AFTER THE PANDEMIC: AN AWAKENING FROM IDEOLOGY TO REALITY?

Beijing does not propose a political model to export but points out a methodology to primacy in the world economic and geostrategic scene

Glauco D’Agostino

Abstract

A virus has had the power to shake the global systemic trance, especially that of wealthy countries that were considered such by definition. A paradigm shift, a new way of interpreting relationships, all to be built according to new parameters. It is to redefine the relationship between nation-states in the post-nuclear and to regulate the roles of public and private systems, increasingly decentralised organisation of work, and the formation of elites ever more able to deal with complex problems. Multilateralism has been one of the pillars of the world order for the past thirty years, while the U.S. claimed its superiority in the world order. Now the international dependent players settle on different geopolitical bases, towards a multitude of different regional orders regulated by local powers. The United States itself reported the unsustainability of its hegemonic role in the world, ushering gradual isolationism. With the Trump presidency, the U.S. weakness occurs on two fronts: the defection from international bodies and the commercial policy from time to time filled by sanctions and ostracism.

For some time now, China has appeared on the international scene and might set up a new bipolar system. Trump and Pompeo’s attitude is annoyed with the Beijing challenge. The US bête noire is the Silk Road, the tool allowing China in long-run to be crucial in rebuilding countries ravaged by the post-Covid-19 economic and political crises. China is already very involved in overcoming the financial crises in the Middle East and North Africa, and this would allow the Asian giant to mediate the regional Gulf interests, that is part of Beijing geo-strategy for Africa. The situations within the Arab world are among the most significant because of their geopolitical importance, with the Gulf countries engaged in a sound economic diversification, Lebanon in a state of debt insolvency, Egypt that is tightening repressions against freedom of expression, and Libya, where China gains influence through a stable balance between diplomatic and trade initiatives. Nevertheless, Beijing is not a political model to follow, giving, instead, a methodology that is not always and anyway valid. The U.S. problem is the awareness of a primacy decline, the recognition of an alternative power more suited to the times jointly to the will at regenerating itself and “its” waning West.

Keywords: Pandemic, Covid-19, geopolitics, multilateralism, bipolar system, West, United States, isolationism, China, Silk Roads, Middle East, North Africa, Gulf, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya.

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A new bipolar system

The Covid-19 is scrambling the world order, showing all the limits of international relations and internal adjustments to states outdated and overtaken by the transformation of society. The coronavirus is an accelerator, not the cause, of course. Those limits were visible before the pandemic, but few dared to denounce them. Despite the strength and sophistication of the technological systems, scientific research and communication, while entangled in a thousand interpretative and methodological academic contrasts, the self-referencing processes prevented us from seeing the advent of a new world. It may be the one where the definition of purposes and behaviours changes its structure due to new demands perceived as significant for the understanding of identity. A virus has had the power to shake the global systemic trance, especially that of wealthy countries that were considered such by definition. An awakening from ideology to reality.

Like after a lost war, the world needs reconstruction. Someone suggests a new Marshall Plan, proving he does not understand the disaster is not just economic. Unfortunately, this is the only understood reality, especially in the self-styled West. Perhaps the most suitable term to identify the advent of a new world would be perestroika, the one the Russians experienced after the USSR nightmare. A paradigm shift, a new way of interpreting relationships, all to be built according to new parameters. Let’s go out from ideological cages, alleged clashes of civilisations, racial barriers, conflicts justified by pretentious defences of national interests thousands of kilometres away, colonial militarization of entire regions, areas of geo-political influence forced within ideological boundaries, centuries-old oppositions between laissez-faire and state-control economics. All this was functional to a structure built on assumptions that no longer exist and therefore no longer effective in pursuing the aims of a future world to rebuild.

The path is long, yet, and the passage still has resistances which may also be painful in the transition. It is on an international level to redefine the relationship between nation-states in the post-nuclear; and on a national, to regulate the roles of public and private systems, increasingly decentralised organisation of work, and the formation of elites ever more able to deal with complex problems.[1] In practice, in both cases, it is about shifting from a pure day-by-day ruling policy to long-term strategic planning.

