Goals for Global Society Go Into Retreat

Election results in India and the European Union reconfirm sentiments expressed during the 2016 elections in the United States and the United Kingdom: Nationalism is on the rise, and the goal of a global society with shared values and efficient governance for the common good is in retreat. “The impact is already being felt within international institutions, not least in the realm of defense,” explains journalist and author Humphrey Hawksley. “By looking at three regions, Europe, South Asia and Northeast Asia, we can broadly see to what extent rising nationalism might change the dynamics of global security.” Shortsighted, nationalistic agendas apply pressure to organizations like NATO or the European Union. Waves of nationalism with harsh rhetoric and policies recall the antagonism that emerged prior to the Second World War. Nationalism helps a few leaders consolidate power and reduces prosperity for everyone else. Voters in democracies around the globe must stay informed and vigilant, reviewing the lessons of history to reject leaders who scapegoat and whip up emotions and endorse those who rely on reason, skill and forward-looking policies. – YaleGlobal

Goals for Global Society Go Into Retreat

Power politics rejects the goal of a global society with shared values in favor of the nation state, sovereignty and populism
Humphrey Hawksley
Thursday, June 6, 2019

Sweeping right: India's national Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP, led by Narendra Modi wins in a landslide, and the new Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage wins a plurality in UK's European Union parliamentary election

BERLIN: Recent elections in India and Europe, societies with a range of cultures and levels of wealth, have provided further proof that the concept of a global society, with shared values, is retreating into one dominated by sovereignty and the nation state.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on his Hindu nationalist ticket, won an even bigger majority. In European parliamentary elections, what have become known as populist parties increased their share of the vote to 29 percent of the total, up from just 10 percent two decades ago. 

While each voter and community have individual reasons in casting their ballots, patterns have emerged on how populism is cutting across traditional issues. Income disparity and living standards are being pushed aside to be replaced by an as-yet indeterminate set of drivers as to how voters make choices at the ballot box. The impact is already being felt within international institutions, not least in the realm of defense. By looking at three regions, Europe, South Asia and Northeast Asia, we can broadly see to what extent rising nationalism might change the dynamics of global security.

For the past 70 years, Europe has prospered under the political and defense structures of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization led by the United States. But now, America’s own nationalism under the Trump administration questions the value and future of NATO, and the EU is weakened by political movements wanting either to leave the union or tear up its rulebook and rebuild in a way that gives the union less power.
In Britain and France, among Europe’s most populous countries, nationalists won a plurality and those in Italy won an outright majority.

As Britain struggles to work out exactly how it is going to leave the EU, politicians that once stood firmly on center ground, have veered toward nationalism, blaming the union for Britain’s problems and depicting it as an enemy and threat. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has compared the EU to the Soviet Union. Dan Hannan, Conservative European parliament member, has reached back to 1066, proclaiming that with the Norman invasion by a coalition of continental forces, “Englishness became a badge of subjugation.”

Pro-Brexit parliamentarians deliver daily reminders of the Second World War with Boris Johnson, favorite in the current race to become the next prime minister, comparing the EU’s regional ambitions to those of Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler. Meanwhile, dozens of intelligence, crime and defense arrangements forged around a united Europe are being unwound.

In South Asia, India’s Hindu nationalism, although based on communal antipathy towards other faiths, is broadly following a similar trajectory.

The United States is trying to strengthen its strategic alliance with India to retain Western influence in Asia and secure the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. But India’s electoral focus has been on hostilities with neighboring Pakistan. During Modi’s tenure, the supposed danger posed by Islamic Pakistan has spread deep into India’s Muslim communities that makes up 14 percent of the 1.4 billion population. Muslim attacks and killings are rising while political rhetoric relayed through hawkish television shows and social media whips up anti-Pakistan sentiment in a way that discourages any potential for resolution.

The need by politicians to win grassroots nationalist votes challenges the prospect of making long-term peace with a threatening neighbor.

Here is a grim global scenario whereby, in two nuclear-armed antagonistic countries, politicians are using tough religious and nationalist language in order to get elected while American and European influence to mediate is diminished.

The weakened security trajectory continues into Northeast Asia, a region where neighbors, Japan and South Korea, led the way in showing how democracy could flourish in non-European societies. Their industrial ingenuity spearheaded the idea of the Asian century. At this stage, with the rising influence of authoritarian China, Tokyo and Seoul should be taking a natural lead in forging political and security alliances within Asia to complement the current series of bilateral arrangements with the United States. If Japan and South Korea initiated a trilateral US agreement, it could open the door for America’s other regional allies, Thailand and the Philippines, to join thus starting to build an Asian-led security alliance.

This is not happening because the two governments are deadlocked over the running sore of historical memory – Japan’s occupation of the Korean peninsula, encapsulated in the so-called “comfort women” issue, when soldiers forced Koreans into prostitution while Japan since refusing to acknowledge the pain. With an eye on the popular vote, South Korea’s President Moon Jai-in has torn up a 2015 settlement on comfort women and restricted intelligence-sharing arrangements with Japan. Meanwhile, South Korean courts have ruled that Japan must pay compensation for cases of forced labor, ensuring that historical grievances are kept alive in the minds of voters.

