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Macron speech – The end of Western hegemony

Written By: - 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.

An overview:

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 risks:

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.

 

 

 

21 comments on “Macron speech – The end of Western hegemony”

  1. Ad 1

     

     

    You'd certainly hope that in three years Brexit would finally push some thoughtful reflection on why the EU is so unattractive to Britain. Amazing that Macron can go through an entire speech of this length and not mention the word "austerity", which accelerated nationalist populism in to the ascendency with poverty and unemployment and social safety net destruction. For a guy not too far from an election he might need some further reflection on that.  

    Instead he comments on the GFC solely in terms of infrastructure asset ownership:

    "In the way it dealt with the economic and financial crisis, Europe pushed several countries into forced privatizations without a European option and itself decided methodically to reduce its sovereignty by handing over a number of essential infrastructures in southern Europe to the Chinese."

     

    And for a President of France wishing to become again a 'balancing power' between China and the US, instead of really reaching out to propose new alliances, all he reaches out for is his own old colonial assets and colonial military, right next door to New Zealand:

    "If we want to be respected by China, we must first take a European approach, as I have just said, but we must also carry weight with the powers of the region. This is essential. It means that we must first act as an Indo-Pacific power: France has more than a million inhabitants in the region because of its overseas territories, we have more than 8,000 soldiers, we are the one of the region’s main maritime powers, among the only ones conducting real military operations in the China Sea and on those oceans. And until now we have under-exploited this in every respect. And so we must revisit that region, firstly by confirming that we are a power there, but also by developing an alliance which is, as it were, complementary – non-confrontational but complementary – to this relationship with China through that Indo-Pacific axis."

    We've had enough of this in the South Pacific thanks, Emmanuel.

    I'm really happy that he puts a revised case for France on the international stage to his ambassadorial staff. If he'd set this out as soon as he got elected, perhaps he could have helped turn Brexit around.

    It didn't happen. 

    • Mike Smith 1.1

      Bit nit-picky Ad to blame Macron for Brexit. The Tory right did that all by themselves.

      While Macron might not have used the word austerity, he has noted the activities and motivation of the Gilets Jaunes and appears to be learning from them.

      And while I agree that adopting the Indo-Pacific frame might not be the best approach to moderating between the US and China, its worth remembering that Nouvelle-Caledonie voted to remain part of France in a referendum last year. France is in the South Pacific whether or not we like it. The hope is that they will change their behaviour, and this speech gives some encouragement that they might.

       

      • Ad 1.1.1

        The Brexit vote was taken in 2016, and Macron was elected in 2017. Macron has had plenty of time to step in an really alter the Brexit debate. His pose is more of "don't let the door hit you on the way out".

        No one in the EU leadership has stood up and said how their poor leadership and poor decisions during and after the GFC led to the collapse in trust of the EU, and in turn how that has turned countries against the EU project.

        No one other than Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson of course.

        If the EU leadership had really wanted to turn the Brexit debate within Britain and across continental Europe, they would have. Brexit is on the EU leadership.

        France is a sad old colonial relic in this part of the world. None in the Pacific have any need to be charitable to them, or to trust any refreshed motive or purpose.

        Anyone with a functioning recent memory would accept that.

        • Mike Smith 1.1.1.1

          Blaming the EU leadership for Brexit is just plain silly. The issue in the UK has a long history and the current debacle can be fairly and squarely laid at the feet of the Tory leadership and the Tory right.

          As for my memory, I did recall that a referendum in Nouvelle-Caledonie last year opted to remain a part of France. That's a fact. They will have another chance to decide next year.

  2. Dennis Frank 2

    Well, it's five years since he attended a Bilderbergers conference [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Bilderberg_participants#France], so that explains why his signalling omits advocacy of a globalist agenda.   Lack of any theoretical coherence suggests his style is managerialist rather than ideological.  Lack of any attempt at bombast suggests he's non-Trumpian.  In fact, his text reads just like a bunch of wonderings.

    Nothing wrong with feeling your way when you're in a morass of complexities and a time of change, but I'd prefer a leader with a clear vision of a better future, the ability to articulate the common interest in working towards it, and the courage to be forthright in advocating it.  He's not being nationalist in any obvious sense, tries to describe the new multipolar balance of powers without actually explaining it, so has his head into an international perspective.

    "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."

    What genuine philosophy??  By logical, does he mean mere pragmatism?  The man makes no attempt to explain himself.  It's like he has an internal perception of the new geopolitical context, but can't spit the dummy because he lacks the words to articulate it.  If he were a robot, I'd suggest the operating system is overdue for an upgrade.

  3. Pat 3

    so Macron has voiced (at long last) some of the flaws….sadly too little too late.

  4. Pretty interesting speech 

    Can't help feeling that the very economic and military dominance that the west has enjoyed all these years has led to its downfall. 

    Intelligent diplomacy took a dive, far too much reliance on military heft.

    No new ideas, no philosophic review of current behaviour and future directions, no development of a co-operative mind set. And the US in particular is like a raging homicidal husband, if it cant have the world in its entirety, no one can .It can only do destruction

  5. AB 5

    Franco-dilettantism – perfectly phrased, aware of history, eschewing vulgarity. But really just elite navel-gazing.  Lacks the vital, vulgar energy of Sanders' Green New Deal, which puts non-elites front and centre in a multi-polar world. 