Already now, as we face the pandemic, the dangers of a systemic collapse are evident. Not even talking about the disastrous economic forecasts concerning the countries production and budgets, this collapse brings consequences impacting on the stability of the states themselves, the capacity of governments, the ability of public bodies to face crises and the internal balance of institutional powers.[2] As economic stability, Lebanon and Argentina, which have declared the insolvency of their debts, are examples of that. As for national powers, strengthening of institutional capacity close to abuse is evident in the cases of Modi in India, Orban in Hungary, Bolsonaro in Brazil; and everything suggests a centralisation of powers in the hands of executives also in other nations. Of course, this is a political option, and the proper electoral and institutional authorities of control will verify it. But in this case, the danger is the operability of local autonomies and, above all, the limitation of the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities settled in. The recent events in Kashmir are just one example.[3]

Multilateralism has been one of the pillars of the world order for the past thirty years.[4] Analysts believe that the recognition of supranational and multinational powers has regulated relations among powers with a view of enlarging world players, so overcoming the Cold War bipolar logic that had forced people self-determination and development. But the acceptance of new players in the group of decision-makers continued to provide an internal gap, a hegemony by the U.S. Indeed, it claimed its superiority in the world order and demanded a referee role while, at the same time, consolidated its economic predominance. This also entailed such strong leadership as to influence the perception of events, impose a one-sided ideological order, call to “Western loyalty” towards principles deemed “universal”, and enforce the right to “preventive wars”, not even declared and regarded as legitimate by definition.[5] For example, the identification of Islam as the new enemy, and Afghanistan and Iraq invasion resulted from this approach, as the world and public opinion prostrated at the feet of the new “master”, and human rights defenders endorsed it.

US AFFPThe U.S. problem is it not having grasped that, since it misses an ethical tension underlining this messianic role, the game is valid only if you preserve the economic and financial supremacy. The latest twenty years, the first of the 21st century, had already shown that the war efforts and the subsequent reconstructions of devastated countries might increase the attacker’s GDP in the short term, but this is not enough in the long-run to revive its economic fortunes when the country is falling long since. As well as reckless manoeuvres in uncontrolled financial circles lead, as in 2007, to disruptions that the U.S. may have partially overcome, but the rest of the world (dependent on the almighty dollar) still pays in terms of unemployment and increase of social inequalities. That’s like saying that Washington has no longer alleged supremacy, whereas now the international dependent players no longer see the advantages and settle on different geopolitical bases.

Here is the emergence of pre-established alliances’ breakdown, the birth of non-ideological transitional coalitions, the tension towards a multitude of different regional orders that no longer have the horizon of both multilateral and global order, but reflecting the ability of local powers to control and regulate limited and defined geopolitical areas. The report China’s National Defense in the New Era published in Beijing in July 2019, despite a thousand rhetorical accents defining its regime, acknowledges this reality: “As the realignment of international powers accelerates and the strength of emerging markets and developing countries keeps growing, the configuration of strategic power is becoming more balanced.”[6]

This transition has already been in place for a few decades. Covid-19 is its detector. The United States itself reported the unsustainability of its hegemonic role in the world, ushering gradual isolationism. Examples are countless, from its disengagement in aerospace, now contracted to private firms, and in the Middle Eastern and Afghan geopolitics, to its dissolving process of NATO and its exposed irrelevance in Latin America. And, with the Trump presidency, the U.S. weakness occurs on two fronts: the defection from international bodies; and the commercial policy from time to time filled by sanctions and ostracism. In the former case, the UN is the main target, up to withdrawal from UNESCO and WHO. In the latter, sanctions and tariffs now affect not only countries considered competitors or even “opponents”, but even earlier-called “allies”. In short, “all unplug” proving the inadequacy of the function hitherto supported, but also the will to regenerate suffering and a no longer decisive system as before.

Today’s leadership needs a long-term perspective and an ideal footprint that gives meaning to existence in the future. Perhaps the “American dream” has ceased its evocative attraction, stuck in the “loop” of its fears and uncertainties. Leadership requires vision (Fiorina, 2020) and also dream, if necessary, but you must have wisdom and safe driving and above all to find a way apt to the times. For now, the U.S. has chosen the mode of attacking its competitors rather than expanding the gained ground or even just defending it (Colombo and Magri, 2020).

The rise of China and the U.S. bias

Cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents in Asia (Ythlev, June 4th, 2020)

For some time now, China, with its demographic (therefore economic), cultural and technological potential, has appeared on the international scene. It’s for that the United States has identified it as the enemy number one.[7] Other than Covid origins! The problems are Huawei and Silk Roads. And, in not so faraway sight, space conquest. The contrast, previously veiled, is now becoming a mutual challenge posing serious questions about the future, in a context without the shadow of an impossible nuclear conflict but with the doable use of bacteriological weapons, given the technological ability achieved by many countries after decades of research on the subject. Many cite, by the way, the ominous phrase from the September 2000 report Rebuilding America’s Defenses by The Project for the New American Century: “advanced forms of biological warfare that can «target» specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.”[8]

