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What Eddie McGuire, Xi Jinping, and Joe Biden Tell Us About Changing The World Order

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Eddie McGuire isn’t a name that normally appears alongside Xi Jinping and Joe Biden, but each of these men tells us something about our time.

In their own way, they are part of the change of the old order, a change that involves liberalism, democracy, racism, presumptions of power and of course the future of the West.

McGuire discovered that racism now has its costs: in his case, his post as president of Collingwood Football Club.

Eddie couldn’t just walk out of the damning Do Better report leaked earlier this month, which revealed systemic racism in Collingwood.

Now McGuire is caught in the crosshairs of a global race calculation.

The Black Lives Matter movement amplified the voices of previously too often speechless people.

Tee Wright, of Washington, raises his fist in front of a Black Lives Matter banner in front of the White House in Washington.
Black Lives Matter began under the leadership of Barack Obama.(Reuters: Kevin Lamarque)

Race is only part of a realignment of global power. This is where Xi Jinping and Joe Biden come in.

Xi has a long memory of the Chinese people’s humiliation. It dates back to the Opium War with Britain in the mid-19th century to recall what he sees as the start of a century of exploitation and domination by foreign powers.

National humiliation a constant theme

Western observers of China are mistaken in underestimating the attraction of history. National humiliation has been a constant theme in China since the fall of the Qing Empire in the early 20th century.

The humiliation of the opium war has plunged China into a dark night of the soul. China was occupied by the British, French and Japanese. The fall of the Qing sparked rebellion, civil war and revolution.

Historian John Fairbank wrote that a “dominant majority civilization” now found itself “in a minority position in the world.”

Chinese thinkers and leaders had to reconstruct the very idea of ​​what it was like to be Chinese. Many wanted to embrace European liberalism but became increasingly bitter.

Chinese President Xi Jinping raises a glass of wine while standing in front of a Chinese flag
Xi Jinping embodies the repressed memories of Chinese humiliation by foreign powers.(Reuters)

Liang Qiqao, known as the godfather of Chinese nationalism, coined the phrase “sick man of Asia” to describe the fallen state of China.

He advocated the unity of the “yellow race”, starting a movement to create what he called a “new people”.

Historian Charlotte Furth says Liang “offered a definition of the Chinese people as a ‘nation’, an organic collectivity based on common ties of place, blood, custom and culture.”

In today’s terms, we could call it Make China Great Again. Liang has influenced generations of Chinese leaders, from the first president of the new Republic of China, Sun Yat Sen, to revolutionary communist leader Mao Zedong, to Xi Jinping today.

Race and history run deep in Chinese political consciousness. This is therefore the case in the United States. Race and racism belies the American myth of equality. He laughs at the promise of democracy.

America is torn apart by race

Barack Obama, the country’s first black president, did not hand America over to a so-called “post-racial” society. Obama called for unity beyond “black America” or “white America”; it was a denial of the truth of America.

Black Lives Matter began under Obama’s watch. Donald Trump has become a viable political force, exploiting racism to take him to the White House.

He apologized even encouraged white supremacist groups. The Capitol uprising in January was part of a white supremacist backlash that is fueling what is now called Trumpism.

President Joe Biden speaks about the coronavirus in the state dining room.
Joe Biden struggles with a heritage and a racial reality that mocks his calls for unity.(AP: Alex Brandon)

Joe Biden’s call for decency to bring Americans together risks ignoring the history and reality of the country he leads.

As the African-American scholar, WEB Du Bois, wrote over a hundred years ago: “The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line”.

It turned out to be: segregation and lynching; apartheid in South Africa; Nazi racism and the Holocaust.

Australian racism, meanwhile, is at the heart of indigenous peoples’ continuing disadvantage. First Nations people are the most imprisoned and poorest people in the country.

The “color line” hovers over the 21st century.

The fear of the rise of China is more than tinged with a feeling of “white panic”. The emergence of an authoritarian, non-Western superpower that rejects liberal democracy threatens to overthrow a Western-dominated world political order.

It’s a critical moment in the history of the world

Supporters of President Donald Trump gather in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021.
The Capitol uprising last month was part of a white supremacist backlash.(Reuters: Leah Millis)

The philosopher Hamid Dabashi describes the West as a “delusional fantasy, a false conscience, in the complete service of an imperial hegemony”.

In his book L’Europe et ses ombres, he calls the West the “dominant metaphor” of our time; the West equals whiteness equals power. The West, argues Dabashi, has “projected the whole world, the whole universe, the whole course of human history … in its own image.”

Dabashi evokes the history of violence, colonization, racism and its hypocrisy of the West.

Writing about the West and “the rest”, he says “they looked at us, stole us, studied us, slaughtered us …”.

“Get the rest of the West away,” writes Dabashi, “and Europe doesn’t know what it is”.

The world is at a deep inflection point. It is not enough for the West to simply claim a divine right to rule. From America to Europe to Australia, the shibboleths of democracy, liberalism and human rights are ringing more and more hollow against the judgments of history.

Dabashi maintains that Europe was an illusion which “made itself forget what it was”; that now the “repressed memories” of the “remnant” reveal these “illusions of power”.

Xi Jinping in his own often brutal and dictatorial country embodies the repressed memories of Chinese humiliation by foreign powers.

Joe Biden struggles with a heritage and a racial reality that mocks his calls for unity.

In Australia, Eddie McGuire is just a goofy, goofy bunny in the headlights of history.

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