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The Unstable Mix of Fear, Nationalism and Pride That Undermines the World Order

by Adriana Castagnoli @

January 12, 2022

Read the original piece in Italian HERE.

Absolute power. Chinese President Xi Jinping

As European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Joseph Borrell observed, the days when peace and war were two distinct conditions are no more. Equally hybrid have become the situations that the world must and will have to face. In this scenario, the economic weight of the EU has dramatically reduced: thirty years ago the EU represented a quarter of world wealth, now it is just over 10%; and similar is the involution of its demography. The role of world regulator that Brussels has claimed in recent years and its regulatory power clash against the different values ​​of powerful rivals.

The competition to define global standards has already begun in the race for dominance in artificial intelligence, cloud computing , semiconductors, biotechnology. At its borders, forces and strategies of destabilization are exercised, within it the political sphere narrows with the liberal values ​​that are questioned. The Strategic Compass plan (to be definitively approved in March 2022), as a response to the many hybrid threats (from cyber-attacksto the manipulation of information, from the security and defense of citizens to climate change) reveals both the crucial importance of the historical moment and the delays of a commitment conditioned by the American alliance, with a President Biden very much in favor of the European project as long as it does not overlap with the NATO one . Meanwhile, dangerous crisis areas are multiplying in the East as well as beyond the Mediterranean. bilenbewertung von ICA Further elements of division are found in the very heart of Europe. In the ford of the green transition, Brussels is plagued by the spasms of the energy crisis with staggering electricity prices that impoverish families and businesses, with countries that depend on gas, above all Moscow, such as Germany and Italy, and others who have never abandoned the nuclear power generation such as France. Vladimir Putin's Russia, which leverages its gas resources, has so far benefited from this dependence. Yet, on the world stage, Moscow's GDP has also declined as much as the standard of living. Despite a relatively backward economy, Russian leaders, focused on a vision of security, have managed to forge considerable military power by allowing the Kremlin to retain its place on the international stage. But the green transition as well as the geopolitical upheavals in Central Asia should push the EU to find a united front to deal with Moscow from a position of strength that aligns values ​​and interests. On the other hand, the EU would like deeper cooperation with Washington, but there is no agreement on how to proceed without alienating China or risking undermining the international system it seeks to defend, as France is the only European state. with a significant military presence in the Indo-Pacific. Nor are all European governments convinced of the reliability of the American partner.

Hybrid is also America. At first glance, its economy appears solid: after the 2020 contraction, in 2021 it grew by about 6%, the highest peak in over half a century. In 2021, the US economy surpassed China's growth rate for the first time in decades. According to Bloomberg, it is on track for a robust claim in the first half of 2022, forecast at + 3.7%, with consumers and businesses spending despite high inflation, staff shortages, persistence of Covid-19 and reduced supply. But President Biden appears weakened; had to limit the scope of the Build Back Better plan, while a majority change in favor of the Republicans is looming in the November elections. Amidst lacerations and polarizations, American democracy barely revived after January 6, 2021, risks becoming a "minority democracy", as also mentioned in this newspaper. According to Freedom House, the global decline of democracy has accelerated significantly in America. Political scientist Larry Diamond believes the pandemic has exacerbated the democratic recession. On the other hand, threats to democracy come from within both the United States and Europe, which have become the homeland of the potentially most distorting illiberal forces.

Thus the decoupling of liberal democracy, with reforms that can no longer be postponed, appears as a way out to give people what liberalism has not guaranteed despite its promises. As for security, a certain decoupling must also concern the most crucial infrastructures for society. As Jacquelyn Schneider writes, if digitization undermines the security of systems (electricity, banks, schools, voting systems, etc.) then strategic decisions must be made about what can be put online and what must be left analog or material.

Hybrid is also China. According to some analysts, the so-called historical resolution of 11 November 2021, with which the CCP acknowledged President Xi Jinping the credit for leading the country from economic growth to a position of world power, does not take into account the fragility of the Chinese society. from the Party. To develop its technology, Beijing needs friendly relations with advanced countries, but unfair business practices and assertiveness towards neighboring countries have ended up leaving Beijing relatively isolated in the international community. China has control of some technologies in the green energy sector, which gives it an advantage in the short to medium term.

In 2020, around 15% of the crude imported from China came from Russia, with which Beijing has increasingly close political ties. But it continues to progress in the production of renewable energy: in 2020 about 15.9% of Chinese energy consumption was provided by this sector. Economic growth is expected to continue strong over the next decade. Although Beijing's purchasing power parity GDP is already greater than that of the US, per capita income (about $ 10,000 per year) is just one sixth of that of the United States. Furthermore, China, with an aging population, is demographically disadvantaged compared to the US, while its soft power is much lower.

For now, the United States remains the richest and most powerful country in the world, but Beijing's challenge to influence world order will continue even if China stagnates. Therefore, the next decade, Chinese leaders may become even more reckless.

Joseph Nye., Regarding the thesis of some analysts on the inevitability of the confrontation between the US and China (the so-called Thucydides' trap), believes that economic and ecological interdependence reduces the probability of a real cold war, and even more of a war " hot ". Because both powers have incentives to collaborate on a large number of issues. Even if evaluation errors are always possible. This would constitute the greatest risk for both sides: with excesses of hubris , but also of fears, on the American side and nationalism on the Chinese sid

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