Massive public unrest in the US and other nations, witnessed for close to two weeks now, could potentially mark the end of Western dominance on the global stage
The world is in a state of flux. If the first decade of the 21st century became synonymous with “Arab Spring” (notwithstanding the fact that it soon descended into chaos), the second decade could well go down in history as a harbinger of a new world order.
For, never before has public unrest been seen in the West on a scale witnessed close to two weeks now, which could potentially mark the end of Western powers’ dominance on global stage. What was initially thought by some to be an internal issue of the world’s only surviving superpower quickly escalated and acquired international infamy. It exposed one of the many deep fault lines in human society that somehow remained unaddressed all these years despite all the tall talks.
As if the raging coronavirus aka COVID-19 pandemic that has affected close to seven million people and claimed over four lakh lives across 213 countries and territories worldwide wasn’t enough, the ongoing protest (often violent) over the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer at Minneapolis on May 25 has brought the world dangerously on the brink. But what started as a movement to seek justice for George Floyd quickly descended into chaos and mayhem as hundreds of towns and cities across the US witnessed unprecedented violence as rioters indulged in loot and plunder.
Protesters looted shops, put vehicles and buildings on fire and attacked policemen. And with rioters reaching almost the outer precinct of White House, there were reports that President Donald Trump was forced to take shelter at a bunker inside the presidential palace. Trump’s loquacious nature and the fact that US presidential election is scheduled early November this year, which has deeply polarised the entire American society, too haven’t helped matters. Never has the US cut such a sorry figure before rest of the world wherein a police chief openly asks its President to keep his mouth shut or Pentagon openly disagrees with its supreme commander’s threat to use military to dominate the protesters.
In fact, the latest conflagration has exposed all that’s evil in the American system and its vulnerability to contradictions within. But this comes at a time when the country has clocked over 1.12 lakh deaths and is waging a lonely but seemingly losing battle against COVID-19.
On the other hand, the flames of protest only began to spread far and wide – from Australia to New Zealand to Africa to the Middle East to Europe to South America. #BlackLivesMatter became a global movement as celebrities took to the street and social media in a big way to express solidarity with the George Floyd killing and to highlight the structured racism still prevalent in most western countries. Violent demonstrations and arson were witnessed across towns and cities in France, Germany, Spain, the UK, etc, on a scale never witnessed or even imagined until few days back.
As protesters performed the traditional Maori war dance Haka in New Zealand’s capital Auckland, their more violent counterparts in Europe looted shops, attacked policemen and even targeted unsuspecting white men and women on the streets. Cops were seen retreating after being unable to maintain public order in many European towns and cities. And as the world comes to terms with the new anti-racist movement, the European powers have been so overwhelmed by its enormity that most governments haven’t been able to come up with an appropriate response. This comes barely weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic that ravaged the continent and from which it is yet to fully recover.
Meanwhile, at the receiving end of growing international criticism over its inept handling of COVID-19 pandemic and its violent repression of Hong Kong protesters, China lost no time in using the opportunity to hit out at the West, particular at the US. Beijing was quick to remind Washington on the need to stop racism and violent police repression of demonstrators. It’s a different matter that the dragon too still has a lot of explanations to do regarding its violent repression of Uyghur Muslims, Tibetans and Hong Kong youth, besides mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak.
And not wanting to let go off any opportunity from exploiting the vacuum created on global stage due to Western powers’ preoccupation with dealing their own internal turmoil, a bellicose China asserted its military power across the South China Sea, Pacific Ocean, Taiwan Strait, Sino-India border, etc. It sent out a strong message to the world, particularly the West, loud and clear that it was determined to assert its dominance globally from now on.
The month-long stand-off in eastern Ladakh between the armies of China and India can be viewed from this perspective. Beijing wants to test New Delhi’s resolve. However, it’s another matter that emboldened by its own strong posturing during the 72-day Doklam standoff that ultimately forced China to call it truce, India isn’t likely to blink this time either. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the world will have to contend with an increasingly assertive China.
Actually, the unprecedented civil unrest now being witnessed in the West has the potential to change the existing world order. Badly battered and bruised by the recent developments – while COVID-19 pandemic left most Western countries economically devastated, #BlackLivesMatter movement only punched more holes in their socio-political armour – the West is unlikely to pose any serious challenge to China’s ambition. The current US President’s flip-flops and his inability to lead the Western bloc that has seen Uncle Sam’s dominance post World War II haven’t helped matters either. But it’s not that the writings weren’t there on the wall. Formations of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, New Development Bank, etc, were clear indications of China’s intentions. And while its companies are now busy buying cash-strapped Western companies, Beijing has effectively neutralised US dominance in existing multilateral forums like World Health Organisation. The balance of power seems to be clearly shifting in favour of Beijing. For good or worse is for the posterity to decide. Now, how emerging powers like India, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, etc, along with their allies like Japan, South Korea, etc, fit into the scheme of things remain to be seen.
(The writer is an independent journalist based in Guwahati. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed are his own.)