A scene from the Hàn Dynasty era depicted in “The Silk Road” by HóngNián Zhāng

Thus, the rise of China could set up a new bipolar system, where anyhow Russia, Turkey and India would not do as bit players but would take an oversight in the related regional orders. It would not come back to the old-world balance simply replacing one contender with another, namely, the dissolved Soviet Union with the  People’s Republic of China. There are two fundamental differences: the approach towards American and Western economies, isolationist in the USSR case, very integrated in China’s; the stance in the regional influence policies, ideological in the former and merely utilitarian in the latter (Colombo and Magri, 2020). The chief strategy shaping China’s non-interference policy is that Beijing does not require any political reforms in a country where it invests. By contrast, in the face of this new reality, the U.S. holds putting over among its “allies” democracy and human rights as the source of its actions, except to undermine the credibility of international bodies and distribute “Bannon-style” suprematist messages reaching the limit of racial theories. At home, the White House goes to invoke military interventions, opposed even by the Pentagon and all the Army chiefs, and to call forth controversial anti-terrorism measures, as in the recent protests for George Floyd’s killing.

The US-China clash did not surely start with Covid-19. Aside from the tensions over their respective influence in the Pacific region, the December 2017 White House report National Security Strategy of the United States of America stated: “China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity. They are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence.”[9] At the time, the identified foes were two, and President Trump was concerned about China-Russia partnership. Just a few months earlier, President Xi had announced his intent to launch economic cooperation with the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union; and soon after, the sovereign Russia Direct Investment Fund had made known a partnership with the government-own China Development Bank to implement joint projects.[10]

Chinese President Xi Jinping with Russian President Vladimir Putin

Last February Munich Security Conference (The New York Times had already labelled the previous edition as a “requiem for the West”)[11] acknowledged that “the size of the Chinese threat to the Western community was perceived as much more pronounced by US representatives than their European peers.”[12] Today, getting aware of the unstoppable Chinese surge, Washington tries to seduce the weakest party, trying to separate the opposing interests and inviting Moscow to an unlikely anti-Chinese G-11. Apart from the rejection by some of the most important NATO allies (for example Germany, France and Canada), Trump should, however, take note of what the cited Chinese White Paper of July 2019 makes clear: “The military relationship between China and Russia continues to develop at a high level, enriching the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era and playing a significant role in maintaining global strategic stability.”[13] Like saying, Washington isolation deepens as its progressive lack of influence in international politics does.

Trump and Pompeo’s attitude is annoyed with the Beijing challenge, which exists on a diplomatic and strategic level, there is no doubt, but that is altogether legitimate. A claim of US supremacy you can’t face contends qualities of China, which, however, can’t be reproached for this. And just because of its now winning features. Here are a few:

  • In economic terms, the 2020 forecast of the International Monetary Fund vowed China has world’s first place in the GDP (PPP) assessed in Int’l$, surpassing the US by 7,000 billion dollars;[14]
  • In the energy sector, China is the world’s second-largest oil consumer, and its demand is already back to pre-pandemic levels;[15]
  • In commercial terms, since 2013, China has surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest trading nation.[16] According to World Trade Organization data by individual country, in 2016 China was the chief source of imports for 36 states, following only the European Union and forego the United States;[17]
  • In the technology sector, Chinese production owns the largest world’s market share for electronics exports, and it dominates personal computers, air conditioners and telephones markets.[18] It also provides about 80% of global demand for rare-earth elements,[19] produced mainly in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.[20] The importance of rare-earth elements links to the use in superconductors, batteries, hybrid vehicles, liquid crystal displays, LEDs, optical fibres;[21]
  • As for foreign direct investment, China is the second global recipient even though, due to coronavirus, in the first four months of this year, the volume decreased by 6.1%. However, investments in the high-tech service sector and those from South-East Asia and the countries involved in the Silk Road increased in the same period.[22]

Here’s the US bête noire. The Silk Roads, the tool allowing China in long-run to excel in the economic and geostrategic field and be crucial in rebuilding countries ravaged by the post-Covid-19 economic and political crises, as in post-war times.[23] China has gathered 138 countries and 30 international organisations in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).[24] If the post-WWII period saw the U.S. as the benefactor for the restoration of state mechanisms in entire regions, today China could lead the advent of a “new era”. In a historical nemesis, it could recover the role lost just over a century ago with the Qing Empire’s fall, and even earlier, when in 1900 troops of eight allied powers (Great Britain, the U.S., Germany, France, Russia, Japan, Italy and Austria) sacked Beijing and setting up their troops with no Chinese presence.

