China and India: Rivals and Partners in Troubled Waters

China and India are the two major powers in Asia and among the most important countries in the world. Their relationships are complex and difficult. Although the armed forces of the two nations have clashed in brief skirmishes, albeit very violent, on the mountainous borders of the Himalayas, they are both part of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), a very important economic and political bloc, and both have large economic contacts (India’s exports to China are about US $21.25 billion, and its imports from China are about US $94.16 billion). But at the same time, they are involved in a harsh rivalry and game of influences, which in an important part takes place around the geostrategic space of the Indian Ocean (and surrounding waters and countries).

The Indian Ocean is a region of great strategic importance due to the resources it harbors, the trade routes that pass through it, and because it contains some of the most important choke points in the world.

The Indian Ocean oceanic region is essential for the global maritime balance, because it contains some of the most relevant maritime choke points in the world. Specifically, these four strategic crossing points are: 1) Bab el-Mandeb, which connects the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden; 2) the Strait of Malacca, one of the most important shipping routes in the world; 3) the Strait of Hormuz, the only passage from the Persian Gulf to the ocean; and 4) the Mozambique Channel, an important trade route for transit between the Cape of Good Hope, the Middle East and Asia.

Specifically, for China and India, this is a region of vital importance to their interests; which has led them to develop strategies to establish their presence in this geographical area. As a consequence, this has triggered (and worsened) a geostrategic competition between both states to establish naval bases, consolidate alliances with coastal countries to secure their areas of influence, and develop a maritime force that can confront the counterpart. For this reason, the Indian Ocean appears to be one of the main areas in the rivalry between India and China to establish their particular superiority in the region.

Geographically speaking, the Indian Ocean is the third largest in the world, stretching from the east coast of Africa to the west coast of Australia. This region has grown in strategic importance; and one of the reasons is the growing competition between India and China to establish their leadership in this area. The Indian Ocean region is vital for the international maritime trade that passes through it—the supply of resources, such as oil, the choke points it contains, and the maritime lines of communication present on it.
In general terms, India and China have two different strategies and approaches, which have an inherent element of friction. While China seeks to protect its New Silk Road and its maritime lines of communication through a strategy labeled as the “String of Pearls” (a network of friendly states which allow the establishment of economic and military ties); India intends to establish itself as a regional leader and security provider in this region. These two strategies have collided in the region.

The geostrategic importance of the Indian Ocean has grown in intensity due to the economic growth of Asian countries, especially China, coupled with the rise of India as one of the most important littoral states in the region, and marked by a greater presence of the US in the Asia-Pacific to contain China. For India and China this region is vital. For India, foreign trade through its maritime lines of communication in the region represented 43.4% of its GDP in 2018. In addition, India depends on this area for 80% of its oil supply, being the third largest consumer of oil in the world. For China, the region is even more essential, as virtually all its maritime trade passes through it. Therefore, the Indian Ocean is a vital region for China’s interests. This area is becoming the epicenter of the geostrategic rivalry between India, now the sixth largest economy in the world, and India.
In Beijing, the growing Indian presence raises concern, since this region is of vital importance for their trade, the supply of resources, and their geopolitical ambitions.

After decades of invasions and interference by European powers throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, known as the “century of humiliation,” China is rising as a new world power in the economic and military fields. According to the World Bank, it is the second largest economy in the world, in terms of GDP, only behind the US (although the structural fragilities of its economy carry the risk of blowing up and slowing growth substantially, and thus causing it to fall from that position).
Spurred on by strong nationalism under the leadership of Xi Jinping, China is using its economic growth to return to “Greater China,” a concept related to the geography of the country’s imagination, under which Beijing would reclaim the territories usurped by the colonial powers during the 19th century and implement the setting up of the Heartland theory. The Heartland theory, elaborated by the geographer John Mackinder (1861-1947), establishes that whoever controls the area between Central Asia, Central Russia and Siberia has a privileged position in regards to the domination of the rest of Europe and Asia, and, potentially, world dominance.

But, as a rising revisionist power seeking to establish a new position in the international order, China needs to secure the supply of energy resources.
The control of the maritime lines of communication is pivotal to maintain international trade and retain a global role. This imperative has made Beijing to focus its attention in recent years on the oceans, and increase its maritime defensive capabilities, since the establishment of the PRC, focused on coastal defence. As the South China Sea, adjacent to its territory, imposes certain limitations due to territorial disputes involving several states and US presence, China has (partially) re-oriented its sights on the Indian Ocean to ensure its geopolitical interests.

As mentioned above, China’s interests in this region are to ensure the supply of resources, maintain trade routes and develop its Maritime Silk Road, with which it intends to challenge Western dominance in international markets and in the Indo-Pacific region. Therefore, China’s main objective in this area is to protect its maritime lines of communication; and for this, Beijing has developed a strategy which has been called by several analysts as the “String of Pearls.” Under this strategy, China seeks to increase its military, economic and diplomatic influence in the region through the development of infrastructures and the establishment of alliances with the coastal countries of the Indian Ocean.

In the Horn of Africa, in 2016, China established its first military base outside its territory, in Djibouti. In this way, it aims to increase its presence in an area of vital strategic importance, since the Bab el-Mandeb Strait is located there at the entrance to the Red Sea, and it is the route that connects Asia with Europe through the Suez Canal. In addition, China has made large investments in African countries of the Indian Ocean littoral, particularly Kenya and South Africa. This allow it greater influence in a geographical area where the Mozambique Channel runs, which is one of the strategic choke points in the Indian Ocean region.

Another vital component of the Chinese strategy is the construction of the Gwadar port in Pakistan, in which China has invested heavily, as it is part of the Sino-Pakistani Economic Corridor (CPEC). Located in a region of great strategic value between the Middle East, Pakistan, and Central Asia, the port directly connects Chinese territory with the Indian Ocean through highways and railways.

The relations between Pakistan and China are however subject to many turbulences, and the complicated political life of Islamabad is an element of incertitude for Beijing’s strategy, together with the open file of Afghanistan, which together represent a pending and unresolved threat to the full development of CPEC.

China has also established economic ties with the Maldives, a country that joined the New Silk Road initiative in 2014. These islands represent a major focus of geostrategic competition between India and China. In 2018, the most favorable candidate for Indian interests won the presidential elections. However, considering that Chinese investments represent 80% of the Maldives’ debt, it is very likely that Beijing will continue to maintain its influence. Beijing also maintains a heavy presence in Sri Lanka. In this country it has acquired the port of Hambantota. This location not only serves to control freighters heading towards China, but also allows it to monitor India’s movements in the area. In addition, it can keep a military force in reserve, in case of conflict.

The recent crisis (now political, the consequence of insane economic management) in Sri Lanka is closely monitored by Beijing, being worried to lose an important element of the “String of Pearls.”

China is also present in Chittagong, the largest port in Bangladesh, where it has invested in facilities and warehouses for cargo ships, and has taken part in the framework for the improvement of the national network of communication infrastructures, and the construction of the Karnaphuli tunnel (a.k.a. “Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel,” an under-construction, underwater expressway tunnel in the port city of Chattogram, under the Karnaphuli river).

Chinese expansion is also going on in Myanmar, specifically in the coastal city of Kyaukpyu on the Bay of Bengal, which appears to be one of the critical sub-areas of the Indian Ocean. There, since 2016, China has been given access by the military government to develop a special economic zone and build a port.

By establishing ground connections between these premises and Chinese territory, Beijing can reduce its dependence on the Strait of Malacca for gas and oil imports. Through the same, Beijing seeks to control the ships that pass through the Bay of Bengal towards the Strait of Malacca.

It is also reported that China is looking to develop surveillance operations near the Cocos/Keeling Islands (Australian federal territory), and/or Indonesia (another willing member of BRICS). The Cocos/Keeling Islands have been eyed for years by the US as possible site of strategic surveillance, focused on monitoring air and naval activities of Beijing in the area. Given the enhanced security ties between Washington and Canberra, this option looks very realistic in the midterm. In the recent past, the possibility of this appeared feasible from the perspective of the withdrawal of US presence from the Chagos Islands, a British territory in the Indian Ocean, due to the sovereignty claims of the Maldives. Now that this option seems over, and the growing military activity of China in the region keeps Cocos/Keeling as an important outpost of the strategy of controlling/countering Beijing with the reinforcement of the surveillance capabilities.

Finally, the “String of Pearls” extends through the South China Sea to the very coast of the Asian country. Here, the island of Hainan constitutes a Chinese military base and the first element of this economic and security architecture of Beijing’s strategy.

Due to its geographical position in the Rimland, India represents an important strategic pivot, critical for the penetration of the Middle East and China towards the sea.

The Rimland is a concept championed by Nicholas John Spykman (1898-1943), professor of international relations at Yale University. To him geopolitics is the planning of the security policy of a country in terms of its geographical factors. He described the maritime fringe of a country or continent; the densely populated western, southern, and eastern edges of the Eurasian continent. He criticized Mackinder theory for over evaluating the Heartland as being of immense strategic importance due to its vast size, central geographical location, and supremacy of land power rather than sea power. He assumed that the Heartland would not be a potential hub of Europe, because: a) Western Russia was then an agrarian society; b) Bases of industrialization were found to the west of the Ural Mountains; c) This area is ringed to the north, east, south, and south-west by some of the greater obstacles to transportation (ice and freezing temperature, lowering mountains etc.). There has never really been a simple land power–sea power opposition. Spykman thought that the Rimland, the strip of coastal land that encircles Eurasia, is more important than the central Asian zone (the so-called Heartland) for the control of the Eurasian continent. Spykman’s vision is at the base of the “containment politics” put into effect by the US in its relation/position to the USSR during the post-WWII era. Thus, “Heartland” appeared to him to be less relevant in comparison to “Rimland.”

While history links India to Central Asia, geography leads New Delhi to the Indian Ocean. It is the largest littoral state in this region, and is located in a strategic position between the maritime routes that join the Straits of Malacca, Hormuz and Bab el-Mandeb; three of the most important choke points in the world. India perceives itself as the most important state in the Indian Ocean, thus destined to be the natural leader in the region. India perceives these waters as part of its territory and its maritime border; that is, “India’s Ocean” rather than the Indian Ocean.

Because of this visionary geography, India is suspicious of the presence of external actors in the region, particularly China, and its position can be described as its own Monroe Doctrine, in which it assumes that the presence of external actors is illegitimate and that littoral states must trust India for their security and protection. [The Monroe Doctrine was a US foreign policy position, launched by the US President James Monroe in 1823 that opposed European colonialism in the Western Hemisphere. It held that any intervention in the political affairs of the Americas by foreign powers was a potentially hostile act against the US. The doctrine was central to Washington foreign policy for much of the 19th and early 20th Centuries.] Therefore, India aspires to become the regional leader that guarantees the security of the littoral states.

In pursuit of this goal, India has undertaken a series of internal and external actions to strengthen its position in the Indian Ocean region. Internally, New Delhi has major ports and 200 minor ports on its territory. In addition, it has initiated a plan called “Sagarmala,” which is expected to double the number of main ports in the country. Also, it should be noted that India is the third country with the highest military spending in the world (72.9 USD billion in 2020).

The Sagarmala Programme (garland of the sea in Hindi) is an initiative by India to enhance the performance of the country’s logistics sector. The programme envisages unlocking the potential of waterways and the coastline. It entails investing US $120 billion to set up new mega ports, modernizing India’s existing ports, developing of 14 CEZs (Coastal Economic Zones) and CEU (Coastal Economic Units), enhancing port connectivity via road, rail, multi-modal logistics parks, pipelines & waterways and promoting coastal community development, with the aim of boosting merchandise exports by US $110 billion and generating around 10 million direct and indirect jobs. The Sagarmala Programme is the flagship programme of the Ministry of Shipping, launched in 2015, to promote port-led development in the country by exploiting India’s 7,517 km long coastline, 14,500 km of potentially navigable waterways and its strategic location on key international maritime trade routes. Sagarmala aims to modernize India’s ports, so that port-led development can be increased and coastlines can be developed to contribute to India’s growth. It also aims at transforming the existing ports into modern world-class ports and integrating the development of the ports, the industrial clusters and hinterland and efficient evacuation systems through road, rail, inland and coastal waterways, resulting in ports becoming the drivers of economic activity in coastal areas.

