In 1989, an essay entitled “The End of History?” by a little-known State Department official, Francis Fukuyama, attracted political Washington’s attention. The interest in his writing was so great that the summer issue of The National Interest, the small-circulation journal where it was published, was—as one Washington newsdealer put it—“outselling everything, even the pornography.”
Seeing the turmoil in Eastern Europe unfold, Fukuyama argued that liberal democracy would triumph around the world, defeating communism and fascism, marking the aforementioned “end of history.”
This idea that Western-style democracy will inevitably become the norm in all nations seems to have guided many political leaders. Yet, if we look at the world today, we obviously don’t see one where democracy has won.
Many leaders assumed that eventually, countries like China would slowly transition to democracy. They understood democratization as another kind of development for developing countries, something that would more or less inevitably move forward, just like economic and technological development.
Over the last decades, China has become one of the world’s fastest-growing economies because it abandoned communist economics and opted for a market economy, albeit one under the government’s firm grip.
Many Western leaders perceived these reforms as signs that China is moving from a communist state to a free democracy. Instead, the CCP perfected its rule with this new powerful model of a state-controlled market economy and an authoritarian government that allowed for an efficient economy and more wealth for its population without making any concessions on its dictatorial one-party rule.
The West, praising China’s market liberalization, encouraged its rise, welcoming it as one of them to international organizations like the World Trade Organization and sending millions of dollars in foreign aid to the communist regime. The Chinese market was just too tempting.
Around the world, countries are dragged into China’s web of influence through its investment and trade initiatives, and China’s system could serve as a model for smaller, developing countries worldwide. It doesn’t even need to get control of a nation to subject it to its authoritarian wishes—China’s sheer economic weight already causes American companies from Hollywood to the NFL to self-censor.
After defeating communism and fascism in the 20th century, there was an impulse among many predominantly liberal politicians to now focus on the West’s faults. The left, however, has taken this to an unimaginable extreme—engaging in a newfound reckless form of identity politics that seeks to tear down Western democracies’ institutions and rip the shared national identity apart.
Admittedly, identity politics has been around for centuries. But its uglier forms found a notable revival in the West in the new millennium since there seemed to be no common enemy after the Soviet Union’s collapse.
Could Fukuyama have imagined back in the 90s that someday there would be chants of “Death to America!” in American streets, by American citizens? That Disney would boycott a U.S. state because it disagreed with its politics but was perfectly fine with working in regions of China where minorities are interned and ethnically cleansed, going out of its way to thank the local police authorities that engage in these atrocious crimes?
Identity politics weakens democracy and the nation-state, making countries vulnerable due to a lack of unity, tearing them apart, or ultimately giving rise to authoritarianism.
In 1964, during the Cold War, Reagan warned that if the U.S. would not change course, someday “our surrender will be voluntary because by that time we will have been weakened from within spiritually, morally, and economically.” The current Administration has picked up on the Chinese threat, but there needs to be a joint approach across the political spectrum and the Western World.
First, end the identity politics that weaken, divide, and attack Western nations. Second, acknowledge that China is not one of us. It’s not a partner, nor merely a competitor. It’s the enemy of freedom around the world.
The West should not only work to contain China’s influence around the globe, but aggressively roll it back.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.