The Chinese strategy in the Middle East and North Africa

The Institut Montaigne, which many observers take close to the French President Macron, believes that China is already very involved in overcoming the financial crises in the Middle East and North Africa.[25] For example, after the harm caused by the U.S. sanctions and a drastic GDP decrease, it foresees a higher lean of Tehrān to Beijing,  already in place since the high-speed rail is already under construction as a BRI infrastructure. Yet, it expects the strengthening of hydrocarbons agreements Saudi Arabia has entered with China inasmuch its largest buyer.[26] This will allow the Asian giant to mediate the regional Gulf interests, removing American regime-change temptations in Iran and disrupting competing geopolitical axes, such as Tel Aviv-Riyāḍ-Cairo or Moscow-Tehrān-Damascus and Ankara-Dōḥa. The institute also anticipates the likelihood of a Chinese guarantee on the financial needs of Algeria and Egypt, in the latter case, breaking the dependence on IMF and Gulf and Western countries. On the other hand, this is in line with Beijing’s behaviour, which during the pandemic has brought economic and medical aid to 82 nations in difficulty, not demanding a return in terms of greater openness towards its commercial influence, as alleged by the accusation of pursuing “masked diplomacy” (Wehrey and Alkoutami, 2020).

Chinese President Xi Jinping with King Salmān of Saudi Arabia

The role of China in the Middle East stresses the fact that the Dragon Country is the first source of investment and the first commercial partner in the area and, in terms of Chinese foreign investment, the Middle East is the second target after the European Union. It is not a straight political pressure. Indeed, Beijing has avoided taking sides for either of the contenders in the many ongoing conflicts, keeping neutrality aimed at economic penetration and ability to intervene in the countries’ rehabilitation.

Armando Sanguini, former Italian Ambassador to Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, as well, emphasises the Chinese involvement in the Middle East. In the ISPI Report 2020,[27] he cites, in addition to the influence on Iran, the “strategic partnership with the Arab world, especially Saudi Arabia, but also Jordan, Egypt, Djibouti (militarily) and so on.” The politically and economically Saudi-dominated area as a whole is a natural bridge linking the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.[28] All related countries experience daily the disasters of ongoing wars or potential political destabilisations always around the corner. Thus, Beijing supports all planned initiatives in the area and the inclusion of local strategic maritime poles in the BRI itineraries leading from Tehrān to Cairo, the Red Sea and Djibouti. These actions goal is to open the doors to sub-Saharan Africa, where national economies are already profusely benefiting from Chinese aid. Without forgetting Libya, where the legitimate Government of National Agreement signed the Silk Road deal, but where Beijing keeps informal trade relations with the Libyan National Army loyal to the Tobruk-based House of Representatives.

These moves are part of Beijing geo-strategy for Africa, where Chinese trade has a twenty-fold increase in the past decade[29] outperforming competitors in quantity and quality. The U.S. is aware of this, and the words Deputy Secretary of Commerce Karen Dunn Kelley pronounced in June last year are revealing: “Yet we have lost ground to the increasingly sophisticated – but too often opaque – business practices of foreign competitors.”[30] It’s true that the weak programs Washington set in late 2018 by the “New Strategy for Africa” cannot cope with the ability of Beijing. The latter already controls the public debt of many African countries, is going to cancel the debt of the poorest ones and rules its diplomacy by personal relationships to the domestic leaders. Three assets that are not part of the White House’s cultural background.

Nairobi

Post-Covid in the Arab countries

Countries’ post-coronavirus problem, however, is not just geopolitical and it doesn’t limit to the U.S.-China confrontation. We wanted to mark this issue because, in the future, you cannot ignore this reality affecting life and development hopes of the world as a whole. But everything will also depend on the economic and social conditions which nations will emerge from the pandemic. The situations within the Arab world are among the most significant because of their geopolitical importance. We summarise some of them in the following outlines.

Arabian Peninsula

Some analysts believe that the leading countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, under their financial reserves, will be among the economies that best respond to the Covid effects (Duclos and El Karoui, 2020). We must also consider they need remodelling their plans to 2030 or 2040 the leaderships had focused on to ensure a development trend up to their ability. Saudi Arabia, given the increase in its budget deficit, has for years implemented IMF recommendations to enhance revenues other than those from hydrocarbons.[31] As the leading oil exporter in the world, the energy sector is worth 50% of its GDP and 70% of exports.[32]

Although Oman in the months of the pandemic has even increased the oil export to China (Ardemagni, 2020), the other GCC countries, with a view to diversification, have aimed at strengthening sectors such as logistics, tourism, healthcare and finance and manufacturing services. The UAE, to push non-oil sector contribution to GDP up to 80%, has focused on tourism and financial, transport and business services, as long as the government goal is to propose the country as a financial hub; while Bahrain is enhancing the food processing sector, as well as the financial one. All of them, however, took care of investment in Congress Venues, festivals and major events. Now, COVID-19 effects have already caused the postponement of important exhibitions in Riyāḍ, Jeddah, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Dōḥa.