India’s diplomatic strategy is focused on improving its relations with countries like the Maldives and Sri Lanka and prevent them from falling into China’s sphere of influence. As for the concrete steps it has taken, India has established an alliance with Iran, a country which it has helped to develop the first phase of the construction of the Chabahar port, which is of great importance to India, given its location near the Strait of Hormuz. This way, India will not only be present in one of the most important maritime routes in the region, but it will be able to control the presence of Chinese ships in the area, being only 72 kilometers from the above-mentioned port of Gwadar, which is managed by Beijing.

With similar objectives, India has acquired the port of Duqm in Oman, which can provide logistical support to its military ships in the area, in addition to giving it access to the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. All this also allows New Delhi to strengthen its own maritime lines of communication.
India has also established ties with Indonesia. Both countries have reached an agreement for India to acquire the port of Sabang, which is of vital importance due to its proximity to the Strait of Malacca. Indonesia has stated that it does not want to join China’s New Silk Road, so it can become an important ally for India. Likewise, New Delhi has extended its influence on the African coast of the Indian Ocean. Together with Japan, it launched the AAGC (Asia-Africa Growth Corridor) initiative in 2017 to promote infrastructure development and ties between African countries, India, and Japan.

On the defensive front, India’s presence in the region allows it to secure its investments and combat piracy near the strategic Bab el-Mandeb strait. Finally, India has established its presence in the Seychelles and in Madagascar. In the first, an agreement was signed in 2015 whereby India would help create a coast guard to support the fight against piracy and maritime trafficking. In the second, it installed a radar to serve as a preventive system and early recognition of maritime traffic in a region of great importance, since the Mozambique Channel runs through it, which is one of the most important choke points in the Indian Ocean.

As mentioned already, given that both strategies have collided in the same geographical space, given the rising geostrategic competition between the two countries to establish their dominance. To understand this better, it is pivotal to ask the question of how India and China perceive each other.
From India’s perspective, China’s actions, specifically the String of Pearls, cause New Delhi to be concerned that Beijing is trying to encircle it.

herefore, India perceives that the Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean is not only to pursue its economic interests but is also intended to leave India unable to extend its influence in the region. This is exacerbated by the growth of ties between China and Pakistan. Considering its great rivalry with Islamabad, for India these alliances represent a major threat, because, among others, with the help of China, Pakistan is modernizing its naval force, though not at a level to be a serious threat for the Indian Navy, clearly more powerful.

In short, there is a perception that China seeks to establish its maritime power in the Indian Ocean to become a hegemonic actor in Asia; and this to the detriment of India’s interests.

On the other hand, China does not share India’s image of itself as a leader in the region. For Beijing, this image of a regional leader is not reflected in the status of power that it has, which is considered below other nations with a presence in Asia, such as Russia and Japan. It could be argued that while India sees China as an important threat, Beijing’s perception of New Delhi, though it is to be monitored and countered to keep it from growing, is lower.

Furthermore, China alleges that India and other littoral states have a misperception of the strategy referred to as the String of Pearls. Beijing states that its only intention is to protect its maritime lines of communication and trade routes, thus repeating the same explanation that it has used with all the other countries in the world that look at its activities with suspicion.

It is necessary to point out that China is very dependent on these waters for the passage of resources, due to what is called the “Malacca dilemma.” [“Malacca Dilemma” is a term coined in 2003, by the then Chinese President Hu Jintao. It is a term that represents the potential factors that could hinder China’s economic development through choking oil imports. China is the world’s largest importer of oil, accounting for 80 percent of the total oil used by the country, mainly secured from the USA.] This means that for China there is a great dependence on the Strait of Malacca for the supply of resources and international trade, which is why Beijing makes great efforts to secure this area.

For Chinese strategists, the protection of maritime lines of communication is a top priority. Bearing all this in mind, it can be argued that there exists a security dilemma between India and China; and for this reason, the actions of one State to increase its security can be seen as a threat by other States, making them feel less secure, and causing them to also seek to increase their security.

Although China’s actions were only intended to seek to increase its security, according to Beijing, nevertheless India feels that its security is thereby decreased by the presence of Beijing. Thus, New Delhi reinforces its military and economic presence in the region, which makes China fear a blockade of its trade routes, causing it to also increase its military capabilities in the region. This loop of militarization is exacerbated by the re-emergence of an anarchic nature of the international system and the uncertainty and distrust of the actions of the other party which this system generates.
As for the developments of this rivalry, both states have increased their military power and their economic and diplomatic influence in the region.

Some analysts point out that India and China have tried to build a geopolitical fence around the other party. In this sense, China would be trying to surround India to undermine India’s chances of regional leadership. By sea, this strategy would consist of breaking India’s ties with the littoral countries and projecting its naval power into the Indian Ocean.
Beijing has increased the naval presence around Singapore, Malaysia, Pakistan, and South Africa. In the last three decades, Chinese defense documents have given increasing importance to military projections towards the Indian Ocean. One of the objectives is to increase the capacity to stop or mitigate possible interruptions of trade with China and to be able to confront the US and/or India in the event of a major conflict.

Furthermore, increasing economic, military, and diplomatic ties with India’s neighbors, such as Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives can be seen as a way of isolating New Delhi from China. It seems that Beijing is trying to establish a connection between Pakistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal to encircle India. For all these reasons, it can be argued that China’s strategy for India consists of containing New Delhi’s dynamism, while seeking to establish a predominant position in the Indian Ocean region.

For its part, India is responding to China with a similar geopolitical encirclement, attempting to bypass the String of Pearls, progressively established by Beijing.

It is important to highlight the geographical advantage that India has in the region. While China relies on its allies and offshore bases for access to the Indian Ocean, India’s territory connects it directly to these waters. This advantage helps balance the contest, despite India’s military inferiority compared to China. With geographical location on its side, India has strengthened its naval bases in the Indian Ocean, making the country more capable of disrupting China’s sea lines of communication between the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Malacca. It has also expanded its presence in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, attempting to establish dominance in the Bay of Bengal. In addition, since 1995, the Indian Navy has carried out naval operations in Southeast Asia and the South China Sea with several regional and other partners (US, France, Australia).

China also has territorial claims; so, the increase in Indian presence in the area can be seen as a threat by Beijing. Additionally, India is developing ties with Vietnam in the field of security (Hanoi sees with great concern the rise of Chinese military power and in particular the role played by Hainan Island, which dangerously close to the heart of the country, around the Tonkin Gulf). With Vietnam on its side, New Delhi retaliated against China for its increased ties with Pakistan.

In the realm of maritime military strength, India spends less on naval capabilities than its allies and competitors in the Indian Ocean. However, the country has begun to understand the need to increase its naval power. India stated it aspires to become a 200-ship maritime force by 2027, developing a substantive force of aircraft carriers, as well as modernizing its fleet of submarines (and planning the acquisition of SSBN).

These actions to increase its strategic autonomy have been complemented by an external balance-of-power maneuver within the framework of the Quad alliance, made up of India, US, Japan, and Australia. This is intended to strengthen cooperation on security issues in the Indo-Pacific region, but also balance power against China’s increased presence in the region. For this reason, India’s actions in the Indian Ocean should be considered as part of an engagement strategy, which combines containment and commitment. However, New Delhi seems reluctant to agree to the US demand to increase Quad to a re-edition of SEATO, an anti-China tool, which is an indication that despite the rivalries with China, India does not seem oriented to extremize (for the while) the relations with Beijing. [SEATO (Southeast Asia Treaty Organization) was an international organization for collective defense in Southeast Asia created by the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, or Manila Pact, signed in September 1954 in Manila, the Philippines and dissolved on 30 September 1977. Members of SEATO were Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, UK and US.]

This means that India is using the balance of power to contain China, as it seeks to establish a strong position in the area, through actions described above, and with the goal of becoming a regional leader and security provider for the littoral states, but maintaining at the same time important economic ties.

In conclusion, the strategic rivalry between China and India is developing through a series of actions and counteractions carried out by each country to impose its dominance and deny the counterpart the establishment of power and influence. The rise of both countries in the international arena has caused both to focus their attention on the oceans to support their growth. This situation relates to the current geopolitical scenario in the Indian Ocean with the Sea Power theory.

Specifically, two elements of Mahan’s theory help to understand this geostrategic rivalry. First, ensuring and protecting the flow of resources through sea power. The security of their respective maritime lines of communication has been one of the main reason and justification for India and China to increase their naval strength and presence in this region. Second, the establishment of bases to establish sea power is an integral element of this programme, with consequences in the regional diplomatic scene.

[Alfred Mahan’s (1840-1914) The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660–1783 (1890) stated that the ability of a nation to control maritime trade routes and establish its military superiority would be key to the power and prosperity of that state.]

In this light, India and China have established bases and assisted different port authorities in the Indian Ocean. This would have the objective of assuring their interests and establishing their maritime power in these waters; and it is expected that in the coming years we will see the continuation of this competition to establish new bases and ports between India and China.

Conclusions

Given the importance that the Indian Ocean represents for both countries, India and China have carried out a series of actions that have increased geostrategic rivalry to establish their dominance and influence in this region. This has led to a competition between the two to establish military, economic and diplomatic alliances with countries in the area, as well as an increase in maritime military capabilities and the establishment of bases in this geographical area. This rivalry, as of now, appears to be much less intense and unstable than other regional confrontations, such as between India and Pakistan. Therefore, a conflict between the two countries is highly unlikely and does not seem likely to happen. However, it can be stated that strong geopolitical competition is ongoing between China and India to secure their interests in the region, and will continue in the coming years.


Enrico Magnani, PhD is a UN officer who specializes in military history, politico-military affairs, peacekeeping and stability operations. (The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations).

European Striving for Ars Perfecta in Linear Time

In academia, music is regarded as a “cultural universal” or “human universal” found among all peoples in history. This view is attractive both to a) multiculturalists who want to promote the idea of a “common humanity,” or a “cosmopolitan consciousness” in our diverse Western nations, and to b) scientists who believe that all humans are equally “hardwired for music“. Various theories have been offered on the origins and role of music: i) it evolved as an elaborate form of sexual selection, primarily to seduce potential mates, ii) as a “shared precursor” of language, iii) as a practical means to assist in organizing and motivating human work, iv) to encourage cooperation within one’s community, v) as a pleasant preoccupation or source of amusement, relaxation and recuperation, vi) to express one’s cultural identity and feel united with one’s culture through social celebrations, such as weddings, funerals, religious processions and ceremonial rites.

These explanations have a major, disquieting flaw: they can’t explain why Europeans were continuously creative in music for many centuries, responsible for the highest, most complex form of music, classical music, along with the invention of the most sophisticated musical instruments, the articulation of all the treatises on music on matters related to pitch, notes, intervals, scale systems, tonality, modulation, and melody. Classical music expresses the best that man as man has achieved in music. It is not that other cultures did not create great folk music, which is essential to a people’s identity. It is that their music was performed by custom over countless generations without exhibiting a continuous line of creative composers striving for higher levels of musical expression.

Treatises on Music

From its beginnings in ancient Greece, we witness systematic treatises about the nature of music, outlining its terminology, note names, tetrachord names, conjunct and disjunct tetrachords, the meaning of tonoi, harmony, species of consonances, names of octave species, as well as efforts at a scientific theory of acoustics. While Pythagoras is generally considered to have initiated a theoretical study of acoustics, the treatise Elements of Harmony (330 BC) by Aristoxenus is now regarded by many scholars as the first book to have argued that the nature of music is fundamentally different from the natural world, and that the laws of traditional mathematics by which the Pythagoreans explained natural phenomena can’t explain the phenomena of music. Music merited a science of its own.

