In 1996, Samuel P. Huntington published his famous book, “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” where he posited after the Cold War, the world is more likely going to have major wars due to civilizational fault lines than anything else. He recognized that the Cold War was a competition between the Capitalist West and the Communist East. Huntington provoked great debates among international relations theorists. Of course, Hungtington followed the heels of Francis Fukuyama who famously wrote “End of History” at the end of the Cold War, proclaiming that Democracy has won; that that system would be an eventuality for every nation on earth and there will no longer be any major conflicts after that.
Fukuyama has since recanted what he wrote, especially as China has risen in the last couple of decades with a system of its own (albeit changing). Regardless of whether Huntington or Fukuyama is ultimately right, the biggest international relations question for our life time and for the next few generations will be how a new power rises peacefully so the declining power does not clash with it. For now it appears to be between China and America, but for our collective future, it can be between any two nation states (or civilizations if you prefer). History tells us that those clashes are often brutal, and given the awesome technologies we have today, there is probably no place to hide and nobody spared.
If we don’t solve this problem as humans, we are guaranteed to self-destruct sooner or later. If Fukuyama is reading this post, he’d agree this is a worthwhile problem to solve. If Huntington is still alive today, he’d agree too.
Continue reading Peaceful rise, the biggest international relations issue of our life time
On this site, we’ve come back to the question of secession several times. The news a week ago that Ireland, with less than 1% of the EU’s population, single-handedly derailed the second EU attempt at political centralization (Lisbon Treaty) strikes me as the perfect opportunity to talk about the flip side of the coin: the ideology of unification.
Because let’s face it, unification is an ideology.
The EU prides itself on moving towards unification only through debate, consensus, and democratic decision-making. But increasingly, it finds itself in the impossible position of trying to convince every member state that there is something to be gained, when in many cases, the benefits are uncertain, long-term, or abstract. The EU leaders had high hopes of being written in history books when they signed this and the last treaty. In the aftermath of this episode, however, we have seen ideas seriously floated like ignoring Ireland’s vote, of procedurally maneuvering around it, of making them vote again and again until passed, even of expelling Ireland from the EU! If this isn’t the unification ideology working, I don’t know what is.
To Chinese people, the existence of such ideologically driven motivation seems only natural. Human history is one of successively larger units of cooperative society. Without pre-commitment (generally founded on an ideological faith), there is nothing to guarantee cooperation among actors, no matter what their best intentions are. If you want gains, you have to put your chips in, even as you don’t know what you will get out of it for certain. The only thing to make people realize this is a negative consequence for not participating, which often means war. Chinese thinkers have figured this out thousands of years ago, when they faced the kind of calamitous warfare like the two World Wars that finally drove Europe to embark on its current path…
Continue reading Political unification and China’s Grand Union ideal