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Lug 21

Global disorder: from Donald Trump to the South China Sea

Fonte: Financial Time

trump

di Philip Stephens

The belligerence of domestic politics is spilling on to the world stage


Donald Trump is confirmed as the Republican nominee for US president. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, tightens the authoritarian screw after a failed military coup. Scores die in another dreadful terrorist attack in France. You could add to this list the blow to western cohesion struck by Britain’s vote to quit the EU and China’s defiance of an international court’s ruling on its territorial claims in the South China Sea.
On the face of it these events are unconnected. Mr Trump has probably never heard of China’s nine-dash line. Boris Johnson, Britain’s foreign secretary, has shown more concern to lock out Turkish migrants than about the health of that nation’s democracy. The slaughter in Nice may have owed as much to the disturbed state of mind of the perpetrator as to the proselytising of the self-styled Islamic State. The madness, and badness, will pass.
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Take a harder look and some uncomfortable patterns emerge: rising nationalism, identity politics, disdain for institutions and a fracturing of the rules-based international system. Governments have lost control, and citizens faith. The belligerence in domestic politics spills over on to the global stage. This is not quite a Hobbesian world but the direction of travel is evident.
Populism of left and right in Europe has feasted on the economic hardship that followed the 2008 financial crash and on fears about the flows of migrants fleeing war and state failure in the Middle East and Africa. France has the Islamophobic National Front, Italy the Five Star Movement, Spain Podemos and, more recently, in Germany Alternative for Germany. Fragmentation has upturned the postwar game of turn-and-turn-about between parties of the centre right and centre left.
Mr Trump’s nomination and the Brexit vote, though, are events of a different order. Whatever the outcome in the November election, Mr Trump has seized the Republican party and, the opinion polls say, has the support of two-fifths of Americans for a platform rooted in xenophobia, isolationism, economic populism and anti-elitism. Britain has always had its Eurosceptics but the Brexit vote spoke to a much broader disenchantment. Brussels was tarred as the author of globalisation, migration and economic marginalisation.
The Republican nominee says he would like to “punch” his opponents. He would expel millions of Mexican migrants and ban Muslims from entering the US. Muscular isolationism will make America great again. Hardline Brexiters promise to build their wall in the English Channel. As for Mr Trump, foreigners are the threat. Gisela Stuart, the Labour MP and Brexiter, gave expression to the crimped sourness when she claimed, wrongly, that if Britain voted Remain its treasured National Health Service would be thrown open to millions of Turkish migrants.
The populist credo replaces patriotism with nationalism and promotes contempt for traditional institutions. Anyone styled an is in cahoots with the elites. Everyone has a right to produce their own “facts”. Big business, the banks, globalisation — call it what you will — are the enemy of the white working classes. Another few steps along this path would take us back to the “Jewish conspiracies” of the 1930s.
Voters cannot be blamed for their anxieties. Many have legitimate grievances. Liberal capitalism has favoured the wealthy. Average incomes have stagnated. The new titans of global capitalism — Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook — consider taxation a voluntary impost. Political establishments have become complacent. But the prescriptions of the populists — invariably divisive, pessimistic and inward-looking — are transparently bogus. A Trump presidency would impoverish the US; Brexit will do the same for Britain.
The stresses have not gone unnoticed elsewhere. Mr Erdogan once saw Europe as Turkey’s destiny. This week he declared the failed coup a “gift from God” in the effort to strengthen his autocratic rule. He prefers state (and crony) capitalism to the market economy. He is patching things up with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Europe can keep its secularism, pluralism and rule of law.
The man who drove a truck through the crowds of innocents celebrating Bastille Day in Nice gave allegiance to a different form of identity politics. States have been breaking down across the Middle East and Maghreb. Secular nationalism has been displaced by religious extremism. The purpose of the jihadis’ terrorist outrages in the west, though, is to produce a reaction from nationalists. They are succeeding. Marine Le Pen’s NF may be the big winner from the Nice outrage.
Zero-sum nationalism is not the sole property of western populism. In rejecting the judgment of the arbitration panel on the validity of its maritime claims, officials in Beijing said public opinion would not tolerate any retreat from the claims of sovereignty. Others might take the message that now China is once again a great power it no longer feels bound by international rules written before its rise.
The other day I heard a western diplomat describe China’s defiance as a threat to the postwar order. He had a point. Then I listened in to some of the speeches at Mr Trump’s convention in Ohio. Making America great again does not include respecting international law. The one, of course, does not justify the other. But, together, they warn us where we are heading.

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