Responding to who is the greatest leader of the twentieth century, Nadav Eyal in his international bestseller Revolt – The Global Uprising Against Globalization writes: “A single ruler of the twentieth century inherited a backward and poor country and in return made his people a superpower.” His name is Deng Xiaoping. A large majority of people may not agree with Eyal’s assessment, but what this assessment highlights is that the illiberal world continues to compete with the liberal world for distinction, and liberal democracy may be the best form of government, but it is still not the only form of government that delivers. The “world of revolt” that Nadav Eyal explains in his book is the world in which “the local is constantly attacked and challenged by foreign powers, which creates a feeling of arbitrariness”.
What is this feeling of arbitrariness? Is it represented by our globalized international system where the strong are free and autocratic in the use of authority against the weak? Shouldn’t the world then be happy to have leaders like Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Tayyip Erdogan, Rodrigo Duterte, Mahathir Mohammad, etc. to challenge this arbitrary system in the use of its powers and authority?
Two leading scholars in international relations have consistently written and theorized about how an environment with the potential for arbitrary violence can affect the imagination of any leadership and thus nurture an international system that creates less and less cooperation and more and more violence and arbitrary conflicts. Samuel P. Huntington, in his dissertation on Clash of Civilizations, predicted that people’s cultural and religious identities would become the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War order. His student Francis Fukuyama theorized that with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, humanity had come to the end of history – he called it the end point of the ideological evolution of humanity, thus suggesting that Western liberal democracy has become the final form of human government. Considering that the illiberal world is not only in competition but also in competition with the liberal world, how does the world of the 21st century view these predictions? Civilizations clash and come to an end? Or an illiberal democracy that maintains a liberal democracy with failed arbitrary powers and authority?
Sadly, over the years liberal democracy has taken on a more anti-liberal tone and while liberal democracy was predicted to take the world by storm – non-liberal democracies not only thrive, but challenge the very concept of the “ final form of government ”. true root. Singapore, Turkey, Russia and China today are examples of countries doing well even though they are not liberal, some of them are not even democracies.
China’s share of world GDP, which was 2% in 1979, is now almost 20%. The Chinese, nearly 1.3 billion of them, took little notice of “the ideological evolution of humanity”; and much against the forecasts of the Western world, they did not democratize and the Chinese Communist Party led by President Xi not only kept the promises it made to its people, but also advanced the material interests of the Chinese company. Given the challenges that democracies around the world face, China’s success over the years suggests that democracy may not be the only right way forward – autocracy can do as well. When it comes to the clash of civilizations, in today’s globalized and difficult world, civilizations seem too busy trying to survive rather than fight. Globalization has brought a new wave of hope to the people in the way it has made the world flat and in the way it has put almost everything within reach and within the reach of the people. It promised that people could get what they wanted. The globalized world promised people that they could live their dreams. But was this true for everyone everywhere?
Globalization has divided us more than it has united us and in doing so has created two worlds – one that has experienced globalization and the other that has suffered only from what economists call slowbale. . Countries like Pakistan which have experienced slow balancing have seen their children exposed to the globalized world and so many of them voluntarily abandon their cultures to adopt the “dream cultures” of the developed world. But borders, walls and fences still divide them and separate them from a very attractive outside world that many cannot be a part of or visit. What globalization has offered countries like Pakistan is more social disruption and frustrated youth to be part of a system that promises but fails.
It is in this context that we can laugh at the “collective action” that American decision-makers speak of as the remedy against emerging threats that respect no border or wall that divides us. Clearly stated in its “Interim Strategic National Security Directions,” the United States urges the world to “collective action” to address these threats. But how can alienated communities or a group of nations that are weak, frustrated and experiencing more downturn than globalization become part of this “collective action”? As it stands, weak and poor states will remain targets and will not be part of the collective actions of the developed world. Deprived of the fruits of globalization, these weak communities, nations and states will continue to grow increasingly unstable and weaker and to become nation-states that can harbor such threats that could warrant “collective action” on the part of the government. developed world. So, shouldn’t the United States focus more on fulfilling the “optimistic prophecies” that the globalized world has promised these weak states? Or should it continue to invest in its partners and allies to prepare them for “collective action” against these weak, poor and unstable countries?
Iran, North Korea, Syria, and most of the countries that are struggling states that do not have democracies or practice illiberal democracies should not be labeled as the dark side of the globalized world. While the “good side of democracy” may be fine, the disadvantaged and less brilliant side will not stop competing in an arbitrary world system to persist and survive. While more than a billion people have been lifted out of poverty around the world since the 1990s, around 700 million of them are from China, which is more than 70% of “Bright World achievement”. This is not undertaken by a democratic country but by an illiberal and undemocratic country. In the same country, while in 1978, seven out of ten Chinese worked in agriculture or related fields, today seven to eight Chinese work in non-agricultural fields, in commerce, industry and services. China’s social, political, economic and military progress is creating history and challenging the very concept of “end of history” and “end of ideological evolution” slogans.
Practicing “muscular liberalism”, the liberal international order of the globalized world, is arbitrary in its approach and is dominated and guided by the interests of the powerful and is accepted only by the need for survival of the weak. The illiberal world seems the least likely to bow to the “sense of arbitrariness” of the developed world. Thus, it will not be the clash of civilizations or ideological evolution and the final form of government that will dominate the final decades of the 21st century, but most likely, the clash of the illiberal and liberal world.
Posted in The Express Tribune, March 21st, 2021.
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