Will an age of war replace our era of booming prosperity?

This town is not big enough for both of us!

And I'm not the one leaving!

Sparks – “This Town Isn’t Big Enough for Both of Us” (1974)

50 years ago Mael brothers Although he sang about rising tensions and conflicts, Xi Jinping said that the planet earth is big enough Success for both China and the United States While it is good that China and the United States are now at least in dialogue, there is little prospect of closer ties.

U.S.-China tensions, the war in Ukraine, the conflict in Gaza, and concerns about Taiwan all contribute to the geopolitical cocktail that has sparked global war fears.At the outbreak of the Ukraine war, almost 7 in 10 Americans There were fears that the world was headed for World War III.

Politicians do not hesitate to take advantage of this.

donald trump Said: “It's heartbreaking to watch Crooked Joe bring America to the brink of World War III and destroy our country.”

Cornel West, a left-leaning independent presidential candidate, was asked if a second term for Biden would be better than a second term for Trump. he replied“Is World War III better than Civil War II?”

Americans are not the only ones wielding the hyperbola of war. Dmitry Medvedev, former President of Russia and current Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council, said earlier this year Perhaps humanity is balancing on the brink of world war.

Probably none of the gentlemen mentioned above actually believe that we are currently heading towards a global armed conflict. They proclaim this message primarily for political gain.

That said, we must always guard against complacency, selective blindness, and taking for granted achievements accumulated over decades and centuries.

In his 1941 novel, “yesterday's worldStefan Zweig painted a picture of a (supposedly) safe, prosperous, and optimistic Vienna in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The combination of moral progress and technological progress will lift the world to unprecedented heights. Positivism was so deeply rooted that even World War I was welcomed with some enthusiasm. The decadent Habsburg Empire forgot that maintaining peace and prosperity required constant maintenance and constant vigilance of its machinery.

Western society has once again fallen into a kind of complacency trap. Friedrich Nietzsche warned about this in his 1883. His book “Thus Spoke Zarathustra''” He introduced the concept of the “last man” as a dark side of affluent modern society, where people avoid big challenges and goals. They are primarily focused on avoiding pain and risk and pursuing pleasure and comfort.

Philosopher Peter Sloterdijk argues that modern man has swallowed all his pride and anger and, under the guidance of economists, has concluded that freedom only concerns the choice of the vessel in which he eats, translating Nietzsche into modern times. There is.

According to Sloterdijk, anger is a driving force that challenges the status quo and injustice and unleashes creativity and growth. Basically, the entire history of progress has the following characteristics: Channel your anger and make it productive.

This was successful mainly due to the interaction of democracy and capitalism. Although this marriage generates considerable friction, its main objectives of security, relative stability, prosperity, and preventing excessive inequality are still largely achieved.

But Western society appears to have reached the point where the Habsburg Empire ended up. Ever-increasing prosperity and security are taken for granted, even considered rights that require little sacrifice.

This indulgence is consistent with an aging population, constant debt accumulation, and the shadow that China's corporate giants (and other emerging markets) cast over the West. The metaphorical food bowls are becoming fewer and fewer.

As a result, discontent and anxiety resurfaced, leading to the success of Donald Trump. Italian with Georgia Meloni NetherlandsGeert Wilders and others express right-wing conservative sentiments on cultural issues tied to left-wing social and economic policies.

Under the Trump administration, the rule of law in the United States was eroding.This has been happening for a long time and had a bigger impact Hungary and Poland.In the Netherlands, Wilders won Recent elections — the rule of law is not sacrosanct. More than half of political party election platforms Contains conflicting plans With the rule of law.

British journalist Janan Ganesh It pointed out Western countries were institutions of the rule of law even before they became democracies, but “the rule of law is coming first, if not first.''

While some criminals seem to be ignoring the law, at the same time the number of criminals under the law is increasing. This is about crimes and crimes that are considered too small to fight and that we don't have the ability or will to deal with. In this way, the rule of law is collapsing from two aspects.

Western countries are at a potential tipping point. The idea of ​​peace without much effort or an ever-growing economic pie that everyone can eat no longer holds true. In the 1990s and early third millennium, Western countries remained in the lead in politics, economics, and culture. It was expected that other countries would follow the West's lead. This feeling has disappeared.

China is the biggest challenger to the Western paradigm, but this giant may be reaching a plateau. Its growth is weakenedthere are (deeper) concerns. property crisis, debt has reached astronomical levels, shifting from an export-driven economy to consumption-driven economy It's swaying, Foreigners' distrust of Beijing Growing.

The world faces two giants that may have reached their peak. The United States, which has dominated the world stage for decades, is at a tipping point, and China's rise, which many had long believed would overtake it, has reached a plateau.

Political scientist Michael Beckley concludes: That “power reaching its peak” is the most dangerous.

“Great powers in decline must cut back on operations to remain solvent, emerging powers can afford to wait for better days ahead, while powers at the top must secure vital profits now. , they may feel the need to let the moment slip away forever. Leaders of peak powers, plagued by slowing growth but still possessing formidable capabilities, are more likely to seek traction abroad than tighten their belts at home. You may prefer to step in.”

Rising and declining great powers are generally peaceful – the former because they can afford to take this stance (e.g. China in recent decades), the latter because they have to – but geopolitical It is especially the peak powers that cause waves. As these two apex giants now face off, it remains to be seen whether Sparks will be proven right or whether Mr. Xi's words were more than just a charm attack. .

Andy Langenkamp is a senior political analyst in the United States. ECR research and ICC consultant.

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