The Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union was a battle within the Western family. The rising tensions between the US and China is a battle with a different civilization and a different ideology, something the West hasn’t experienced this before. Let’s first establish that the US is the greatest upholder of liberty and freedoms in the world, and the dominant force in the global economy. There has been rising tensions between the US and China not because of China’s ideology and policies, but because of their power. Vietnam is not in the spotlight because they are simply not a contender. China has been on the heels of the US for the past decade, and it is quickly catching up. The Coronavirus pandemic could very well be the catalyst that shifts momentum and global power into the hands of China. If the US and Western nations are unable to contain the virus within the year and counter the fallout with effective measures they could be left with deficit that cannot be filled. The balance of power could shift significantly. We could witness one of the greatest and most dramatic power exchanges the world has seen in history.
The Victor Writes the Story
There are two very loud voices right now. The US and China. Some are experiencing difficulty into who is telling the truth. Did the virus originate in China or is this an American experiment gone wrong? We may never know the whole truth. One thing is for certain, history is written by the victor. The Romans didn’t write on the collapse of their empire, the we believe to be true anyways. Their conquerors, the Germans did. Similarly, the Germans and Japanese didn’t write the history of World War II the victorious Allies did. The Da Vinci Code author, Dan Brown said, “History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books, books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?” Our understanding of ancient and modern history has been twisted and skewed. When one looks closer they will find figments of the truth, but this is no easy task.
The Roman Example
Let’s turn our attention to Rome for a minute. One of the most powerful, far reaching and longest reigning empires in history. The Romans established an incredibly complex and orderly civilization. Thousands of trade route networks stretched across the known world, as far as India and even China. The Roman legions were feared by all kingdoms outside of it’s reach. Is any of this beginning to sound familiar? But Rome was eventually overrun by the Visigoths, a united German nation. How could such a mighty and powerful empire fall to a few clans that themselves were constantly under attack? The barbarians had little to do with the fall and collapse of Rome. The collapse of Rome came from within. The barbarians walked in and finished the job. Government corruption, political instability, greed, overexpansion, military overspending, loss of traditional values overwhelmed the stability of Rome and over reliance on slaves. Is this beginning to sound familiar? Do not think that we are immune and so different from civilizations and people of the past because of our systems of governments, intelligence and know how.
History Will Repeat Itself
History always repeats itself. One of the most disliked subjects in grade school is history. The study of history is meaningless and irrelevant for most. And perhaps it is for during times of peace and stability. It’s not until we enter the same mess as our ancestors that our understanding of history becomes so paramount. It helps us understand what is next. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Our species, so awful at learning from the past. We convince ourselves that we will not make the same mistakes. The analogy of a frog slowly being cooked in a pan as the temperature is turned up couldn’t be more accurate and terrifying to illustrate what is occuring at this very moment. What’s most worrying about the current situation is not the stark similarities to the 1930s, the stock market crash, and a looming depression, but the dark nature of humans. Human history is filled with tales of corruption, fear and loathing. America and the West are teetering on the edge of complete collapse. The coronavirus may have been the spark, but the stage was already set for catastrophe. Like a stack of cards. This may not unfold as many of us may suspect, but it will happen. It’s simply a matter of time. The collapse of Rome took nearly 250 years from the Crisis of the Third Century in 235 CE to the eventual fall of Rome in 476 CE, but it eventually happened.
Fear and Self Loathing
Western civilization has become operatives of fear and scapegoating — reactive rather than responsive. And we have seen this in the recent handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Failing to act swiftly and blaming others has cost tens of thousands of lives. South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and China responded swiftly, and with precision, taking all necessary to stop the spread. Although the West has a great deal of wealth, they have become awful at averting and navigating through crises. Western leaders have shown an inability to unify their people, and have shattered hopes for unity. These are symptoms of the decline of a Western power struggle. The battle between the West and China is simply more than two groups battling each other, but two ideologies. The struggle of capitalism and socialism is part of the historic rhythm – concentration and distribution of wealth.