Dubai

Lebanon

Lebanon is one of those cases where the pandemic is likely to worsen its economic, financial and social situation and where the U.S. is aiming to “bring back to political order” a country claiming the independence of its positions in the Middle-eastern chessboard.  Unfortunately, Lebanon faces the worst economic crisis of the last decades, and the new Diyāb’s technical government is called upon to solve the disasters caused in the past by poor management and dependence on international constraints. Above all, today’s crisis becomes dangerous to country stability in an area of vast energy interest.

“How can we pay the creditors while there are people in the streets without the money to buy a loaf of bread?” the Prime Minister had pointed out.[33] So, for the first time in its history, last March 9th, the state has not been able to repay $ 1.2 billion debt for Eurobonds it acquired. As a result, the government has requested IMF assistance and is preparing to apply for funding from the World Bank and probably some GCC countries. [34] On January 22nd, Foreign Policy wrote: “Some Lebanese, including central bank governor Riad Salamé, are hoping to be rescued by Qatar.”[35]

Beirut

All this will have its price not only financially but also on social services. Above all, the IMF intervention requires priority actions, programs and monitoring operations similar to a real receivership, all initiatives that, if Beirut accepts the conditions, it must implement gradually over the next few years. Almost certainly, it will reduce the debt, devalue the Lebanese lira (the parallel exchange rate in May was about three times its official value against the dollar), increase its tax revenues, restructure the banking system including its own Central Bank. A further effect will be the withdrawal of many bank deposits in dollars, which will weigh more on the already weakened central monetary reserves. In short, an uncertain future for the government and people of the Land of the Cedars.

Egypt

Cairo

“The real pandemic that is more dangerous for this beloved country is not corona, but it is the Al-Sisi pandemic that has spread day after day. These catastrophic results in various aspects of life, be they economic, political, health, educational, or media-related, are the inevitable outcome.”[36] These sentences by Batel movement (illegitimate, translated into English) in an online campaign disclose the attitude of many Egyptian citizens towards their President Sīsī. Beyond rhetoric, Egypt is one of the worst examples of exploitable use of the pandemic to crush any domestic opposition. On the other hand, this is written in the regime DNA, born by a secular coup and therefore not opposed by Western democratic governments. Thus, Covid-19 restrictions have caused the government to tighten repressions against freedom of expression and harmless protests. The international press reported countless episodes, including the arrest of four intellectual women demonstrating for preventive health care of prisoners,[37] and the retaliation against The Guardian and The New York Times, accused of providing “false information” on the coronavirus spread.[38]

The identification of the priorities the government has to address remains unchanged, such as the recovery of tourism activities, the fight against corruption and, in the social field, the reduction of inequalities and youth unemployment. From today onwards, also because the strategic position Egypt has in the world context, the quantitative level of these emergencies will change, driving new policies no longer emergency but structural and sustainable for needs arising from new social feelings.

Libya

The coronavirus event is leading to the return of Libyan citizens from abroad through the Egyptian and Tunisian borders and Misrata, Benghazi and al-Bayḑā’ airports. Despite the low impact of the pandemic on the population, the restrictive measures are penalising immigrants, day workers and internally displaced persons, especially in terms of food security and assistance.[39] It is clear that the emergency overlaps the long-standing social problems related to the enduring civil war, and, therefore, the situation doesn’t expect to improve without a political or military solution to the conflict. Yet, the ongoing militarization in the management of public activities is causing a more centralised supply of essential services.

The intervention on the ground of many regular militaries in disguised mercenary external militias (Egyptian, Russian, Turkish, Saudi, UAE, Qatari and some European countries) takes back to the geopolitical issue. It’s a thread of any hypothesis of recovery for a strategic area in the Mediterranean balances, due to considerable energy resources and a tribal structure of people, such as to stir up conflicts and interference from many interested potentates. Once again, albeit in the background, one of the protagonists is China, which has maintained a neutral attitude among the contenders, denouncing interferences and pushing for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, although not involving itself in mediation between the parties. Beijing’s policy is substantially different from all others because based on the acquisition of its area of influence not through ineffectual military occupations but a stable balance between diplomatic and trade initiatives that do not necessarily meet a deployment logic. In terms of international legitimacy, it recognises the Government of National Agreement of President Sarraj, who reciprocates by allowing Chinese investments in the infrastructure and telecommunications sectors with the endorsement of Tripoli-controlled Libyan Central Bank. At the same time, Beijing holds excellent relations with the secessionist General Ḥaftar, who is also an American citizen and still controls most of the oil plants located in the east of the country, whose construction China had contributed to in the Qaddāfī era. In the end, this ambiguous Chinese position is convenient both in Tripoli and in Tobruk also given a necessary physical and institutional reconstruction (unitary or not), endorsing the success of a geopolitics alternative to other interested powers’ (Wehrey and Alkoutami, 2020).