Musical space is incommensurable, Aristoxenus argued, and the elements of music are not isolated entities but integral parts of an organic whole from which each part derives its meaning and position. Aristoxenus, according to Flora Levin, “accomplished something whose importance cannot be overstated: he freed the science of harmonics from the bonds of the Pythagorean theory of proportions, the numerical theory that is applicable only to commensurables” (p. 197). The correct way to determine the size of intervals was not by numerical ratio, but by ear. Other important Greek theorists of music with a predilection for rigorous thought and systemic definition and classification, include Cleonides (c. 100’s/200’s BC), Ptolemy (100 – 170 AD) and Aristides Quintilianus (35 – 100 AD). Of these, only parts of the writings of Ptolemy, famous for his outstanding works in geography and astronomy, survive under the title Harmonikon [Harmonics]. He followed the theoretical approach of the Pythagoreans, for basing musical intervals on mathematical ratios. Ptolemy also argued, with respect to tonoi, that the height of pitch was only one source in the variety and expression of music, along with the arrangement of intervals within a vocal register. Greek theory influenced all subsequent Western thinking on music.

In the Middle Ages, De institutione musica (524) by Boethius, which described the Pythagorean unity of mathematics and music, and the Platonic concept of the relationship between music and society, was widely read; but the most significant theoretical contribution came from Guido of Arezzo (991/992 – 1033), on the strength of his invention of modern musical notation (or staff notation) that replaced neumatic notation. The staff enabled scribes to notate relative pitches precisely and freed music from its dependence on oral transmission. Guido is also credited with the use of the “ut–re–mi–fa–sol–la” (do–re–mi–fa–so–la) mnemonic device, or memory device. Guido’s treatise Micrologus Guidonis de disciplina artis musicae [The Epitome of Guido on the Discipline of the Art of Music] was widely recognized among the educated.

Another important figure was Franco of Cologne, who codified a system of notation in his Ars cantus mensurabilis [Art of Measured Song] (1280), in which the relative time values of notes, ligatures and rests were clearly laid out. This led to the revolutionary invention of polyphony, a type of musical texture consisting of two or more simultaneous lines of independent melody, as opposed to just one voice—an aspect of Western music not duplicated in any other culture.

Then came Ars Nova through the writings of Johannes de Muris (1290-1355) and Philippe de Vitry (1291-1361). The former’s treatise, Notitia artis musicae [A Note on the Art of Music] (1321), is credited with dramatically increasing the “fidelity with which a musical notation system could represent complex rhythmic patterns… modeled on the astronomical method for mathematically organizing time.” The latter’s writings contain “a detailed account of the various uses and meanings of the coloured notes, and the introduction of additional durational symbols in the new notational system.”

Great Composers of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

All the greatest composers in history were European. With the invention of the Ars Nova we can start identifying great individual composers, beginning with the Frenchman Guillaume de Machaut (1300-77), who adapted secular poetic forms into polyphonic music, not only the motet, which is based on a sacred text, but also secular song forms, such as the lai or short tales in French literature, and the formes fixes, such as the rondeau, virelai and ballade, into the musical mainstream. Francesco Landini (1325-1397) was the foremost musician of the Trecento style, sometimes called the “Italian ars nova,” and known for his virtuosity on the portative organ and for his compositions in the ballata form. Writers noted that “the sweetness of his melodies was such that hearts burst from their bosoms.” He may have been the first composer to think of his music as striving for perfection, writing: “I am Music, and weeping I regret seeing intelligent people forsaking my sweet and perfect sounds for street music.”

The English would produce their own great composers, most notably John Dunstable (1390-1453), who developed a style, la contenance angloise, which was never heard before in music, using full triadic harmony, along with harmonies with thirds and sixths. This time period also witnessed the Burgundian School of the 1400s, associated with a more rational control of consonance and dissonance, of which the composer and musical theorist Guillaume Dufay (1397-1474) was a member, and who was known for his masses, motets, magnificats, hymns, and antiphons within the area of sacred music, as well as secular music following the formes fixes. This School originated in the “cosmopolitan atmosphere” of the Burgundian court, which was very prestigious in this period, influencing musical centers across Europe.

Creating a bridge beyond the Middle Ages, the Burgundian School paved the way for the Renaissance, which saw a rebirth of interest in the treatises of the Greek past. Franchinus GaffuriusTheorica musicae [Theory of Msuic] (1492), Practica musicae (Practice of Music] (1496), and De harmonia musicorum instrumentorum opus [A Work on the Harmony of Musical Instruments] (1518), incorporated Greek ideas brought to Italy from Byzantium by Greek migrants. These were the most influential treatises of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. There were significant composers during the early Renaissance, particularly Johannes Ockeghem (1420-97), with his Missa prolationum, a “technical tour de force in which every movement is a double mensuration canon.”

The most renowned, and possibly the first in the pantheon of “greatest composers,” is Josquin des Prez 1450/1455-1521), called the “father of musicians,” who made extensive use of “motivic cells,” easily recognizable melodic fragments which passed from voice to voice “in a contrapuntal texture”—a basic organizational principle in music practiced continuously from 1500 until today. This figure of the Renaissance distinctly aimed to raise music into an “ars perfecta,” that is, “a perfect art to which nothing can be added.” Theorists such as Heinrich Glarean and Gioseffo Zarlino agreed that his style represented perfection. For Martin Luther, Josquin des Prez was “the master of the notes.”

The next giant in the pursuit of musical perfection was Adrian Willaert (1490-1562), the inventor of the antiphonal style (which involves two choirs in interaction, often singing alternate musical phrases) and an experimenter in chromaticism and rhythm.

Striving for Perfection versus Music outside Europe

This striving for perfection through a long historical sequence by individuals from different generations, seeking to outdo the accomplishments of the past, points to a fundamental contrast between the models of beauty and achievement in the Western and the non-Western worlds. The impression one gets from the study of the history of music in such civilizations as ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, or Japan, is that of time standing still in a state of accomplished perfection after a sequence of achievements. In the Western world, the history of music is heavily characterized by linear time, continuous novelties, if sometimes slow and interrupted, but always moving; whereas in the East, after some initial achievements, further changes are rare, as if perfection, believed to have been achieved, needed to be frozen in a world of cyclical time.

To understand the European linear conception of perfection, their consistent striving for higher forms, it might be useful to go back to the ancient Greek ideal of arete, a term that originally denoted excellence in the performance of heroic valor by individuated aristocratic Indo-European warriors. In pre-Homeric times, it signified the strength and skill of a warrior. It was his arete that ranked an aristocrat (aristos = “best,” “noblest”) above the commoners; and it was the attainment of heroic excellence that secured respect and honor among aristocratic peers. The word aristeia was used in epic stories for the single-handed adventures of the hero in his unceasing strife for superlative achievements over his peers. In its origins, arete was thus “closely bound up with the physical power” of warriors. But starting with Homer, the word came to denote excellence in spiritual qualities. In the Odyssey, we witness a new type of heroic personality, Odysseus, who rejects Achilles’s brutal treatment of Hector’s body, and shows self-awareness and self-control, inventiveness and craftiness. Thereafter arete came to denote all kinds of actions and spiritual qualities expressing the best in human abilities. But the ancient Greeks still had a cyclical conception of time, which found philosophical expression in Plato’s idea that there are perfect Forms existing outside time, unchanging ideals that transcend time and space, and that humans require strenuous training and breeding to approximate these Forms. Nevertheless, the competitive aristocratic individualism of the ancient Greeks could not be contained, with subsequent philosophers before and after Plato proposing their own conceptions of truth, originating novel ideas, along with the development of geometrical deductive thinking, prose writing, government based on civic citizenship beyond feuding tribal identity; a sequence of masterful writers from Aeschylus to Sophocles to Euripides, the development of cartography, musical theory, and much more.

This ideal of excellence had a profound influence on the development of Christianity as a European religion that aimed at raising humans to the highest demands of God. Unlike the gods of non-Western peoples, which asked for submission and fear, Christianity called upon Europeans to rise to the skies in search of perfection. This ideal was one of the most important contributions of Greek thought to Christianity, “to honor the Most High God,” “to produce a well sounding harmony to the glory of God” (in the words Bach would use later on). As the individualism of the West took off with the demolition of kinship ties, the promotion of nuclear monogamous families, the rise of associations and institutions, based on legal contracts rather than kinship norms (cities, universities, guilds, monasteries), a historicized linear conception of perfection developed; the idea that perfection lay in the future, rather than in some golden past age, or in some Platonic Form frozen out of time.

In contrast, no linear conception of perfection emerged in a non-western world where kinship institutions prevailed and the individual was thus submerged within traditional collective norms and obligations. Artistic achievement in this world was measured in terms of the reenactment of past achievements, in some past golden age. The cultural and intellectual history of China was always characterized by a turning to the past, to restore the idealized society of earlier times, as admired by Confucius. The history of music in China (and the rest of the non-western world) is characterized by this traditionalism, coupled with a lack of individual creativity, stereotypification, conformity to a general pattern or type deemed to be already perfected. Once instruments of music had reached a reasonable level of efficiency, and once a level of expertise had been reached, these were passed on without any changes for hundreds of years.

Britannica Encyclopedia offers a long entry on the history of Chinese music, identifying it as one of “the most highly developed of all known musical systems.” It is true: as in many other endeavors, the Chinese musical tradition is relatively accomplished, with some degree of historical development. This Britannica entry, however, soon acknowledges that except for archeological records and a few surviving written sources, it is only from the Song dynasty (960–1279 AD) onwards “that there is information about the actual music itself.” Ancient Chinese written sources provide “images of courtly parties, military parades, and folk festivals,” but they do “not provide a single note of music.” The Chinese theory of music, as expressed in the “Yueji” (“Record of Music”) chapter of the Liji (Book of Rites) was about how “music is the harmony of heaven and earth while rites are the measurement of heaven and earth. Through harmony all things are made known, through measure all things are properly classified. Music comes from heaven; rites are shaped by earthly designs.” This basic philosophical outlook would remain intact throughout China’s history until Western influences came.

A tonal system was conceptualized to some degree in China. They created bamboo tuning pipes from which twelve pitches could be derived, and a “tonal vocabulary from which assorted scales—specific orderings of a limited number of pitches—can be extracted and reproduced on different pitch levels.” Still, the Chinese never conceived a science of music as a separate field. This is implicitly acknowledged in the Britannica article: “The five core tones of Chinese scales are sometimes connected with the five elements, or wuxing (earth, wood, metal, fire, and water), while the 12 pitches of the tonal system are connected by some writers with the months of the year, hours of the day, or phases of the moon Music merited a science of its own.”

They developed a system of classification of instruments; however, “this system was based upon the material used in the construction of the instruments, the eight being stone, earth (pottery), bamboo, metal, skin, silk, wood, and gourd”. This is very different from the classification system of the West, which was focused on the actual tonal range of the instruments:

  • Higher-than-sopranino instruments: soprillo saxophone, piccolo
  • Sopranino instruments: sopranino saxophone, treble flute
  • Soprano instruments: concert flute, clarinet, violin, trumpet, oboe, soprano saxophone
  • Alto instruments: alto flute, alto recorder, viola, French horn, natural horn, alto horn, alto clarinet, alto saxophone, English horn
  • Tenor instruments: trombone, euphonium, tenor violin, tenor flute, tenor saxophone, tenor recorder, bass flute
  • Baritone instruments: cello, baritone horn, bass clarinet, bassoon, baritone saxophone
  • Bass instruments: bass recorder, bass oboe, bass tuba, bass saxophone, bass trombone
  • Lower-than-bass instruments: contrabass tuba, double bass, contrabassoon, contrabass clarinet, contrabass saxophone, subcontrabass saxophone, tubax, octobass

The history of music in China through the medieval and modern eras consists in the effects of foreign instruments and ideas coming from the Persians, Arabs, Indians, and people from the Malay Peninsula, particularly during the Tang dynasty (7th-10th century). After this era, starting with the Song dynasty (960–1279), one sees the consolidation of earlier intra-Chinese trends, a more national rather than international cultural atmosphere. The Chinese did not produce a single treatise of music that we can identify as theoretical, on matters related to pitch, notes, intervals, scale systems, tonality, modulation, and melody. Britannica says that “the official Song shi (1345; “Song [Dynasty] History”) contained 496 chapters, of which 17 deal directly with music, and musical events and people appear throughout the entire work.” They also wrote manuals on how to play some instruments. However, these were descriptive works. The Britannica article does not mention one single Chinese composer. After all, China did not produce any classical music.

