to Western political agendas.
Numbers, facts or proof are often no longer needed anymore. Things can simply be stated and circumstances and perspectives be fabricated by institutes and individuals to promote Sinophobia.
This happens without further questioning or learning. Sermons by politicians – enforced by the mainstream media – are becoming more passionate and aggressive by the day – all in order to maintain the ‘grace’ of Western exceptionalism.
But who is actually the enemy? What are the real threats – and where? Might it not be a good idea, for once, to look inward, into the mirror with the head straight up and eyes wide open if we want to find truthful answers to such questions?
But this seems impossible nowadays. The words of faith and exceptionalism cannot be questioned. The facts – fake or omitted – could have been…
It seems that the Western self-confidence when it comes to participating in the global competitive game of trade, technology, commerce, innovation or environment is crumbling. Seemingly incapable to adapt and change, Western nations are moving inward and resting on outdated ideologies and undermining principled strategies while building up military budgets instead.
Just a few days ago, the UK announced its largest military budget since the Cold War – and this amidst the unparalleled economic crisis created by the pandemic.
Such things happen where we ought to take up the unique opportunity during ‘this year of change’ to reach out for a new phase of global collaboration to build a better, sustainable future altogether for our children and the environment.
It is an utterly dangerous development, particularly in the light of the wise words of Cambridge historian Christopher Munro Clark referring to WWI:
“Is the world sleepwalking? Watchful but unseeing, haunted by dreams (or faith), yet blind to the reality of bringing potential horror to the world”.
Or listen to the equally thought-provoking words of Graham Allison, American political scientist and writer of the book, “Destined For War: Can America and China escape Thucydides’s Trap” (2017) when he refers to the rising political tensions between the USA and Japan in 1930s leading to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 during WWII;
“We should remember that when we say something is inconceivable, this is not a claim about what is possible in the world, but rather about what our minds can conceive”
Are there leaders around who will stand up and divert the course of ‘sleepwalking’ and the faith of Sinophobia faith and – before it is too late – avoid the catastrophe we can see at the horizon?
We must all reach out a hand and move towards multilateralism, carry through structural change and take responsibility – every single one of us to the best of abilities – for creating an inclusive future. We, the current generations, owe it to our children and the environment.
And it is not too late … yet.
Originally published at Gordon Dumoulin’s LinkedIn profile
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