Tripoli, Libya

The key consideration to events is that this neutrality policy is not offhand and contingent but is a result of a programmed vision of the Chinese role in the global context, and Libya, for its part, is included in this vision. It means that Beijing’s current attitude is the result of an arduous process started in 2011 with its abstention vote at the UN Security Council on NATO military intervention in Libya, despite the Arab League and African Union favoured it. The recognition of the National Transitional Council and the subsequent Government of National Agreement followed.

Final remarks

The analysis and the reported considerations reveal that the first international player in the 21st century has a name and is called China. It is not an ideological issue. Indeed, the article headlines “from ideology to reality”, leaving open the statement by adding a question mark. Beijing is not a political model to follow because it does not want to be. Instead, it gives a methodology that is not always and anyway valid but is the most valid hic et nunc, according to the concepts of Martin Heidegger and Ernst Jünger.

America embodies the 20th-century winning vision, one that had based its action on principles decreed as universal and demagogically reflected a false idea of its essence. The actuality makes the development of its history plastically evident since it has never dealt with the distortions of its roots, from the never appeased racism of its origins to the culture of violence explicit in Hiroshima and Guantánamo. Pre-eminent national interests (automatically become a global interest) always justified them. It makes clear the fragility of human rights, which a sort of reason of State (not an American invention) bent a thousand times to rhetoric.

The sense of this paper is not an anti-American ranting that would be an ideological distortion, as well. There are many merits the world must recognise to Washington, first of all, the barrier that it has kept against the Marxist totalitarianism for almost fifty years. However, in practice, the mechanism was ideology against ideology, both dropped from a reality forced to chase high-sounding utopias inspired by high principles, but at the end only functional to power control. I relate, for example, to the “abandonment of the use of force”, enshrined in the Atlantic Charter,[40] or to the “gigantic development of the productive forces of human society” following the end of capitalism, as stated by Lenin.[41] The critical problem is that the attitude to fight an enemy they had contributed reinvigorate in the WWII had led the Americans to too big a responsibility when this enemy had collapsed under the inability to manage its doctrinal assumptions. Forecast for the 21st century is not free from these processes, but surely the notice of default of premises and promises aimed only at establishing field solidarity will facilitate reality management. Since the future is looming much more complex, it requires a rush of procedures more adaptive to the needs of a world in motion.

The coronavirus will serve as a lesson if its passing urge all. Washington seems late in this regard. Pompeo’s statements about the contrast with China[42] seem updated because they focus on the ideological aspect of its regime and the suspicion it is at the origin of the pandemic. Of course, raising the political issue of human rights of Uyghurs and Tibet is never inappropriate, the uncertainties about their future remain. But doing so only in the Chinese case, when Modi’s India and Sīsī’s Egypt are among the Washington-influenced regimes that are making a mess of those rights, seems to clutch at straws. Especially when President Trump calls for the militarization of public order and even politics.[43]

It seems obvious the problem is not who is the President. We don’t profit by the manipulation of specific topics to endorse either position helpful to the November presidential campaign. Here the U.S. problem is the awareness of a primacy decline, the recognition of an alternative power more suited to the times jointly to the will at regenerating itself and “its” waning West.

Perhaps, we should reflect on what the philosopher Muṣṭafā Chérif, former Minister of Education in Algeria, writes: “Despite the prodigious progress brought to excess, the marginalization of the sacred and the identification of an enemy as a diversion, imbalances and excesses have arisen.” And again: “The ambition to become masters and owners of the world endlessly forgoing a higher law is falling apart. European societies […] are the first in history to want to live disconnected from a spiritual transcendence.”[44]

It is the end of a world!

The Chinese robot-policeman who recognises faces (photo Weibo)

***

[1] Jean-François Fiorina (May 4th, 2020). Une nouvelle ère pour les entreprises ! Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/une-nouvelle-%25C3%25A8re-pour-les-entreprises-jean-fran%25C3%25A7ois-fiorina-1c/?msgConversationId=6659188096464146432&msgOverlay=true&trackingId=5dnMvN%2BrTEqnleIUDFCN4g%3D%3D.

[2] Frances Z. Brown, Jarrett Blanc (April 14th, 2020). Coronavirus in Conflict Zones: A Sobering Landscape. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved from https://carnegieendowment.org/2020/04/14/coronavirus-in-conflict-zones-sobering-landscape-pub-81518.