Revolutionary Epochs in Western Music

Europeans invented the opera. Britannica confounds Chinese musical theatre with “operas.” True operas could not have emerged outside Europe because opera is a drama that combines soliloquy (literary form of discourse in which a character talks to him/herself when alone or unaware of the presence of other characters), scenery, dialogue, continuous music inspired by literary ancient Greek tragedies and comedies, together with allegorical and pastoral interludes, with choruses and large instrumental ensembles—all without parallels outside Europe. As it is, Britannica admits that Chinese “operas…all tend to follow a tradition of using either standard complete pieces or stereotyped melodic styles (banqiang [musical text settings]).”

It should be noted, moreover, that the literary form of tragedy does not exist outside Europe. Tragedy could only have been possible in the West since tragedy supposes a heroic figure determined to achieve greatness, which will inevitably issue in one-sided actions that bring suffering to others and violate their legitimate rights and plunge the hero into actions that bring about his demise. Operas grew out of madrigals, and the madrigal originated from the three-to-four voice frottola (1470–1530); from the unique interest of European composers in poetry (particularly pastoral poems about shepherds), and from the stylistic influence of the French chanson; and from the polyphony of the motet.

It is not inaccurate to use the title “Confucian China” from ancient times until Mao, or to say Islamic civilization from the beginnings until the present, or “Hindu India” from the beginnings until recently—but it is very inaccurate to say Platonic, Aristotelian, Stoic, Catholic, Protestant, Renaissance, Newtonian, Enlightenment, or Existentialist Europe. Europe sees a continuous history of grand epochs. These epochs, with varying titles depending on subject of study, can be found in all the realms of culture, painting, architecture, music, literature, philosophy.

We can identify the Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, and Reformation eras before the onset of the Baroque. There is no space here to list every major composer of “late Renaissance” Italy, England and Germany, but mention should be made of John Dowland’s (1562-1626) lute songs, and the increase in new forms of instrumental music and books about how to play instruments, of which the most influential was Michael Praetorius’s Syntagma Musicum [Encyclopedia of Music] (1614-1619), an encyclopedic record of contemporary musical practices, with many illustrations of a wide variety of instruments, harpsichord, trombone, pommer, bass viola—signaling the fact that Europeans would go on to create almost all the best musical instruments in history. The greats of the Reformation period included John Taverner (1490-1545), best-known for his masses based on a popular song called The Westron Wynde, and Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, as well as the composers Christopher Tye, Thomas Tallis (1505-1585) and Robert Whyte (1538-1574). The greatest of them all, Giovanni da Palestrina (1525-94), called the “Prince of Music” and his compositions “the absolute perfection” of church style, composed 105+ masses and 250 motets, 68 offertories, 140 madrigals and 300 motets. He is remembered as a master of contrapuntal ingenuity, for his dynamic flow of music, not rigid or static, for the variety of form and type of his masses, for melody that contain few leaps between notes and for dissonances that are confined to suspensions, passing notes and weak beats.

Meanwhile, while the rest of the world would not yet see a treatise on music, Girolamo Mei (1519-1594) carried a thorough investigation of every ancient work on music, writing a four book treatise, De modis musicis antiquorum (Concerning Ancient Musical Styles), soon followed by Galileo’s father, Vincenzo Galilei’s Dialogo della musica antica et della moderna [Dialogue on Music Ancient and Modern] (1581), where he used Mei’s ideas to attack vocal counterpoint in Italian madrigal, arguing that delivering the emotional message of poetical texts required only a single melody with appropriate pitches and rhythms rather than several voices simultaneously singing different melodies in different rhythms.

The Baroque

The next epoch is the Baroque between 1600 and 1750. Baroque originally meant “bizarre,” “exaggerated,” “grotesque,” “in bad taste,” but then it came to mean “flamboyant,” “decorative,” “bold,” juxtaposition of contrasting elements conveying dramatic tension. This period saw instrumental music becoming the equal of vocal music as Europeans learned how to make instruments with far higher expressive capacities, replacing the reserved sound of viols with the powerful and flexible tone of violins, better harpsichords, and originating orchestral music.

It is not easy to demarcate new epochs in Western history for this is a continuously creative civilization in many interacting fields—music, painting, exploration, architecture, science, literature—with different dynamics and therefore different yet mutually influential cultural motifs and reorientations. Some figures are considered “transitional” figures. Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) is such a transitional musician between the late Renaissance (since there was no Reformation in Italy) and the Baroque. The originality of Western cultural figures, moreover, never came out of the blue but obtained its vitality from its rootedness in the European past, reinterpreting and readapting ancient Greek, Roman, and medieval Christian themes.

Monteverdi’s famous opera L’Orfeo (1607), for example, drew from the Orpheus of Greek mythology (as transmitted by Ovid and Virgil). Monteverdi’s “Lamento d’Arianna” was based on the Greek Ariadne myth. Orpheus, in Monteverdi’s adaptation, was a musician and renowned poet who descended into the Underworld of Hades to recover his lost wife Eurydice. Orpheus is allowed to go to his wife so long as he does not look at her, but overcome with his love, he breaks the law of the underworld, and looks at her, and loses her forever. Orpheus is a god-like figure in this heroic rescue mission, who experiences intense emotions in rapid succession; bravery, euphoria, and despondency. This adaptation was mediated by the personal experiences of Monteverdi, his intense grief and despair at the loss of his wife, combined with his chronic headaches and deteriorating eye sight. The cultural influence of Rome is evident in his trilogy, the operas Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria (1640), L’incoronazione di Poppea (1643), and Le nozze d’Enea con Lavinia [now lost] (1641), inspired by a historical trajectory that moves through Troy, the birth of Rome to its decline, and forward to the foundation and glory of the Venetian Republic. Republican rule by proud aristocrats unwilling to submit to a despotic ruler is unique to the West, inspiring the American “res-publica.” In the 1600s there were 19 Orphean opera versions, and countless operas based on other mythologies about Venus, Adonis, Apollo, Daphne, Hercules, Narcissus.

The invention of the Italian madrigal found its highest expression in Monteverdi, whose first five books of madrigals between 1587 and 1605 are estimated as monuments in the history of the polyphonic madrigal. What made Monteverdi stand out among many other luminaries of his age (Henrich Isaac, Orlande de Lassus) was the way he established in his opera a complete unity between drama and music for the first time in history, a repertoire of textures and techniques “without parallels.” While Italian opera was flourishing in every corner of Europe except France, France would soon build up its own opera tradition, through the emergence of French tragedy in the grand literary works of Corneille (1606-1684) and Jean Racine (1639-1699). To these dramatic works, opera added music, dance and spectacle, beginning with Italian born Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687), the national director of French music as a member of Louis XIV’s orchestra.

This was merely the beginning of the Baroque achievement. The composers of this period constitute a veritable who’s who list. Arcangelo Corelli (1653–1713) was the first to create basic violin technique on the newly invented violin; Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757) wrote 555 harpsichord sonatas and made use of Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish dance rhythms; Henry Purcell (1659–1695), recognized as one of the greatest English composers, is still admired for his “daring expressiveness—not grand and exuberant in the manner of Handel, but tinged with melancholy and a mixture of elegance, oddness, and wistfulness.” There is also Jean Philippe Rameau (1683–1764), known for his bold melodic lines and harmonies, and tragédie lyrique opera, and for his Traité de l’harmonie réduite à ses principes naturels (Treatise on Harmony reduced to its natural principles), which sought to establish a “science” of music, in this age of Newtonian principles, deriving the principles of harmony from the laws of acoustics, and argued that the chord (a combination of three or more notes that are heard as if sounding simultaneously) was the primal element in music.

There were also the giants Vivaldi, Handel and Bach. Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) wrote over 500 concertos, of which 350 are for solo instrument and strings, such as violin, and the others for bassoon, cello, oboe, flute, viola, lute, or mandolin; as well as 46 operas, and invented the ritornello form (recurrent musical section that alternates with different episodes of contrasting material). Georg Handel (1685–1759), sometimes identified as the first “international composer,” though in reality deeply rooted in Europe’s cosmopolitan culture, born in Germany but becoming naturalized British, wrote for every musical genre, along with instrumental works for full orchestra, with the most significant known as Water Music, six concertos for woodwinds and strings and twelve “Grand Concertos”, and his masterpiece Messiah, judged as “the finest Composition of Musick that was ever heard.”

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) mastered the organ and harpsichord and wrote over 1,000 compositions in nearly every type of musical form, driven by a search for perfection, to create music that would “honor the Most High God” and “produce a well-sounding harmony to the glory of God.” Bach assimilated all the music that had gone before him in his compulsive striving for arete in technique; and what he absorbed he shaped into his own endless variety of musical compositions. His music for the harpsichord and clavichord includes masterpieces in every genre: preludes, fantasies, and toccatas, and other pieces in fugal style, dance suites, as well as sonatas and capriccios, and concertos with orchestra. Bach was a Faustian man with passionate drives, measuring himself against other composers, hard to get along with, father of 20 children. Living in an age of mighty composers, it is said that he surpassed them in his harmonic intensity, the unexpected originality of the sounds, and his forging of new rules for the actualization of harmonic potentials. It is inaccurate to say that perfection is impossible. Europeans achieved it in many art forms, and would continue to do so in music, painting, and architecture through the 1800s.

The Classical Period

The eighteenth-century Enlightenment is often celebrated for giving birth to a cosmopolitan age in which the West embraced “universal values” for humanity’s well-being against age-old customs and beliefs limited by ethno-national boundaries. Kant’s famous essay, “Toward Perpetual Peace” (1795), is now seen in academia as a “project” for the transformation of millions of immigrants into “world citizens” of the West with the same “universal” rights. It does not matter that Kant was calling for a federation of republican states coexisting with each other in a state of “hospitality” rather than in a state of open borders.

This “Enlightenment project” has prompted many dissidents to reject the very notion of cosmopolitanism. Yet cosmopolitanism is an inherent product of the European pursuit of the highest in human nature, the ars perfecta. European national elites have always borrowed from each other, even as they developed musical styles and philosophical outlooks with national characteristics. Bach is very German in a way that Vivaldi is not—though he absorbed into his works all the genres, styles, and forms of European music in his time and before. Ars perfecta should not be confused with the pursuit of one uniform model that arrived at some point in history and then fixated into a state of unoriginal repetition thereafter. Ars Perfecta allows for national authenticity of performance, intention, sound, and personal interpretation. Authentic works can be deeply rooted in a nation’s history and personality.

When we read the German flutist J.J. Quantz writing in 1752 that the ideal musical style would be “a style blending the good elements” of “different peoples,” “more universal” rather than the style of a “particular nation“—we should interpret this as an expression of the reality that the language of classical music, which is singular to the “different peoples” of Europe (and should not be confused with a people’s musical folklore) was cosmopolitan from its beginnings. This is evident in the European preoccupation with a universal theory of harmonics, the nature of scale systems, pitch, and melodic composition. It is evident in the way Europeans went about, earnestly during and after the Baroque era, creating the most perfect instruments to achieve a maximum of musical flexibility, between strong and soft, crescendo and decrescendo, with almost imperceptible shades: perfect violins, violas, violoncellos, flutes, oboes, bassoons, horns, pianos. This strive for perfection was required to express and arouse all the shadings of human feeling as Europeans dug deeper into their interior selves to manifest in full their joys, afflictions, grandeur, rage, compassion, contemplation, and exaltation.

