When Fukuyama’s idea of the “end of history” has been discussed, it has often fallen into a simplification of the political scientist’s thesis, and when it has recently been refuted, Islamism or the resurgence of populisms have been pointed out as counterexamples to the theory. However, it is probable that the current Chinese model presents a more solid alternative to the idea that after the fall of the Berlin Wall there is nothing but the triumph of liberal democracy.
With the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the expectation that the world would move to societies with liberal/representative democracies and market economies was a most persuasive hypothesis. Facing the West fell the great model that in the twentieth century had articulated a contrary conception, taking decades of communist dictatorships and leaving a western left that from then on would abound in social democracy and cultural wars as a battlefield, avoiding placing the questioning of the bases of the economic system as its flag. But that is another story.
There are those who have been waiting for 20 years for a rebellion in China that does not take place. The hope was that the son of the factory worker who arrives at university and manages to lead a middle-class life would end up asking for freedom of speech and of the press, would end up wanting a democracy capable of electing and changing governments. It has not happened, not only because of the enormous repression and control exercised by the executive of the single party – the communist – in China, while the GDP has continued to grow and the quality of life has multiplied, the silence demanding changes in the Chinese political system has been thunderous. A society in which hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of extreme poverty and people have seen their quality of life improved by ten in a generation not unlike revolutionaries.
With these components the Chinese model is that of an authoritarian system with a capitalist economy. This combination results in actors competing and enriching themselves, subject to the market, but at the same time a state that intervenes, controls, subdues and intervenes when it understands that it is opportune. We could point out that the United States is interventionist when it wants to, and that forcing Google to abandon its partner Huawei is proof of this… but in China this is elevated to the umpteenth power, it is the rule and not the exception.
There is a reading that points to the resurgence of right-wing populism as a Western approach to the Chinese authoritarian model on the side of control, security and nationalism; left-wing populism is similar in its aspiration for economic centralization, financial governance and shadow management of the country’s businesses. In any case, China (together perhaps with Singapore) is a rara avis, it has not managed to form a bloc as the USSR did and its agreements are weaker, based on commercial pacts and not on sharing military and strategic alliances.
This last difference is perhaps where we should look when weighing the next steps of the trade war. The Soviet bloc did not compete in world exports with Western powers and that is the Chinese advantage: as we have seen in the case of the 5G for allies of the United States, it costs much more to sanction companies like Huawei than those that apply against Iran or North Korea.
In the podcast we consider what may happen from now on. It is always difficult to guess the future, but a clear victim of this war is multilateralism and the priority of global objectives. China is an essential actor in the fight against climate change, as is the United States. Both involved in a trade war and a protectionist and localist vision leave the rest of the world exposed to the great threat of the century. It is evident the hyperbole of appealing to the missile crisis to make the analogy with the present, at the same time it is also true that when historians look at our time they will surely point to the myopia of our ruling class and our societies.
It is evident the hyperbole of appealing to the missile crisis to make the analogy with the present, at the same time it is also true that when historians look at our time they surely point to the myopia of our ruling class and our societies.
The Cuban missile crisis did not end with the dreaded nuclear escalation. The Kennedy administration succeeded in selling internally in the United States that the president was victorious thanks to the firmness of the negotiations, had forced the Russians to withdraw. Out of focus he had given in to withdrawing the American missiles from Turkey, placed before the Cuban crisis and the Soviet reclamation. Some of the president’s collaborators went so far as to describe the events as “the greatest defeat in our history. Khrushchev was weakened, he had reached a good agreement, but he had risked too much for so little benefit in the eyes of the central committee. In two years Kennedy would be dead and the president of the USSR replaced by Brezhnev. The Cold War did not end, far from it, after Cuba.