Tuesday, April 20

China sets the pace | Opinion

Xi Chinese President Xi Jinping presses the button to vote on the reform of the electoral system in Hong Kong on March 11, 2021.
Xi Chinese President Xi Jinping presses the button to vote on the reform of the electoral system in Hong Kong on March 11, 2021.ROMAN PILIPEY / POOL / AP

Freed since the arrival of Xi Jinping to the cusp of power in 2012 from certain restraints in international politics and internal restraint that had characterized its supposedly peaceful rise, China only lacked the political vacuum created by the crazy international policy of Donald Trump to begin to act firmly on the international scene. These last four years have seen the maximum concentration of power in Beijing, the destruction of the system of liberties that was maintained in Hong Kong, an aggressive activity of construction of naval bases in disputed waters of the South China Sea, a blatant rapprochement with countries like Iran that have open conflicts with Washington and, above all, a fierce repression on the Muslim Uighur minority in Xingiang, denounced by the State Department as a case of genocide.

Beijing, as revealed this week by the departure of the BBC’s correspondent from the country, now has enormous retaliatory capacity to prevent its economic, commercial and technological partners from using the instruments of international law and their systems of freedoms to denounce and be It is possible to stop the abuses against freedom or the atrocities committed against civilian populations. What seems clear is that China, in its rise as a superpower, has a precise strategy to impose its authoritarian system and even offer it to the illiberal leaders of other countries, perhaps even in Europe itself, as the best model for prosperity and stability. .

Doubts arise from the other pole of this new bipolar world, ours, from the ability to establish a strategy that allows balancing interests and values, sustaining economic globalization without jeopardizing the universal aspiration to freedom and democracy, and defending the open society in the face of authoritarianism, a task that literally begins at home, in the United States and in Europe.

So is a new Cold War beginning to emerge? No, history does not repeat itself nor does it go backwards. We will not return to that world divided and balanced between two superpowers, which represented two ideologies, two social models and two political systems. It was a confrontation that was resolved in limited wars fought by surrogate forces and was sustained in the balance of terror, based on the threat of mutual destruction thanks to the nuclear weapon. And it was also a form of international order, organized around each of the two poles and their satellites, in which the doctrine of the limited sovereignty of each one of the fields with respect to its corresponding superpower came to fruition.

Unlike current geostrategic movements, the Cold War emerged in Europe devastated by World War II as a reaction to a possible third war. Now, instead, it is the rise of China, with its ever closer alliance with Russia, and the foreseeable strengthening of the transatlantic tie after Joe Biden’s victory that may lead to a new bipolar geometry of the world. Two systems come into confrontation, one authoritarian and the other liberal, but it is debatable whether they can be identified as 70 years ago with their corresponding economic, social and ideological systems.

The outcome of a war is therefore not the starting point of the new equilibrium that is struggling to establish itself in the world, but rather the bankruptcy of liberal globalization as we have known it since the Soviet system collapsed and China began to emerge with the 21st century superpower aspiration. Its incorporation into the World Trade Organization in 2001, its contribution to the resolution of the financial crisis of 2008 and especially its integration into the global production chain, and especially in technology, have provided Chinese leaders with powerful levers of international action. And now he is setting the pace. The United States and old Europe cannot rest on their laurels.


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