To be sure, the peoples of the world are “gifted with conscious rhythm.” Man “cannot refrain from rhythmic movement, from dancing, stamping the ground, clapping his hands, slapping his abdomen, his chest, his legs, his buttocks.” This rhythmic disposition, it is true, prompted all peoples to create musical instruments. Primitives developed a variety of simple instruments, drums, flutes, trumpets, xylophones, harps. These were “folk and ritual instruments;” but with the rise of civilizations in the Near East, India, and the Far East, we see a distinct class of musicians developing instruments with greater musicality and flexible intonation, enhancing the artistic expression of sounds. We see a greater variety of stringed instruments, new lutes and violins in Mesopotamia; and in Egypt vertical flutes with greater musical possibilities than the whistle flutes; and the complex double clarinet. Among Asiatic peoples, we see vertical and angular harps, lyres, lutes, oboes, trumpets. Instruments in ancient China include the mouth organ, pan pipes, percussion instruments, long zither; and in the medieval Far East we find the fiddle bow, flat lutes, resting bell, hooked trumpet. The gamakas are said to be the “life and soul” of Indian melody; the veena and the fiddle sarinda with its fantastic shape are found in India.

But in the West, with the rise of civilization in the Greek peninsula, we see both musical instruments and treatises on harmonics. It is really during the Renaissance that the West starts to outpace the rest of the world in the creation of more sophisticated and original musical instruments, including a tabula universalis, a classification of all wind and stringed instruments in all their sizes and kinds, as well as numerous scientific manuals on how to play them “according to the correct tablature.” By 1600, the level of sophistication and variety in kinds of European instruments is the highest; and then between 1750 and 1900 the quantity of timbres “increased astonishingly,” along with the quality of the sound of each instrument; for example, the harp was made chromatic after being strictly diatonic for 5000 years; and under the pressure of orchestration all instruments were developed to the “greatest possible technical efficiency.” The magnificent piano was invented and improved upon continuously.

It can be argued that with modern individualism, that is, the complete breaking out of individuals from kinship groups and norms, European music witnessed an intensification in the expression of personalities through music, leading to more sophisticated, refined, and specialized musical instruments—in order to express the wider range of personal feelings and experiences afforded by a liberal culture. This culture propelled modern Europeans to breach the medieval limits of the traditional order of consonance and dissonance, of regular and equable rhythmic flow, to improvise chromaticism, tonalities, and create many styles of monody, recitative, aria, madrigal, and the integration of theater and music for dramatic expression. It can’t be denied that modern Europeans did in fact originate a far greater variety of genres and instruments capable of bringing out the complex emotional and psychological constitutions of Europeans into the light.

The cosmopolitanism of Europeans in their striving for novel ways of achieving perfection has misled historians into thinking that the language of music expressed in Monteverdi, Scarletti, Bach, Rameau, Brahms was “global” and not limited by civilizational and national boundaries. While they acknowledge that each of these composers absorbed into his music their national traditions, they insist upon the “internationalism” of the music of the Classical era, believing that with Handel, Haydn, Mozart… we have “international composers.” Handel (1685-1759), they tell us, borrowed, transcribed, adapted and rearranged universally accepted practices in music, a German who became naturalized British. They hail Christopher Gluck (1714-84) as a “cosmopolite” who professed a new style of opera away from the particular embellishments and ornateness of Baroque opera towards the Classical (universal) ideals of purity and balance. They cite Gluck’s own words about how he created “music suited to all nations, so as to abolish these ridiculous distinctions of national styles.” Mozart (1756-1791), they insist, was a cosmopolite who travelled extensively throughout Europe, becoming familiar with every kind of music written and heard, his work “a synthesis of national styles, a mirror that reflected the music of a whole age, illuminated by his own genius”. While Haydn (1732-1809) was localized in Vienna, they tell us that his music was an outgrowth of an increasingly cosmopolitan Europe.

What this “cosmopolitan” interpretation misses is that classical music, in its origins and development, was 100% circumscribed to the continent of Europe; it had no connection with and no resonance outside Europe. When composers like Bach and Mozart absorbed all the genres, styles, and forms of music of their age, they were striving to express the highest potentialities in European music, rather than express “international music,” as we understand that term today. Handel said that when he composed his Messiah he was guided by the perfect hand of God, driven by a state of pure spirituality, in tears, ignoring food and sleep. It was a common belief among European philosophers that God is the all-perfect being embodying the perfections of all beings within itself. Schelling (1775–1854) then suggested that the perfection of God existed only in potentia, and that it was only through the human striving for the highest that God actualized Himself.

Conservatives often lament the restless striving of Europeans. They wish the West had been collectivist like China or the Incas, without a linear conception of time, attached to a golden eternal age in the past, without seeking to overcome the resistance of things, without disruptive individualists full of energy and fire trying to impose their subjective wills upon the world. They dislike Beethoven. They prefer the continuous tonic dominant harmonies of the eighteenth century, even before Bach. Beethoven is seen as an admirer of France’s 1789 revolutionary ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity; the composer of the Eroica symphony dedicated it to Napoleon, the conqueror who is blamed for ending Europe’s monarchical order. Such has been the nature of European creativity.

Beethoven’s music was an expression of his propulsive inner state of being, for whom the elegant, highly refined sense of Mozart was not enough; he needed to bend classic rules with unexpected metrical patterns to convey his sense of conflict, transformation, and transcendence of his age. The Eroica (the Third Symphony) was very Western in its expression of the ideal of heroic greatness, which he saw in Napoleon, built into this civilization since prehistorical Indo-European times. With Beethoven, expression of inner feeling became more intense and personal, for European individuality had reached a higher level of inwardness. His Sixth Symphony, “the Pastoral,” is about his feelings aroused by delight in nature, apprehension of a storm approaching, awareness of the fury of the storm, and gratitude for the washed calm afterwards. He was drawn into his silent world of increasing deafness and solipsism, as he continued to compose. The great Romantic composer, Hector Berlioz, said that in the Sixth “the most unexplored depths of the soul reverberate.” Beethoven, a corporeal man who had a habit of spitting whenever he felt like it, a clumsy guy who could never dance, sullen and suspicious, without social graces, prone to rages, was nevertheless a man of immense inner strength, who once told a friend: “I don’t want to know anything about your system of ethics. Strength is the morality of the man who stands out from the rest and it is mine.”

The Romantic Epoch

Only Western history is characterized by a continuous sequence of discontinuous revolutionary epochs. New epochs tend to be morphologically present across many fields from politics to science to painting and architecture, philosophy and music—although each field sees movements and schools peculiar to itself. The Romantic period in music runs roughly from 1830 to 1900; however, the variety of compositions is outstanding, with many characteristics of the preceding “Classical” period persisting, and new “Nationalistic” tendencies coalescing with it, along with new “Impressionistic” tendencies.

This makes the West incredibly hard to understand. The word “Hindu” or “Talmudic” can define a people for centuries. Not the West. “Romanticism” alone is very difficult to grasp. In literature, it spans a shorter period from 1790 to 1850, displaced by “Realism,” which does not appear in music. The different names associated with this movement bespeak of its intricacy: Joseph de Maistre, Rousseau, Stendhal, Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, Chateaubriand, Coleridge, Blake, Herder, Byron, Wordsworth, Delacroix, Wuthering Heights, Hölderlin, Novalis, Schlegel. In music one can choose Liszt, Schumann, Wagner, Mahler, Tchaikovsky, Weber—but Verdi, possibly Wagner, and the Russian Mussorgsky are best identified as Nationalists. Brahms had little respect for most composers of his era, remaining a Classicist.

Perhaps the best composer to convey the meaning of Romanticism in music is Hector Berlioz (1803-69). It is said that “after him, music would never be the same… he did it all by himself, impatiently brushing aside convention.” He departed from the convention of “four-squareness” in melody, the rigidity of rhythms, and formulaic harmonies, expressing his moods and attitudes to the world. Experts say that Berlioz broadened the definition of orchestration by allowing each instrument to create sounds not heard before. He also expanded the use of programmatic music to accentuate the emotional expressiveness of the music by recreating in sound the events and emotions portrayed in ancient classical legends, novels, poetry, and historical events. He was a deep admirer of Western history and literature: Homer, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare. and Byron.

What experts leave out is that the “intensity and expression of feeling” (to use the words of Liszt) in Romantic music was itself an expression of the amplification of the introspective consciousness of Europeans after the 1750s. Whereas expression of feelings in the Baroque era had been confined to a few moods, each at a time, now music sought to express the complex shadings of human moods in the same breath. To express this subjectivism, this period saw the development to the greatest technical efficiency and musical effectiveness of all instruments, with the piano reshaped and enlarged to 7 octaves with felt-covered hammers for both expressiveness and virtuosity. In the Romantic age, a need emerged for instruments that would go beyond the expression of a few general moods at a time, to make use of all possible timbres so as to express all the shadings of feelings, modulating from chord to chord—for Romantic Europeans, rather than being in one emotional state, anger or fear, until moved by some stimulus to a different state, were in a constant state of psychological flux, with unpredictable turns.

Evolutionary theory is incapable of explaining the intense subjective expressiveness of modern Europeans, the virtuosity and continuous creativity one detects from Bach to Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, and from the Classical composers to Schubert, the German Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, and Wagner. The transcendence of European high culture over evolutionary pressures is one of its defining features. It is very hard for simpler cultures to rise above these pressures, and so they are easier to explain in evolutionary terms. Schopenhauer once said that classical music “is entirely independent of the phenomenal world, ignores it altogether, could to a certain extent exist if there was no world at all.” What he meant is that the history of European music does not obey evolutionary pressures but is an immaterial realm of freedom where pure aesthetics reigns supreme. This transcendence peaked in the Romantic era.

Evolutionary psychologists today believe they can instruct us about the “biological basis of human culture.” But they can only explain culture at its most basic level. They can only tell us, rather boringly, that music is a “cultural universal.” They can’t explain the difference between Beethoven and Berlioz, and between them and traditional folk music. For this reason, evolutionary theories are inclined to ignore, if not trivialize, high cultural achievements in philosophy, art, and literature. Steven Pinker once said that “the value of [European] art is largely unrelated to aesthetics: a priceless masterpiece becomes worthless if found to be a forgery; soup cans and comic strips become high art when the art world says they are, and then command conspicuously wasteful prices.” They see high culture as “gratuitous but harmless decoration,” without much import, as contrasted to what Marx called the real foundation of culture: eating, digestion, getting money, satisfying one’s appetitive drives.

The way to explain European cultural creativity is to recognize its greater freedom from evolutionary/materialistic pressures. European consciousness acquired the power to turn in upon itself, take possession of itself, not merely to be conscious but to be aware that its consciousness is uniquely its own, constituted as a centre from which all other realities, the successive data of sensory experiences, the pressures of the world, are held together in what Kant called a “transcendental unity of apperception,” which implies a unity of self, the discovery of the self as the agent of consciousness, doubling back upon itself, and thus rising to a new realm with its own autonomous inner life.