Western societies were founded on the principles of Christianity, yet they have turned their back on them. Rather they follow a secular mix of principles. These have caused separation. Meanwhile, the Chinese have become unified under one party and leader. They are optimistic about the future and have aggressive plans to take advantage of the West’s lack of foresight. The US and the West have become envious, fearful and hateful of the careful planning and strides China has made. It’s understandable they fear a communist regime growing its influence across the world, but that fear goes much deeper. Many are beginning to see what is happening before their eyes. Having been the world’s workhorse for the last 3 decades China is now in a position with its tremendous wealth and power to reallocate much of its production base and industries around the world. We will begin to see a shift in Chinese industry to a service based industry as the West has enjoyed for the past 40 years. This very transition strikes fear into the West because it ultimately means that China is in the driver’s seat now.
The Challenge with Liberty
Civilization is complicated. Social chaos so threatened the ancient order of Rome that Constantine adopted Christianity as the state religion partly as it gave the promise of restoring morality. William Durant in Lessons of History, a quintessential perspective on the value in the lessons found in human history, put it perfectly on the challenge with civilization, “Civilization requires a delicate balance of social impulses with animal impulses.” Civilization is a social order that promotes cultural creation. We require order, personal freedom and creative liberty, but these appear to be at odds with one another. It is often a tense, delicate balance between the two. If social order is too strong, freedom is restricted. If social order is too low, cooperation is not enabled to the degree to create civilization. Socrates, a master on human nature and morality, said, “All things are ready to burst with liberty… The excessive increase of anything causes a reaction in the opposite direction. Excessive liberty whether in the state or individuals seems to only pass to slavery, and the most aggravated form of tyranny arises from the most extreme form of liberty.”
The Truth Is
The big question is whether the West will take the necessary action to counter the collapse. The simple answer is ‘No’. But it’s very unlikely. The issue is the freedoms the West enjoys. These will lead to their demise. These freedoms have worked against the West over the last 20 years, tearing nations and generations apart from limb to limb, instead of unifying. Left and Right factions have battled and abused the very systems they were meant to uphold. Rather than lobby for positive change, they have turned on each other at every opportunity. This breakdown has become very clear during the recently botched containment of the coronavirus pandemic and the financial collapse of markets. A country is much like a company. It’s a complex entity that requires sound leadership with a clear vision, an attractive culture that people want to be a part of and invest in. Great companies like Apple or Microsoft could not thrive without good leadership, culture and motivations that bring them under a unified vision. They would lose sight of where they are going and eventually fail. The refusal of people to choose the right leadership and then stand behind them has prevented the swift action that has been necessary to avert the current health crisis. Although China’s actions have been draconian, their tactics have worked in containing the virus in a nation of over 1.3 billion. And their leader has been seen as a unifying figure. China knows it’s in second place, but it’s has a goal in mind: global domination. China’s GDP is expected to surpass the US sometime in 2026, and there doesn’t seem to be much anyone can do about it.
There is Still Hope
The collapse of the West and rise of China is unfolding before our eyes, and it’s progressing faster than most of us would have imagined. The West is capable of averting the collapse of it’s civilization and slowing China. Western civilization has proved to be a tenacious and innovative entity. So if this is the case, when and how should it act? The time to act is now, in the midst of a recession and a looming depression. The action must be swift and effective that is both effective and collaborative. The energies of people are charged for change.
There must be renewed cooperation between the US and the Western nations. There must be diversion of investment abroad, away from China to less privileged nations like Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Philippines. The West must seek to stamp out corruption, injustice and greed internally and externally. There must be a turning back to the values and principles the West was founded on, a renewed focus on morality. Policies for new wealth creation must be implemented to renew economies. New and ambitious infrastructure projects must be undertaken to rebuild crumbling infrastructure. And there must be renewed focus on unity. The West must come together under unifying figures like Washington, Lincoln and Churchill. Rome was overcome by invaders, but it had already dealt the fatal blow to itself. China will overcome the West and write the next page of history, unless there is action now.
- U.S. Versus China: A New Era of Great Power Competition, but Without Boundaries. June 26, 2019. The New York TImes.
- History is Always Written by the Winners When Two Cultures (quote by Dan Brown). July 31, 2013. GoodReads.
- The First Contact Between Rome and China. Unknown post date. Silk Road.
- 8 Reasons Why Rome Fell. January 29, 2019. History.com.
- A Short Timeline of the Fall of the Roman Empire. February 20, 2020. ThoughtCo.
- Lessons of History. Will Durant and Ariel Durant. 1968, Simon & Schuster.
- The US is scrambling to invest more in Asia to counter China’s ‘Belt and Road’ mega-project. Here’s what China’s plan to connect the world through infrastructure is like. November 11, 2019. Business Insider.