[3] Pakistan claims new Kashmir residency law ‘illegal’ (May 19th, 2020). Retrieved from https://www.dailysabah.com/world/asia-pacific/pakistan-claims-new-kashmir-residency-law-illegal.

[4] Alessandro Colombo, Paolo Magri (March 2020). Work in Progress. The End of a World, part II. ISPI Report 2020. Milano, Italy: Ledizioni LediPublishing.

[5] The Canadian academic Peter Dale Scott recalls how since 1997 The Project for the New American Century has pursued “a global Pax Americana unrestrained by international law and spoke frankly of the need to retain forward-based U.S. troops in the Middle East, even If Saddam Hussein was to disappear.” Peter Dale Scott (2007). The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America, p. 192. Berkley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press.

[6] State Council of the People’s Republic of China (July 2019). China’s National Defense in the New Era, § I. International Security Situation. Beijing, China: Foreign Languages Press Co. Ltd. Retrieved from http://english.www.gov.cn/archive/whitepaper/201907/24/content_WS5d3941ddc6d08408f502283d.html.

[7] Pepe Escobar (February 21st, 2020). No Weapon Left Behind: The American Hybrid War on China. Strategic Culture Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2020/02/21/no-weapon-left-behind-the-american-hybrid-war-on-china/

[8] The Project for the New American Century (September 2000). Rebuilding America’s Defenses. Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century, V. Creating Tomorrow’s Dominant Force. Retrieved from https://cryptome.org/rad.htm.

[9] The President of the United States (December 2017). National Security Strategy of the United States of America, Introduction, p. 2. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf.

[10] Glauco D’Agostino (February 27th, 2018). China “Winks” at Central Asia amongst Complicity, Uncertainty and Rebuff. Retrieved from https://www.islamicworld.it/wp/china-winks-at-central-asia-amongst-complicity-uncertainty-rebuff/

[11] Roger Cohen (February 15th, 2019). Munich or a Requiem for the West. The New York Times, https://nyti.ms/2EbAbbr.

[12] The Munich Security Conference 2020 (February 16th, 2020). Westlessness, Event Summary. Retrieved from https://securityconference.org/en/news/full/westlessness-the-munich-security-conference-2020/

[13] State Council of the People’s Republic of China (July 2019). China’s National Defense in the New Era, cit., § VI. Actively Contributing to Building a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind.

[14] International Monetary Fund (April 2020). World Economic Outlook: The Great Lockdown. Retrieved from https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WEO/Issues/2020/04/14/weo-april-2020.

[15] Muyu Xu, Stephanie Kelly, Yuka Obayashi (June 3rd, 2020). China drives global oil demand recovery out of coronavirus collapse. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-global-oil-demand-analysis/china-drives-global-oil-demand-recovery-out-of-coronavirus-collapse-idUSKBN23A0XF.

[16] Angela Monaghan (January 10th, 2014). China surpasses US as world’s largest trading nation. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/jan/10/china-surpasses-us-world-largest-trading-nation#:~:text=China%20became%20the%20world’s%20largest,landmark%20milestone%22%20for%20the%20country; Daniel Workman (December 31st, 2019). World’s Top Export Countries. Retrieved from http://www.worldstopexports.com/worlds-top-export-countries/

[17] Data from World Trade Organization (2019). Trade Profiles 2019. Retrieved from https://www.wto.org/english/res_e/statis_e/statis_e.htm.

[18] Jan Bühring (March 23rd, 2018). Consumer Electronics Industry Report. Retrieved from https://intrepidsourcing.com/industry-reports/consumer-electronics-industry-report/

[19] The National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) (August 13th, 2019). China’s Control of Rare Earth Metals, Interview from the Pacific Energy Summit. Retrieved from https://www.nbr.org/publication/chinas-control-of-rare-earth-metals/

[20] China’s Inner Mongolia sees more rare earth in situ conversion (September 19th, 2019). Retrieved from http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-09/19/c_138405352.htm#:~:text=HOHHOT%2C%20Sept.,municipal%20government%20said%20on%20Thursday.

[21] Gordon B. Haxel, James B. Hedrick, and Greta J. Orris (2002). Rare Earth Elements – Critical Resources for High Technology. USGS Fact Sheet 087-02. United States Geological Survey.

[22] China Foreign Direct Investment (2020). Retrieved from https://tradingeconomics.com/china/foreign-direct-investment.

[23] Frederic Wehrey, Sandy Alkoutami (May 10th, 2020). China’s Balancing Act in Libya, section “China Hedges its Bets”. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved from https://carnegieendowment.org/2020/05/10/china-s-balancing-act-in-libya-pub-81757.