Age of Nationalism

It is invariably in regards to Western art and literature that scholars speak about their “timeless universal themes” in depicting love, suffering, good and evil, deception, heroism—that are “presentable in all cultures of the world.” They tell us that Shakespeare’s plays, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and Mozart’s symphonies, speak for “humanity.” But they can’t quite persuade themselves about the qualities that make these works “universal.” What’s about Tolstoy’s War and Peace that makes it a “history through human beings and human beings through history” considering the strong presence of Russian national feelings and characters? German composers tend to be the ones identified with “cosmopolitanism.” Is this because Germans are generally judged as the best classical composers during the Baroque, Classical, and through the 1800s? They certainly had the greatest influence upon the rest of Europe, as the Italians did during the Renaissance and the early Baroque. This explains why Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1903) called upon his countrymen to develop their own musical style and deplored German influence: “If the Germans, setting out from Bach and arriving at Wagner, write good German operas, well and good. But we descendants of Palestrina commit a musical crime to imitate Wagner… We cannot compose like the Germans, or at least we ought not to; nor they like us.” Verdi is known as a nationalist. Yet he could not escape the cultural cosmopolitanism of Europe in his operatic adaptations of writers, such as Schiller, Victor Hugo, Alexander Dumas, and Byron. And if his music is nationalistic, why is Verdi today considered a timeless composer with universal appeal? Frédéric Chopin (1810-49), with his mazurkas and polonaises, is also known as “the first of the great nationalists,” born in Warsaw, not quite a cosmopolis. Yet Chopin’s music is likewise seen as universal, not a mere reproduction of Polish folk melodies, although it is said that this folk tradition was part of his “racial subconscious.” In his abilities, he transcended his nationality and time, making the piano a total instrument, “an instrument of infinite color”—remembered today as a “perfect virtuoso.” Is this what universality means, striving for perfection and the Most High, even as you are a nationalist wanting your European nation to strive for the same universal greatness as the Germans?

Richard Wagner said that all great art must be based on mythology, “the sagas and legends of past ages.” Some say his music was not nationalist for it was not rooted on German folk music, but on symbolic-mythological themes that comprise “the archetypes of the collective unconscious,” which are common to human beings (and therefore universal). Can one say that his superlative accomplishments, combined with his originality, is what makes his music universal, a model of human achievement? We are told that “Wagner changed the rules of opera. His operas are ‘through-composed’—there are no stops and starts for arias and duets. Singers ceased to be the stars around whom performances were centered. He made the orchestra, and thus the conductor, into a crucial protagonist.” But others have countered that Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is based on particular Germanic mythologies, Teutonic gods, the heroic Wotan galloping in a storm, with a “nationalist German agenda” in opposition to “Semitic” cosmopolitan influences. Wagner’s Wotan constituted a resurgence of German primeval Indo-European passions, the archetype of a particular people.

The rise of Russian classical music certainly came with a very strong nationalist impulse rooted in the use of folk music. Of the so-called “mighty five” Russian composers who developed a classical tradition, Mussorgsky is credited with true masterpieces, though all he wanted was to express the soul of the Russian people. It has been noted that Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s music, which came a generation after the “mighty five,” contained a peculiarly Russian melody. However, while his early compositions quoted folk songs, his later music has been categorized as “more cosmopolitan,” although Igor Stravinsky insisted that it remained “profoundly Russian.” Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904), a peasant from Bohemia, said that his music expressed his love for his native motherland. But what makes him a “genius” composer rather than a gifted provincial composer, was precisely his ability to absorb folk influences, while finding ways to integrate them into the perfectionist-universal-transcendental impulse inherent in classical music. In varying degrees, the greats were all rooted in their nations, combined with some degree of Pan-Europeanism, the singular tradition of classical music in Europe.

Modernism

Spengler famously wrote in 1918 that the 20C needed to confront “the cold, hard facts of a late life… Of great paintings or great music there can no longer be, for Western people, any question.” The last great composers of the late 19C and early 20C were: Tchaikovsky (d. 1893), Debussy (d. 1918), Stravinsky (1913, The Rite of Spring), Rachmaninoff (d. 1935), Bartók (d. 1945), and, for some experts, not the general educated public, Schoenberg (born 1874) and Webern (d. 1945). For Spengler, the West of his time had reached the “Winter of full civilization,” its vital forces were extinguished, its people were “traditionless… religion-less, clever, unfruitful” city-dwellers “with no ties to community and soil.” This observation carries weight. While the above names belong in the list of great composers, it is hard to deny that with Schoenberg and Webern, original and highly gifted as they were, classical music starts to lose something vital that may be traced to the effects that increasing urbanism, rootlessness, standardization, and abstract rationalism had upon European psychology. Heidegger once wrote that “everything essential and great originated from the fact that the human being had a homeland and was rooted in traditions.” This is half true. Through the modern era, up until the hyper industrialization and hyper individualism of the late 1800s, liberal Europeans were still sustained by Christianity, towns rooted in history, authentic folk sounds, foods, and sights from childhood. As these collective identities dissolved, Europeans were left with nothing else but the formal rationalism of classical notation. At the same time, it can be said that there was nothing left for Europeans to create: all the possibilities of music had been explored, or would soon be explored during the twentieth century.

The most original name above may be the “impressionist” Debussy, with his new concepts of light and color in music, intended to capture fleeting moods occasioned by the external world as perceived at a given time, a momentary impression of the sea, or a moonlight. Debussy did not care for Brahms, Tchaikovsky or Beethoven. His musical “impressions” had no major unifying theme, with tonality almost dissolved, or with timbre, rhythm, and color assigned the same importance as harmony and melody. La Sacre du printemps by the Russian Stravinsky “was a genuine explosion” with its “metrical shifting and shattering force, its near-total dissonance and breakaway from established canons of harmony and melody.” For Stravinsky, a Russian expatriate who embraced suburbia in America, the goal of music should not be to “express” anything except music, since music is primarily about form and logic, incapable of conveying anything other than broad emotions. Béla Bartók (1881-1945) is identified as a Hungarian nationalist who systematically incorporated old Magyar folk melodies. Yet, again, it would be a mistake to view Bartók as a folk musician in the same way that non western musicians are seen. Bartók’s music remained classical through and through: Richard Strauss and Debussy strongly influenced his musical development, and his large-scale orchestral works were in the style of Brahms and Strauss.

Notwithstanding the extended influences of nationalism, neoclassicism, and the original impressionism of Debussy, the deeper current in twentieth century music may be categorized as modernist. Modernism found expression in all the arts, including literature and philosophy, and it arose from the globalization of industrialization, rootlessness, anomie, and the emerging industrial world, new technologies and the standardization of life, scepticism about the meaning of life, the feeling of powerlessness in the face of massive urban growth, and the sense that everything had already been explored in music except “testing the limits of aesthetic construction,” “searching for new models in atonalism, polytonalism or other forms of altered tonality.”

Arnold Schoenberg (who proclaimed his Jewishness after his music was labeled “degenerate” by German nationalists) was the major composer initiating modernist techniques, aimed at deconstructing the millennial concept of tonality, to convey “a prophetic message revealing a higher form of life toward which mankind evolves.” He coined the term “emancipation of dissonance” in treating dissonances like consonances and renouncing a tonal center. His greatest influence was after 1950. His follower Anton Webern pushed the idea of “serial composition” in which no single tone was more significant than the other, for ephemeral, pointillistic sounds—abstract music, impersonal, music constructed like a precision instrument, based on mathematical relationships without substantial content. Edgard Varèse discarded every element of the past, employing new instruments to create new sounds, wails and shrieks; music without melody, harmony, or counterpoint. Steve Reich came up with a technique called “phase shifting” in which a single note or a pattern of notes was constantly repeated by tape machines at different speeds. National characteristics evaporated; every work sounded as if it had been created by the same abstract modern person, a nowhere man.


Ricardo Duchesne has also written on the creation of the university. He the author of The Uniqueness of Western CivilizationFaustian Man in a Multicultural AgeCanada in Decay: Mass Immigration, Diversity, and the Ethnocide of Euro-Canadians.


Featured: “Three Young Women making Music with a Jester,” anonymous; painted ca. 1500-1530.

EU And AU: The Face Behind The Mask

Even if the difficult international scene (Ukrainian war and the persistence of COVID) seems to make us forget everything else, occurrences, such as the 6th EU/AU Summit, maintain their validity and even increase their value, especially for future prospects in the light of the afore mentioned crises.

This Summit has been described very superficially as one of the typical kermesses of the international community, where dozens of heads of state and government and senior leaders of international and regional organizations are in an infinite ballet of bilateral encounters (more or less confidencial), dinners, mass meetings, group photos. It has been all this (and it could not have been otherwise).

But the Summit has also been much more and is part of the various partnership conferences that many states and organizations have in place in their relation with the African continent, such as Australia (with the AAPF, Australia Africa Partnership Forum ), China (with FOCAC, Forum on China–Africa Cooperation); France, India, Iran, Russia, Japan (with TICAD, Tokyo International Conference on African Development), Russia, South Korea, Turkey, the USA (with AGOA, African Growth and Opportunity Act), Italy (with its ministerial conferences), Hungary, Germany, the OECD with the AFP (Africa Partnership Forum) and the EU.

These conferences and summits seem to be the modern re-edition of the “scramble for Africa” of the late 19th Century, when all the powers, large, mid, and small, competed to divide up colonies and protectorates and get their hands on local resources through partition conferences. A lot has changed, but a lot has remained the same. Modes have become less direct (apparently), but economic interests have grown and extended to sectors ignored until recently, starting with hunting for the mineral products necessary for new technologies, the grabbing of land for agricultural use, intensive fishing, mega infrastructures.

It is true that the decisions adopted in the final Brussels declaration of 18 February were numerous and contain some differences compared to previous summits (2000, 2007, 2010, 2014, 2017). There are 8 years left to realize this “vision for 2030.” Europe and Africa have decided to move towards a new “state of mind,” to which the incumbent President of the AU, the head of the state of Senegal, Macky Sall, returned at the closing ceremony: “We also need to create a new working climate, a climate that is more suited to the political will we want to give to this partnership. A new mood needs to be instilled in Euro-African relations. This is what I called, new relational software based on a true vision of partnership, for shared growth and prosperity,” he insisted.

The Summit’s final declaration underlines a common vision, and calls for a renewed partnership, based on “human bonds, respect for sovereignty, mutual responsibility and respect, shared values, equality between partners and mutual commitments.” An extensive program. And concretely, this is what the next few years of this partnership will be like:

150 Billion Euros For Africa Through The Global Gateway

This EU initiative launched in December 2021 aims to mobilize € 300 billion over the next 3 years, according to Ursula Von Der Leyen, President of the European Commission; and it is the backbone, politically and financial speaking, of the Summit. 150 billion euros will be allocated to Africa for the African investment plan.

The Global Gateway is an alternative that Europe offers Africa to work on investments, at a time when Russia and China (with Belt and Road Initiative, BRI) are invading the continent. The EU intends to invest primarily in people and infrastructure. Announced at the opening of the Summit, the financial support of Europe through the Global Gateway was therefore confirmed. The significant amount of at least € 150 billion aims to encourage sustainable investments on a large scale.

“We have decided to mobilize around projects that correspond to African priorities, in order to support development, innovation, prosperity in the climate, digital and infrastructure sectors,” said the President of the European Council (and former Belgian Prime Minister), Charles Michel. He especially insisted on creating a follow-up mechanism to give substance to the intentions: “It has happened that in the past the intentions were strong, generous and extremely ambitious and the results did not always match our ambitions. There we will put in place a follow-up and monitoring mechanism.”

The EU wishes to become Africa’s main partner of reference for financing its infrastructure. Several projects have been identified, including a list of strategic corridors, a sector where EU has had strong experience, especially for railways. They could involve CamRail rehabilitation projects, the Damietta-El Mansoura-Tanta railway corridor or the Tanzania-Uganda, Ghana-Burkina Faso-Mali interconnections.

Six Hubs For RNA Vaccines

These hubs will be created in Senegal, Egypt, Tunisia, South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria, the first countries to host an RNA messenger technology transfer. These will consist in the training of scientists and the production of vaccines against COVID-19, to then commercialize them in Africa and beyond the continent.

This technology transfer will mobilize 40 million Euros from the European consultancy side. “The remaining argument is related to intellectual property rights and even there the conclusions we have reached are encouraging and should allow us, in the coming months, by spring, to arrive at a dynamic compromise that will allow us to complete things”, assured Macky Sall, President of the AU.

A Green Partnership

The common vision adopted in Brussels is also ecological. Europe will support the climate resilience of African countries. This will be done through the implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). The partnership will also be oriented towards the development of supply chains.