The winner of this impasse is China, able to paint Asia’s changing balance of power as a direct Cold War–style struggle between itself and the United States.

At least two common threads emerge from these three regions. One is that the focus of hostility is on a neighbor, rooted not in competing visions for the future but unresolved differences from the past. The other is that voters are opting for nationalist paths against overwhelming evidence that these bring less wealth and lower living standards.

British voters’ views have barely shifted despite a stream of reports warning of economic downturn. India went into the election with unemployment at a record high, sharply reduced farm incomes and a slump in industrial production. Modi’s majority increased.

One of the most detailed accounts of rising nationalism comes from Germany’s struggle after the First World War from 1918. As with many new democracies, Germany faced violent threats from the right and left before settling for a while into the period known as the Weimar Republic during which debate, art and science flourished. 

Then recession hit, first in 1923 and again with the Wall Street crash of 1929. Poverty and hyperinflation paved the way for Hitler’s National Socialism to sweep the country. Not long ago, comparisons with Europe in the 1930s were frequently dismissed as fear-mongering. They are now central to the debate.

After the European election, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke of the horrors of Nazism, urging young people to understand their history and emphasizing the need to face up to “specters of the past.”

For Germany, nationalism brought the Holocaust; for India, the Partition; and for Northeast Asia, the Pacific War and nuclear attack. Western democracies that forged the values of the current world order have yet to come up with a vision to balance this hazardous political trend. The need for a historically informed vision and new strategies is urgent.

Humphrey Hawksley is a former BBC Beijing Bureau Chief. His latest book is Asian Waters: The Struggle Over the South China Sea and the Strategy of Chinese ExpansionRead a review.

© 2019 YaleGlobal and the MacMillan Center


India, the EU and recently Sudan’s emerging leader charm campaign as a man of the people, not as a military guy but camels and using all available social media to do so. Cheers.....a new Meroitic moment.

We live on a tiny planet with very scarce resources and a severe problems of garbage (plastic waste), fossil fuel emissions, nuclear proliferation, and growing trans-border inequality (think dirt poor Egypt or Yemen) next door to grossly rich Saudi Arabia. Populist leaders (I.e., neo-liberals) simply want the border lines fortified even harder after post modern society and its globalist binge that created losers as well as winners. They are selling constituencies on the past glories of the nation state, whereby people are richly rewarded not for doing anything, but for waving flags and swords, a 17th century ideal that no longer exists and cannot be returned to in a hyper-connected world. Unfortunately, the world will be the biggest loser of this Westphalian folly, namely, disregarding public goods problems that now present looming, not lurking, shadows over human existence at the worst, and very compromised living standards at the least. Westphalia is dead, the leaders just don't know it, or care too. Well wishing folly sells, reality, not so much....

There are three and only three Confucianist societies, China, Korea and Vietnam. Japan is not a Confucian society; it has never been one at any time in its history. There are millions of light-years' difference between Confucian and non-Confucian societies. (In passing, there are two and only two areas in the world which saw the rise and development of feudalism, Western Europe and Japan.)
"The Koreans in the early Yi dynasty adopted Confucianism with such enthusiasm that their value system and social practices were restructured along Chinese lines more fully than before...it may have become more uniformly and fully permeated by Confucian ideas than China was itself. In fact, Korea became in many ways an almost model Confucian society...(Edwin O. Reischauer, East Asia: Tradition and Transformation, co-authored by Fairbank and Craig, Charles E. Tuttle, Tokyo, 1973, p301)"

Japanese kidnapped Korean women and girls and forced them to work in prostitution with Japanese soldiers. Japan refused to compensate forced Korean labourers if any was forced to work. These and others are all lies spread by Koreans and Chinese.
When Japan was defeated in the war in 1945 about six hundred and fifty thousand Koreans chose to remain in Japan. And many who once went back to South Korea tried to come back illegally to Japan for better living and working conditions. Today about six hundred South and North Koreans live in Japan.
Korea registered good economic growth during the thirty-five years of 1910 to 1945. Some scholars say the average annual growth rate was 3.1 percent; some say 3.7 percent. 100 in 1910 would have grown to be 291 at the annual rate of 3.1 and to 357 at 3.7 in 1945. Japan spent more money on Korean economic development, like Taiwan and Manchurian development, than it drew out from it. "By this standard, however, the best colonial master of all time has been Japan, for no ex-colonies have done so well as (South) Korea and Taiwan...The world belongs to those with a clear conscience, something Japan has had in near-unanimous abundance (David S. Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, W. W. Norton, 1999, pages 437 and 438.)" Japan built schools, railways, dams, power stations, etc. and Korean and Taiwanese learned how to build modern industrial society or know-how for modern politicay system.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.