    • Mike Smith 5.1

      Macron is certainly no Sanders. He's no dilettante either – hosting the G7 he supported Russia's re-entry and invited Rouhani and proposed an offer to end the JCPOA stand-off

  6. Aaron 6

    Macron comes from the banking world so it's surprising to see him be so blunt about the failings of the economic system. If he isn't careful he'll lose their support.

    Of course if he plays it right he might gain the support of the French working class – who are a pretty vocal bunch  🙂

  7. greywarshark 7

    Our PM is keeping our connections with Japan open, but jet lag and tiredness meant that she had to gather herself together.   Japan questions whether we are getting too close to China.   Some of course are welded at the hip.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/19/jacinda-ardern-mistakes-japan-for-china-during-tokyo-visit
    Ardern is on the first leg of an overseas trip that will next take her to the UN leaders general assembly meeting in New York, where she will give the keynote speech at the climate action summit.

  8. In Vino 8

    She did self-correct immediately, so I don't really see why it is being portrayed as such a huge blunder. Except that those doing so want to portray it that way. Trump. on the other hand, rarely manages to self-correct..

    Now, our media are not biased, are they?

    • greywarshark 8.1

      No.   St Jacinda must never get tired and must be careful never to eat spinach because it might get caught in her teeth and show up.   That would be a serious gaffe. ,Everything that she does is up for scrutiny, like a racehorse before the Grand National and if she doesn't take all her fences cleanly, Mark Todd will have to come along and take over, or perhaps Andrew Nicholson.    They are real NZ winners, and used to taking on all barriers and leaping over them.    I think we could think about searching for our representatives from sportspeople with fine skills and ability to get the best out of those they are working with.

  9. Cantabrian 9

    Vladimir Putin is a right-wing authoritarian despot who suppresses his political opposition by violent means. How can a left-wing democrat which I assume you are, be supportive of such a monster?

    • In Vino 9.1

      Can I suggest you listen to Putin speaking English ( a second language for him) if you have not already done so?

      He is actually more coherent than any of our current Western leaders who claim English as their first language, but mangle it and talk cacklemush.

      Yes, you have described Putin correctly, but I am sorry to inform you that he has done better than any of our idiotic Western leaders to date, and has probably preserved World Peace despite really dumb Western policies. 

      Macron is no fool, and I sympathise with him.

      Er – do you really believe all that demahcracy bullshit?
      Hard to tell.

       

  10. Western governments stopped representing the people since Reagan/Thatcher and small time wreckers like Roger Douglas decided that it was preferable to represent corporations, sell assets, and let banks financialise the economy.  Trumpian disinformation campaigns encourage working class voters to elect rich wankers who rip everyone off and enrich themselves. Free trade, open borders, diversity are mantras that cannot be questioned lest you be branded a racist bigot. Because wanting the best for your country is the sign of close minded selfishness. 

    The West is having an identity crisis because we have discarded the basic principles that held society together; religion, family, community. Instead we have bought the lies of marketers that we can have unrestrained sexual indulgence, that we should all pursue a career and measure our worth by our income, rather than relationships and children, that traditional social structures are tools of patriarchal oppression and should be destroyed

    The result? Record suicide rates, record homelessness, record inequality.

    Never mind, we are gonna be taken over by record immigration from different cultures who still value family and hold to their own culture and ignore the shrieking demands of nonbinary urban literati to bow to the latest nihilistic/narcissistic deconstruction of the traditional and the sacred

  11. Adam Ash 11

    I found Macron's comments refreshing – good to see a leader being pragmatic while seeing a place for a more confident view of national 'self' – a France which knows what France is and  what it stands for.

    We could do wit a bit of that sort of reflection here, as currently we are a rudderless ship adrift in a stormy sea – and the pirates are watching.

  12. Macron is a grade A hypocrite mouthing platitudes to appease urban liberals while trying to cut public sector wages and militarised police in riot gear violently suppress #GiletsJaunes

  13. Stuart Munro. 13

    It is a promising realization, this of Macron, that France is no longer a world power, a status it really lost in the course of the two world wars. England's recognition of the same facts will also likely take nearly a century – less perhaps, if Boris makes the wheels fall off particularly spectacularly, as he seems determined to do.

    As for Putin, Wells discusses the natural attraction of active authoritarians in The New Machiavelli. I'll pass on him myself – knowing what Gorbachov achieved in Primorye and would have for Russia but for Yeltsin's coup. In a borrowing from Trump, Putin now takes activists children. It may keep him in power for one more inappropriate term, but it's nothing to wish for.

    https://www.pri.org/stories/2015-04-28/she-opposed-putin-they-tried-take-away-her-kids The man’s an ogre.

  14. SPC 14

    Nothing on a revitalisation of nation state democracy, finance, the EU and international organisations, economic and security. 

    Navel gazing that was once ahead of its time in criticism of the End of History and the PNAC.  Now as passe as black face. 

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  • Speech by the Minister of Defence to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs
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  • Scott Watson’s convictions to be referred to Court of Appeal
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  • Protecting Kiwis with stronger financial supervision
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