Hazem Saghieh – Asharq Al-Awsat
.A French diplomat in the 19th century saw America’s geographic location as the source of its power: in its north and south were weak countries, and on its eastern and western sides, there were only fish. As Canada, Mexico and the “fish” of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans are neither a threat to America nor a boundary to its power.
This theory ceases to function when places are distanced, and the geographical condition is disrupted, especially when that faraway country is a “whale” like China. What makes the issue more complex is that the latter has gained strength by a Western treatment called free trade. This is how something from America and the West has intervened.
It is a matter of irony: this treatment was not tried with harshness, as in China, the country of the Great Wall, to protect the “middle empire” of the “barbarians”. The free trade treatment was imposed on the Chinese to be dazed with opium. In the mid-nineteenth century, they were dragged into the famous two “opium wars” with the British.
But what China resisted back then became its own religion, under a communist regime that has chosen to join the World Trade Organization, before leading, under Xi Jinping, the call for globalization. Paradoxically, we see the United States, under President Donald Trump, opposing the freedom of exchange and globalization, and considering it only as a fabric that nourishes the veins of the Chinese and the veins of all those who “steal” us, i.e. the whole world. This is said by the country, which has often been described as the country of immigration and immigrants, and which has long given to the fugitives from their homelands and nationalities, a homeland and a nationality.
When Trump speaks of the“stealing” of his country, he invokes the language of Third World officers and guerrilla leaders, when they denounce the “looting of the American empire” of their people, and integrates it into the language of European anti-Semitism, which speaks of “the parasitic Jews who suck our blood.”
Therefore, in accordance with the broad generalization of the expressions of “East” and “West”, Xi-Jinping’s China is now home to the Western capitalism, while America now fosters Eastern Third World ideology. But the decline of the “Western” thought in America led to the weakening of democracy, without any progress for the West in China.
Lately, the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre reminded us that Beijing, since 1989, has decided – on the bodies of hundreds of dead, some of them say thousands – not to embrace democracy. It reminded us that capitalism, as launched by Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s, will not cross this threshold.
Yes, China imported the “West” in its economic form, but kept it under the control of the “East” in its authoritarian form.
Beyond that, the changes in the ideological dictionary of nations, and in the balance of power among them, are no longer reflected in the conditions of democracy. If it is true that diplomacy has never been a companion to that democracy, it is now its outspoken enemy.
This solid reality is matched by two truths that reinforce the same meaning. The world has recently celebrated the 75th anniversary of the landing of Normandy, and a few months later will mark the 30th anniversary of the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the fall of Communism and its camp. However, the collapse of the European totalitarianism is now seen as a reversible achievement.
The landing of Normandy: that greatest maritime invasion in history – which paved the way for the liberation of France and the victory over the “Western Front” – formed one of the major military turning points that defeated fascism. America’s leading role and cooperation with Britain and the European adversaries of Nazi Germany were decisive.
Today, despite the presence of Trump in London’s loud celebrations, American-European relations are at their worst, and the US president is trying to persuade the British to implement a “Brexit without agreement” with the EU.
If it is too much to talk about the resurgence of fascism, it is certainly the fall of many taboos that prevented such a resurgence. The two results together are another cause of concern for democracy in its cradle.
But the Russians, whose leader Vladimir Putin was not invited to the London celebrations, recorded a notional idea that is relevant to the interpretation of history: The role of the Normandy landing in eradicating fascism is much exaggerated. The real role was for us, the Russians, who entered Berlin after we exhausted the Germans in Stalingrad, in the most important battles of the “Eastern Front”.
The demolition of the Wall: Yes, communism was conquered after the defeat of Nazism, and its downfall was achieved through peaceful and civil revolutions that expanded the scope of democracy and the scope of Europe and changed the concept of the revolution itself. But Russia and Central Europe now constitute the largest geographical area governed by national populism. Doubts over the unity of the continent and the animosity towards immigrants and refugees are the strongest doctrine in that region of the world.
However, unlike the former relation between Russia’s communism and communism in Central Europe, caution, and even fear, connect the populist movements of Warsaw and Prague to the most powerful populism in Moscow.
In this jungle of contradictory trends, one thing is clear: the decline of democracy, and hence the decline of security and stability in a world threatened by an event that might fall on us like thunder.