By Daniel Szewc | Poland
Since the dawn of time, empires have been competing with each other. Whether it was during antiquity- Athens with Sparta, Rome with Carthage, or even the competition between the UK and France during their colonial peaks, the race to be the world’s strongest has been the Holy Grail of geopolitics. This has been so since even before geopolitics itself existed.
An Era of Competing Powers
To become the 20th-century global hegemon, without doubt, was impossible for all but two: the Soviet Union and the USA. As we all know, the latter finally won and became the first definite world power. At the same time, it became the only non-secluded geopolitical player to not need to strive for a balance of power, but instead, to express it wherever and however it would want.
In practice, this caused the world to get used to the comfortable (for most) American protection on the world’s oceans. What’s the catch? Well, countries have to either be a very key piece in the American strategic puzzle, such as Saudi Arabia, or comply with its political system and the economic interests of its elites. The latter of the two lost America the world.
Greater Tolerance from China
The only reason why countries would leave the American sphere in favor of the Chinese one was ironically the lack of what many Americans value most: independence. More precisely, countries wanted more sovereignty in their own actions. So, they started re-evaluating their decisions and compared the two superpowers. China, many found, cared far less about the internal structure of allied states. Three main factors led to this.
First of all, the Chinese ideological footprint, originally Marxism, was convoluted and impure. They essentially had no solid principle to claim to stand behind. So, considering they are not solidly communist, it would not be practical or sensical for them to force Marxism on allies. The second factor is that no matter who rules China, the state’s main goal is to secure national sovereignty by de facto castrating the West’s ability to levy control over China again. Thirdly, China’s government has no moral obligation to be consistent in actions, as long as it is effective.
This is the key difference between the West’s virtue of idealism: even if a government is in no way idealist, it is expected to act as such by the general public. In contrast, China’s morality is more based around the philosopher Sun Tzu. Basically, he rejected the use of Poland’s “Bóg, Honor Ojczyzna” or France’s “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”. Instead, Sun Tzu favored a more behind-the-scenes, closed-door approach to politics.
The acceptance of espionage as a viable, ethical political tactic, for example, is not uncommon in the East. In the West, however, such a notion is reprehensible, as Americans make clear on the daily. In fact, Sun Tzu’s morality closely resembles that of Niccolo Machiavelli. The West viewed the philosopher as demonic and unworthy of following. Nonetheless, China gains power while nations increasingly hold anti-American sentiment. After decades of the American spread of democracy and nation-building, we finally begin to see the results: the superpower’s efforts are backfiring.
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