Similarly, the launch of a joint EU/AU action plan for the development of plant proteins in Africa will make it possible to make the economic component of the “Great Green Wall” operational, responding to a triple challenge of food and nutrition security on a continental scale and the development of sustainable agro-ecological practices.

“We have to support Africa in its agricultural model. Here I would like to recall the importance for us of the great green wall which is a Pan-African initiative that we reactivated in January 2021”, declared the French president. African and European leaders went further to reaffirm their commitment to the full implementation of the Paris Agreement and the outcome of the conferences of the parties.

“We recognize that Africa’s energy transition is vital for its industrialization and for bridging the energy gap. We will support Africa in its transition to promote just and sustainable pathways to climate neutrality. We recognize the importance of using available natural resources as part of this energy transition process”, reads the final declaration of the Brussels Summit.

“We want green partnerships to flourish on the continent. The world needs Africa to fight climate change,” concluded Ursula von der Leyen. The aim of environmental rehabilitation of vast areas is focused to avoid those masses of population being forced to migrate because of unbearable living conditions.

New Approaches To Migration

The “delicate” (sic) issue of preventing irregular immigration is also being discussed, as well as the measures to be taken in the face of the smuggling of migrants. Priority was given to efforts for effective improvements in terms of return, readmission, and reintegration.

Asylum systems will be strengthened to provide adequate reception and protection for those entitled to them. But the leaders tried to focus on the root of the evil, with key measures to promote the empowerment of young people and women.

“We have taken steps to finance African training centers to allow training in trades that correspond to this economic development that I have spoken about,” said French President Emmanuel Macron, who held the EU rotational Presidency.

Security And Stability: “Reversing The Approach”

The other big step forward of the EU/AU Summit is the paradigm shift on security and stability issues. Without renouncing the support of the European military forces, the leaders of the two continents are counting on the strengthening of capabilities and equipment to intensify the autonomous operations of African forces.

“Today there is an absolute need to look things in the face and act accordingly. African states are ready to mobilize men. We also have the AU reserve forces in our architecture, brigades by region (they were planned to be five, but it is missed target, so far). I think we have to reverse the approach,” said Moussa Faki Mahamat, President of the AU Commission (former Chad FM), who also expressed his vision of financing peace at the end of the summit.

Europe too sees priority in this direction. French President Emmanuel Macron also took the opportunity to recall the directives by stating, “We have consolidated a partnership approach based on the requests and needs expressed by African countries”, before acknowledging African mobilization capacity within a regional framework. “We support the request of African states to the United Nations for new mechanisms that can be financed by the UN and that allow African armies to carry out stabilization operations in the fight against terrorism.”

Cooperation between the two continents will also be strengthened on other issues, such as fighting organized crime, maritime safety.

A Constellation Of Satellites To Connect The Two Continents

The latest decision was not actually taken in Brussels, but this Summit confirmed that it will benefit all of Africa. On Wednesday 16 February, during the Space Summit organized in Toulouse, France, the EU decided to launch a “megaconstellation” of 250 satellites. With an estimated budget of six billion euros, this constellation will provide a high-speed internet connection, even in the digital desert areas that currently struggle to access a traditional terrestrial network. However, these myriads of satellites will cover a low orbit area of about 500 kilometers above Europe and Africa.

Conclusion

This thorough examination shows that the Summit (and it usual list of nice words and good will) and its results have a strong political and strategic background on the part of Brussels, that of trying to free Africa from Chinese and Russian influence. In this strategy the events linked to the aggression of Moscow against the Ukraine, the ambiguous position of Beijing and a worrying number of African states that either abstained or did not participate in the UN General Assembly vote that condemned Russia, makes more urgent, for the Brussels perspective, the implementation of this plan.

The project was born as a response above all to the Summits that Moscow and Beijing have had in recent times (that of Sochi in 2019 and a second one scheduled for next November [sic]) and that of Dakar last November; those meetings also raised the alert for the acceleration that Russia (especially in Mali and Central Africa) and Beijing have given to their African policies (China would be interested in obtaining a new military base in an African country after the one in Djibouti, but one which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean; and it speaks insistently of Equatorial Guinea).

It is not known how African states will respond. The new international situation could be an excellent temptation to raise the price, not just financial, of their collaboration with Europe. Meanwhile, given the persistent difficulties in relations with the coup junta in Bamako, which is very close to Moscow, the EU has just announced that it will withdraw its training mission for the Malian armed forces, the EUTM-Mali.

It is useful to consider that in such a large project on the part of Europe there are also national priorities, especially on the French side which, given the tarnishing of the “Francafrique,” finds the EU plan particularly useful in trying to resume her influence in the continent.

What was lacking in the Summit, however, was the commitment by both (Brussels and Addis Ababa) to improve the governance of African countries, whose low (not to say non-existent, in too many contexts) quality is at the root of the difficulties facing the continent.

Another silence (at least public) on the European side was the mutations by force of the constitutional frameworks with coups d’état (Mali, Chad, Guinea, Burkina Faso) or referendums that remove limits to presidential mandates and allow ossification of the ruling classes and transformation of republics into de facto hereditary monarchies (as in the case of Chad, and the next one would be Uganda). These are not insignificant details that could make the whole European project unrealistic, inconclusive, and expensive.


Enrico Magnani, PhD is a UN officer who specializes in military history, politico-military affairs, peacekeeping and stability operations. (The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations).


Featured image: “Africa,” an engraving by Nicolaas Berchem, published by Pieter Mortier, ca. 1690.

Strategic Inconsistencies

Remembering what the Italian historian and philosopher Giambattista Vico (1668–1744) said that history repeats itself, there is again a repetition in relations over the strategic use of old assets and new materials.

The international debate is about the strategic weakness of the West (and especially Europe) facing the threat of LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) being cut off from Russia over the row between Moscow, Washington and Bruxelles (NATO and EU capitals) concerning the Ukraine. This issue shows the long-standing foolishness and lack of vision of the Euro-Atlantic community leaders. But the problem is not only limited to that, for other challenges also are putting an immense strain on our individual and collective future.

In prehistoric times, the discovery of the metallurgy (copper, bronze and iron) brought great changes to humanity, with the emergence of new powers and the end of pre-existing structures and powers.

During the Bronze Age, the shortage of bronze (1800 and 1700 BC) led to various conflicts in the Mediterranean region, focused on the control of this meta; with which weapons were made. Subsequently, using what is now known as “replacement technology,” it was possible to produce superior quality weapons from a much more abundant metal, but through a more complicated metallurgical process. The metal was iron. Its use spread, and the Iron Age began.

Rare earths today are the cornerstone of our technological evolution. Rare earth metals are needed to produce most high-tech products. Without them, many of the sectors in more developed countries, such as energy, telecommunications, medicine, and defense, would collapse the world over. On the other hand, the quantitative scarcity of rare earths, and the difficulties of various kinds and in their access, are nothing new. Shortages have already been predicted by 2025, by the European Commission, limiting the technological growth of Europe and the US and favoring that of China, with a strong impact on the struggle for global hegemony and international security.

Rare earths were first discovered by a Swedish army officer in 1787, but they did not generate the current frantic search, and their use was initially limited. Up to 1947, only 17 rare metals were found, and their importance increased with research in atomic physics, quantum physics and chemistry.

Today, it would be impossible to imagine everyday life without rare earths, as they are used in medical technology as contrast agents, as well as in radar devices, plasma screens, LEDs, special paints or lasers, to name a few. Their use in electric motors especially, such as in magnets or in batteries or fuel cells make them a key resource for the energy transition, which has become a global necessity. The properties of some rare earth elements make it possible to reduce the size of electric motors, increase the strength of the magnets and allow the use of lighter but more resistant alloys. The application of rare earths in most technological processes has triggered its demand, which is (thus far) endless.

The concentration in which these elements are found in minerals is very low, hence the name “rare.” They are not rare in the world, but their low proportion gives them the name. Rare earth deposits are abundant all over the world. However, the economic profitability of their exploitation depends on the concentration in which they are found in these locations. China owns a third of the world’s reserves, followed by Brazil, Vietnam, and Russia. Further, the extraction and separation of rare earths represents a technological and logistical challenge, associated with severe environmental pollution problems.

The industrial significance of rare earths is not yet equivalent to other raw materials, such as oil or gas. But many industrial sectors that would be affected by an interruption in the supply of rare earths are directly or indirectly linked to human safety and/or national security. The main reason is the link between rare earths and technology. Today, technology dominates the industrial processes, and its development is inconceivable without the use of rare earths.

For example, in the defense sector, rare earths enable the development of more effective, smart, and intelligent military capabilities and combat systems. Rare earths are now essential for night vision devices, precision guided weapons systems, communications equipment, navigation systems, batteries, stealth technology, drones, target design lasers and satellites for communications. They are also used in high performance protections and in both armored vehicles and projectiles to give them durability. Any disruption in the rare earth supply-chain would have a serious impact on the defense capabilities of any country with technologically advanced armed forces.

The importance of rare earths becomes strategic and particularly relevant when it is observed that, while the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) controls 41% of oil production, it is spread, even if unequally among, 13 states, China controls about 75% of rare earth production alone.

This fact has a direct bearing on the strategic choices of many nations. For example, during 2020, there was a direct threat from the Chinese government against two major US weapon system manufacturers, though it ultimately did not materialize. However, this also suggests that any nation that could, even indirectly, pose a threat to China’s security could be sanctioned with limitations or interruptions in the supply of rare earths. And seeing China’s growing determination on the international stage, this is not just an academic hypothesis. Therefore, it becomes a strategic priority to have a secure supply-chain for these critical minerals.

The only country in the world with a complete, independent, and autonomous supply-chain is China. The difference of interests between the value-chain (economic interest) and the supply-chain (strategic interest) means that each economic and socio-political model has a different perspective on the supply of rare earths and the associated value-chain. The more liberalist perspective, like that of the US, is based on the “efficient market,” leaving self-regulation in the hands of private corporations, to generate an adequate value-chain that should (ideally) have an associated supply-chain—in this case of rare earths. From the point of view of Beijing, the State/Communist Party intervenes directly in its companies and the private ones are kept under very strict control, and even more so those that operate in sectors considered strategic. Beijing primarily pursues national security goals, protecting the supply-chain, and subsequently, seeks to maximize value-chain profits.

Even with 40% of rare earth reserves currently in China, Beijing is also the world’s largest importer. Thanks to these imports and the use of its own resources, the final production of rare earths in China amounts to about 140,000 tons, about 75% of world production. This figure readily shows China’s dominance in the rare earth chain, followed by Australia (11%) and the US (8%).

The Belt Road Initiative (BRI), a pillar of China’s government policy, also serves as supply, trade and transport routes for rare earths and their associated products, both for import and export, and thus supporting China’s quasi-monopoly around the world.

Today there are only two companies outside of China that can be considered global producers of rare earths: one from Australia (Lynas Corporation) and one from US (MP Materials).

However, MP Materials ships its rare earth concentrates to China for processing and the Chinese government has a 10% stake in the company itself. China, in turn, sells manufactured and finished products at a large profit margin. The buyer countries thus maintain a relationship of dependence on China. Making political decisions without considering the entire supply-chain, or without knowing the relationship between each of its processes, can lead to financing and increasing the Chinese monopoly of rare earths.

The trade war between US and China is not limited to the economic sphere and is associated with the pursuit and maintenance of technological superiority and the control of supply routes. Technology not only represents a growing value for the economy, but also has a direct impact on the daily life of citizens. And, historically, technology has played a decisive role in the quest for international power, while control of the supply-routes enables the security of supply chains, which have expanded and diversified with the advance of globalization.

Without an adequate supply of rare earths, it would not be possible today to maintain not only technological advantage, but also the normal functioning of the various sectors of the economy.

