Wednesday, May 06, 2020

'rona readings

Gray Connolly:

The Geopolitical Lessons of 2020

In this respect, if there is one deserved – and fully welcomed – casualty of the Coronavirus, it is the death of the 'Davos Man'.

It was the 1990s generation – best described as Davos Man – that proposed and propagandised for a post-Cold War world that, on their case, was an ever-more globalised and liberal place of ever freer trade in goods and services, free movements of peoples, and, usually, mindless military interventions in the affairs of states from Baghdad to Belgrade, because this ‘liberalism by blitzkrieg’ was what being ‘on the right side of history’ required to be done. In some respects you had to live through the 1990s (as I did as a university student) to believe that some of this ahistorical nonsense was peddled – and peddled it was by an ascendant Boomer generation who, by the 1990s, had replaced the generation that had fought in and been shaped by the Second World War. According to Davos Man, we were all going to be rugged individuals, market participants, free traders, multi-lateralists, indeed, “globalists” and “citizens of the world”. That all of us – rich or poor, of whatever race or creed – were and are citizens of post-Westphalian nation-states, was neither here nor there.

Indeed, bringing a realistic mind to bear on these matters was, for the past 20 years, an unwelcomed perspective. Anyone raising obvious problems for the globalisation consensus – especially where based on geopolitics, culture, history, and the sheer unlikelihood of consensus being achieved on basic questions of how vastly different societies are ordered – were seen as antiquated, pessimistic, perhaps even various types of ‘phobic’. To borrow from one of the truly appalling books of that age, you buying your own Lexus mattered more than your stewarding your grandfather’s olive tree.

Ironically, nowhere was this delusional, “third way”, liberalism more dominant than in what were nominally social democratic, workers’ parties, such as the Democrats under Bill Clinton and British Labour under Tony Blair, where a veritable ‘new class’ of middle class intellectuals wrested control of political parties from legacy trade union control. One saw basically the same world view carried on into the era of Barack Obama and the liberal “Remainer” David Cameron. Where it was once essential for leadership, apart from war experience, to have worked in the mines, on the wharves, or on the shop, factory, or foundry floor, all that you needed now was an Oxbridge or Ivy League education and the capacity to speak in focus-grouped clichés that would cause a management consultant to be embarrassed.
And this is the beginning of wisdom when thinking about China's role in the post-pandemic world order:

The PRC's leadership is committed only to its own survival. If that means, for President Xi and his successors/competitors, allowing an entirely false narrative on a deadly virus to go out to the world, or for Uighur Muslims to be brutalised in cantonment camps, or this group to be repressed or that person to be silenced, then so be it. No one in Beijing looks at the dissolution of the Soviet Union and with it the former communist party, as anything other than as a fate to be avoided.

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