- Date published:
2:09 am, September 19th, 2019 - 21 comments
Categories: China, Environment, equality, Europe, Financial markets, Globalisation, International, manufacturing, Privatisation, Russia - Tags:
France President Macron’s remarkable and wide-ranging speech to French ambassadors after France hosted the recent G7 conference in Biarritz is well worth a read. He lays it all out – so much better than Trump’s tweets or BoJo’s bluster.
We are probably in the process of experiencing the end of Western hegemony over the world. We were used to an international order that had been based on Western hegemony since the 18th century – French in the 18th century, inspired by the Enlightenment; British in the 19th century thanks to the Industrial Revolution, and American in the 20th century thanks to two major conflicts and the economic and political domination of that power.
Things change. They have been deeply affected by the mistakes made by Westerners in certain crises, by American decisions over the last several years which did not start with this administration, but have led us to re-examine certain involvements in conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere, and to rethink fundamental diplomatic and military strategy and on occasion elements of solidarity which we thought were forever inalienable even though we had developed them together during periods of geopolitical significance, which have however now changed. And it is also the emergence of new powers whose impact we have probably underestimated for far too long.
China first and foremost as well as Russia’s strategy that has, let’s face it, been pursued with greater success over the last few years. India and emerging new economies that are also becoming not just economic but political powers and which consider themselves genuine civilization states and which have not just disrupted our international order, assumed a key role in the economic order, but have also very forcefully reshaped the political order and the political thinking that goes with it, with a great deal more inspiration than we have.
Take India, Russia and China for example. They have a lot more political inspiration than Europeans today. They take a logical approach to the world, they have a genuine philosophy, a resourcefulness that we have to a certain extent lost. And so all of that has a major impact on us and reshuffles the cards.
The risk involved in this major upheaval is increased twofold thanks to geopolitical and military turmoil, and we are in a world in which the number of conflicts is increasing and in which I see two main risks.
The first is that these conflicts are resulting in an increasing number of civilian casualties and are changing in nature. Look at the theatres of operations all over the world.
And the second thing is that the world has started to become more savage, and here again the order on which our convictions and our systems were sometimes based is disappearing. We are abandoning, in innocence and silence, the arms control treaties that emerged at the end of the Cold War.
The questions and the choices:
All that should raise far-reaching questions. First, it should make us see that our habits and information are no longer valid. And then that should prompt us to examine our own strategy, because the two nations that now hold the real cards in this affair are the Americans and the Chinese. We then have a choice to make with respect to this major change, this major upheaval: do we decide to become junior allies of one party or the other, or a bit of one and a bit of the other, or do we decide to be part of the game and exert our influence?
The market economy crisis and inequality:
At the same time, we are experiencing an unprecedented crisis in the market economy. And I think that this crisis is at least as important, and in a way it aggravates what I’ve just described. This market economy, which was conceived in Europe by Europe, has been gradually drifting off course over the last few decades.
First, it has become deeply financialized, and what was a market economy, which some people sometimes regarded as a social market economy, and which was at the heart of the equilibrium that we had conceived, has become an economy of accumulated wealth in which it must be said, financialization and technological changes have led to an increased concentration of wealth among the champions, i.e. the most talented individuals in our countries, the major cities that succeed in globalization and the countries that embody the success of this order.
And so the market economy – which through the theory of competitive advantages and everything that we have obediently learned until now that would make it possible to distribute wealth and which worked extremely well for decades by helping hundreds of millions of people around the world to escape poverty like never before in the history of mankind – has slipped backwards and led to the kind of inequalities that are no longer sustainable.
France has experienced this very acutely over the last few months, but we have been experiencing it for years, all over the world. This market economy results in unprecedented inequality which comprehensively disrupts our political order.
First of all this inequality disrupts the very legitimacy of this economic system. How can we explain to our fellow citizens that this is the right system when they do not get their fair share?
The impact on democracy:
But that also leads us to question the balance of our democracies. Because essentially here too we had been living, since the 19th century, in an equilibrium in which individual freedoms, the democratic system and the continued progress of the middle classes thanks to the market economy formed a kind of tripod on which we were moving forward.
When the middle classes, which form the basis of our democracies, no longer have a fair share in it, they start to express doubts and are legitimately tempted by authoritarian regimes or illiberal democracies, or are tempted to question this economic system.
In any case, very significant paradigm shifts are taking place which we have not, thus far, completely embraced. And so this crisis may lead to withdrawal, as some are choosing, which France did not choose in spring 2017. But this temptation is still there. It should really lead us to see how we can rethink this balance within this system, which is not a French system but really a European and a global system, and how we can make openness, which I believe is essential, good for our country, in accordance with our values and our DNA by recapturing our share of control.
And basically what the Brexiteers proposed to the British people – which was a very good slogan: take back control of our lives, of our nation. That’s how we should think and act in a country that is open. Take back control. The days when we could talk to our fellow citizens about outsourcing are over, that’s the natural order of things; it is a good thing for you. Jobs are going to Poland, China, Vietnam and you will rediscover the …we can’t explain this whole thing any more. And so we have to find ways to shape globalization as well as reshape this international order.
I am aware of how ambitious this is and that it will not happen overnight. But I am aware of the need for this way of thinking and this approach both in France and at the European level. Otherwise we will fall.
There is considerably more.
It is refreshing to read something as broad, open and thoughtful as this address from a national leader. And it is certainly far more useful and interesting to read what the leaders themselves think rather than how the. media interpret it. The only other leader I can think of who is similarly frank and in my opinion even more frank and thoughtful is Valdimir Putin. He is after all one of the reasons why the age of Western hegemony is over.
There is much food for thought for New Zealand in what Macron has to say. Above all we need to resist replacing strategic thinking with sloganeering.
More on that later.