[24] Shisong Jiang (May 30th, 2020). Marching to an International Law Powerhouse Through Cities: An Ideational Reflection on China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’. In Giuseppe Martinico, Xueyan WU (2020). A Legal Analysis of the Belt and Road Initiative: Towards a New Silk Road?, pp. 221-251. Palgrave Macmillan. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-46000-6.

[25] Michel Duclos, Hakim El Karoui (April 23rd, 2020). Is Covid-19 a Game-Changer for the Middle East and the Maghreb? Institut Montaigne. Retrieved from https://www.institutmontaigne.org/en/blog/covid-19-game-changer-middle-east-and-maghreb.

[26] Where does Saudi Arabia export to? (2018). Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC). Retrieved from https://oec.world/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/export/sau/show/all/2018/

[27] Armando Sanguini (March 2020). Middle East. In Colombo and Magri, Work in Progress, cit., Part II – The Playing Fields, § 9., pp. 130-140.

[28] Eleonora Ardemagni (March 18th, 2020). Post-covid e petrolio: come cambiano le monarchie del Golfo? ISPI (Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale), Retrieved from https://www.ispionline.it/it/pubblicazione/post-covid-e-petrolio-come-cambiano-le-monarchie-del-golfo-26180.

[29] Giovanni Carbone (March 2020). In Colombo and Magri, Work in Progress, cit., Part II – The Playing Fields, § 7. Africa, pp. 109-119.

[30] Danielle Paquette (January 19th, 2019). Trump administration unveils its new Africa strategy – with wins and snags. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/trump-administration-unveils-its-new-africa-strategy–with-wins-and-snags/2019/06/19/c751be4c-91f5-11e9-956a-88c291ab5c38_story.html.

[31] Glauco D’Agostino (May 2017). The Emirates Boost and Renewal Opportunities of Gulf Arab Countries. The Diplomatic Insight, 10(5). Islamabad (Pakistan): Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies.

[32] Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (2020). Saudi Arabia facts and figures. Retrieved from https://www.opec.org/opec_web/en/about_us/169.htm.

[33] For the first time, Lebanon defaults on its debts (March 12th, 2020). Retrieved from https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2020/03/12/for-the-first-time-lebanon-defaults-on-its-debts.

[34] Amer Bisat, Marcel Cassard, Ishac Diwan (May 11th, 2020). A Grave Crisis, With No Silver Bullet. Carnegie Middle East Center. Retrieved from https://carnegie-mec.org/2020/05/11/grave-crisis-with-no-silver-bullet-pub-81752.

[35] Firas Maksad (January 22nd, 2020). Lebanon’s Halloween Government. Retrieved from https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/01/22/lebanons-halloween-government/

[36] Egypt: Opponents say Sisi’s rule as dangerous as coronavirus (March 23rd, 2020). Retrieved from https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20200323-egypt-opponents-say-sisis-rule-as-dangerous-as-coronavirus/

[37] Lucia Ardovini (April 9th, 2020). Covid-19 in Egypt: Global Pandemics in Times of Authoritarianism. ISPI (Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale), Retrieved from https://www.ispionline.it/it/pubblicazione/covid-19-egypt-global-pandemics-times-authoritarianism-25653.

[38] Egypt targets Guardian, NYT journalists over coronavirus reports (March 18th, 2020). Retrieved from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/egypt-targets-guardian-nyt-journalists-coronavirus-reports-200318155434068.html?utm_source=website&utm_medium=article_page&utm_campaign=read_more_links

[39] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (June 8th, 2020). Libya: COVID-19 – Situation Report No. 6. Retrieved from https://reliefweb.int/report/libya/libya-covid-19-situation-report-no-6-08-june-2020.

[40] North Atlantic Treaty Organization (July 2nd, 2018). ‘The Atlantic Charter’. Retrieved from https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_16912.htm.

[41] Full Communism – The Ultimate Goal (May 2009). Retrieved from http://www.economictheories.org/2009/05/full-communism-ultimate-goal.html.

[42] Joseph Bosco (June 7th, 2020). Pompeo and Trump can turn human-rights issues against China. Retrieved from https://thehill.com/opinion/international/501523-pompeo-and-trump-can-turn-human-rights-issues-against-china.

[43] Ishaan Tharoor (June 5th, 2020). Trump’s dangerous militarization of U.S. politics. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/06/05/united-states-militarization-trump/

[44] Mustapha Cherif (n.d.). La fine di un mondo. The original translation from French into Italian is by Comunità Religiosa Islamica Italiana (COREIS). Retrieved from https://www.coreis.it/articoli/la-fine-di-un-mondo.

 

REFERENCES

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  28. Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (2020). Saudi Arabia facts and figures. Retrieved from https://www.opec.org/opec_web/en/about_us/169.htm.
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