Some of the technologies currently under development may be disruptive; for example: artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, robotics, biotechnology, and nanotechnology. These technologies will not only change daily life but may also alter current international hierarchy. China has already made public its plan to achieve independence in 10 key technologies by 2025. Currently, as regards the supply of materials that are the physical basis of these technologies, independence is already ensured. China is constantly moving towards strategic autonomy. On the contrary, since Beijing has a near-monopoly on rare earths, the maintenance of US technological hegemony depends precisely on China.

The Biden Administration is fully aware of the problem and has ordered a supply-chain review in key areas of medicine, commodities, and agriculture. The resulting review sternly states that “decades of underinvestment, together with public policy choices that favor short-term solutions, have left the system fragile.” The Departments of Defense, Agriculture, Energy, Interior, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are trying to address the supply-chain problem for rare earths and other critical materials. So far, the major effects of these policies have been reflected in the attempt to bring the supply-chain back to US soil, with the reopening of mines, activation of processing centers, agreements with commercial companies and securing of supply-lines—all by 2025.

Despite the trade war between China and the US, with the exchange of sanctions and other punitive measures, Washington has always kept rare earths out of it, no doubt because of the risk that China could still use them as a deterrent weapon.

But China primarily has no interest in imposing export quotas, as this would damage Beijing economically, triggering a new escalation in the mutual imposition of economic or tariff sanctions.

In general terms, however, China’s economic dependence on the US has been steadily declining in recent years and Beijing continues to build architectures that work to its advantage. It should be noted that, at the end of 2020, the largest free trade agreement in the world was signed, the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership), promoted by China, and in which all ASEAN nations participate (without Timor-Leste), including Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. The RCEP, operational since the beginning of 2022, representing 30% of world trade, has also seen the UK apply to join this treaty.

As mentioned above, the EU and the US have already officially predicted the shortage of rare earths by 2025. But this shortage, in addition, to being an instrument of pressure from Beijing to condition the international community, is also a problem for China because of the strong increase in domestic demand for the consumption of rare earths. Chinese development in recent decades has led to the emergence and growth of a huge middle-class (equivalent to the entire population of Europe) which, despite some slowdowns, continues to grow in number and economic capacity. This enormous middle-class now has access to previously unavailable technologies and goods, but their limitation could have a negative impact on internal governance, with risks related to domestic stability.

As an example, the Chinese demand for rare earths in the last five years has exceeded its own production, and the priority of Beijing will probably be to guarantee domestic market supply in the first place, but also continue to give regularity to their supply for strategic sectors, such as defense, medicine, and energy.

The outcome of this struggle for world hegemony can be determined by the pace, that is, by the speed of reaction by the US and its allies, or by China, which will take advantage of this clear geostrategic dominance for as long as it can maintain it.

Beyond the security impact of the Western world from the scarcity of rare earths, this situation would also allow China to gain an advantageous negotiating position on international security, which the United States may not be willing to accept.

China’s rare earth monopoly serves on the one hand, to strengthen its technological transformation and continue its economic progress associated with its struggle for hegemony. At the same time, for the US, China’s dependence on the supply of rare earths poses a serious threat to its strategic autonomy, a potential threat to its security and apply a possible brake on its economy and technological development. With this monopoly, China has a weapon, not only economic and diplomatic, but also militarily, because by interrupting the supply of rare earths it could block the production of the defense capabilities of its competitors.

The US strategy dedicated to rare earths moves to promote replacement technology, the exploitation of new fields and the development of new metallurgical centers, reducing dependence on China. In the short term, increasing reserves of rare earth metals, increasing efficient recycling methods, and expanding secure supply-chains would be the best way to react to rare earth shortages.


Enrico Magnani, PhD is a UN officer who specializes in military history, politico-military affairs, peacekeeping and stability operations. (The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations).

The Year Of Opportunities—And Risks—For Asia

2022 confirms that Asia will be one of the planet’s hubs, where great tensions and opportunities, risks and fractures are concentrated, where important trends are confronted and amalgamated.

2022 will be a year of potential political changes in many Asian countries, bringing as well a confirmation of the current situation. There will be several presidential elections (Philippines, South Korea and East Timor), legislative (Australia and Japan) and local (India). Regardless of their results, the strategic lines of those countries, will remain the same. Even powerful and threatening China will see changes in the perspective of the Communist Party Congress.

However, a new calendar year does not mean a clear break with the past. Some of the main events of 2021, such as the coup in Myanmar and the takeover by the Taliban in Afghanistan, will continue to impact in 2022. And, for the third consecutive year, the COVID-19 pandemic will loom over all other events. 2021 began with the launch of vaccines and the hope of post-pandemic normality; the year ended with the Omicron variant which once again closed the borders, and by 2022, all of Asia-Pacific will have to balance health precautions with the protection of its economies.

It is useful to start talking about the USA, a true hegemonic power still on the chessboard, even if increasingly undermined by Chinese pressure. The second year of the Biden administration should see an even greater emphasis on the Indo-Pacific region (and a consequent decrease in the importance of Europe and the Middle East, albeit with notable exceptions, like Ukraine and Iran).

2020 will see the publication of very important documents, such as the National Defense Strategy and the review of the National Nuclear Posture, which should be largely focused on the Beijing challenge. Relations will remain difficult, but the mid-term legislative elections in the US and the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China should create sufficient incentives on both sides for a “managed” relationship, though the points of friction will remain; the Biden administration will continue in its actions of trying to harness Chinese forces by focusing on the network of regional and sub-regional alliances and agreements—not only on specific areas (such as Taiwan), but also on ideological issues, such as human rights and the autonomy claims of East Turkestan, Inner Mongolia, and Hong King.

In this perspective, the alliance system for Washington becomes, even more than today, a critical element, especially with regard to Japan, South Korea, Australia and India. The Quad will continue to be pushed and promoted, and it is likely that Washington will aim at the qualitative and quantitative expansion of this forum.

The other difficult point of the region, such as North Korea, will be observed by Washington with great attention, especially in the case of a conservative victory in the South Korean elections.
In addition to the stabilization of AUKUS, 2022 will see the absorption of the crisis with France (which is much more relaxed after the unionist victory in the third and definitive referendum on independence for New Caledonia, which secures its stay in the region and weaken substantially the notion that French Polynesia would follow the search for independence).

ASEAN, despite some internal criticisms, such as Cambodia and Myanmar, will remain another important partner for Washington in its confrontation with Beijing, but also for economic cooperation. In fact, given the economic (and demographic) dimensions of Asia, the economic dimension will be the other pillar of US actions.

Japan has serious difficulties, beginning with an ossified political leadership and a tired parliamentarian alternation. But the pandemic, the demographic frost, the unresolved relationship with Korea, the ambiguous relationship with Moscow are all elements of uncertainty for Tokyo, which feels gravely exposed, despite a massive weapons program.

For geographic reasons and dimensions, tensions with China (the gravity of which is evidenced by the recent installation of a “red telephone” between the two capitals) remain central to Japan. Tokyo will confirm a foreign policy and cooperation centered on the US, and with Taiwan increasingly regarded as a sovereign state. Also, for Japan, the issue of the protection of human rights in China will remain a decisive element, even if it seems that (so far) Japan will not boycott the Olympic Games, a true symbolic moment for Beijing. Meanwhile, Tokyo is increasingly solidifying its ties with other countries, in anti-Chinese functions, such as the Quad and the Japanese participation at regional military exercises with US, Australians, British and French forces.

For South Korea, the presidential elections, which could see the conservatives win, would represent a further element of tension with North Korea. With nuclear talks between the US and North Korea still stalled, in 2022, Pyongyang will continue to enhance its nuclear and missile capabilities to strengthen its influence in denuclearization negotiations. In recent years, North Korea has been testing various missile technologies, including short-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. North Korea has not (yet) crossed the “red line” set by the US— nuclear weapons tests or ICBMs—but Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un has pledged to further develop the military capability of the North by using such capability as an element of deterrence to block temptations of “regime change” (in Washington, more than in Seoul).

Seoul also follows Tokyo’s steps in strengthening its military apparatus, witnessing a feeling of insecurity, but its ever difficult relations with Japan are an element of weakness for the security architecture that the US has built since the 1950s.

In addition, South Korea’s attention to Beijing is a matter of concern for Washington, both for reasons of economic interest and as an element of mediation in the face of North Korea’s excesses. Since President Moon Jae-in officially proposed ending the 1950-53 Korean War at the UN General Assembly on September 21, 2021, Seoul and Washington have consulted on a draft for the declaration. However, amid the stalemate in North Korea-US bilateral talks and deteriorating US-China relations—both of whom are expected to co-sign such a declaration—no progress has been announced on the initiative, because of concerns about an end-of-war declaration, which hold that it could weaken the South Korea-US military alliance and the role of the UN Command (which has seen a significant increase in participating states and reactivation of others in recent years). The decision on whether to proceed with the end-of-war declaration will depend on the results of the South Korean presidential election in March.

With the opening ceremony on February 4, 2022, Beijing will become the only city in the world to have hosted both the Summer and Winter Olympics. But despite China’s stern and repeated warnings against the “politicization” of the Olympics, the Beijing 2022 Games have taken on very important political connotations, with the focus, by a growing number of states, on long-standing protests over human rights violations against ethnic minorities, and in Hong Kong.

The US said in December that it would not send an official delegation to the Beijing 2022 Olympics because of human rights concerns. Australia, Canada, and the UK quickly followed suit. As if that weren’t enough, China’s organization of the Olympics will also be proof of its ruthless commitment to a zero COVID policy. Beijing won the Games at the International Olympic Committee votes, expecting great public relations success to showcase its wealth and influence on the global stage. But the events of the past two years suggest that China will face much more scrutiny during these Olympics than in 2008.

Beijing will face another important moment in the fall of 2022, when the Chinese Communist Party will hold its 20th Party Congress, in which it will promote a new list of leaders. Xi is expected to break the previous (even recent) pattern and get a third term as the CCP Secretary-General (the first mandate was in 2012). The big question, then, is whether Xi will allow an heir-apparent, at least initially, on the Politburo Standing Committee, signaling that he will step down in 2027; or whether he is looking for a role of “life leader.” Linked to the confirmation or not of XI, but not only, in the dynamics of power in Beijing, there are those linked to Taiwan.

Last December Nicaragua established diplomatic relations with Beijing and cut off those with Taipei, which has only 14 states left with which to (officially) have diplomatic relations. Beijing is convinced that it will be able to eliminate this residual diplomatic presence in mid-term (at least one a year).
On the other hand, the trend of countries extending their unofficial relations with Taiwan (Lithuania, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia are the most recent examples) is likely to continue, defying pressure and retaliation from Beijing. Other European countries could follow in 2022, especially after a resolution by the European Parliament calling for ties to be strengthened with Taiwan. In particular, it will be necessary to see whether the EU or the US will take concrete steps towards free-trade agreements with Taiwan, long desired by Taipei but so far not taken seriously by either Washington or Brussels, because of concerns about Beijing’s retaliations.

Alongside the diplomatic game, there is the military dimension, which actually remains worrying, with the continuous Chinese amphibious exercises and air and maritime show of force. China remains fully committed to absorbing Taiwan and refuses to rule out the use of force to achieve that goal if forced to (from its point of view). A Chinese invasion of Taiwan remains a low-probability event, but it would be potentially risky, even for Xi, if he remains the CCP leader, because failure of any sort will make it politically too expensive, as well as catastrophic.

Also, in India, there will be key elections in 2022 and with heavy indications on the general policy of the country. In addition to the presidential elections, several states (Goa, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat) will elect local assemblies. The outcome of the Uttar Pradesh elections is the most important, as it is the most populous state in India (it holds about one fifth of the seats in the Indian federal parliament) and should provide useful indications on the political direction in the country, in consideration that that state is ruled by the nationalist BJP party, which also heads the federal government, and suffers from strong internal criticism for the economy and the management of COVID-19.

The disputed region of Kashmir will remain a hot-spot in Indian politics, as it affects relations with Pakistan (and to a secondary extent with China). The region, used as an electoral bastion by the BJP, and its belonging to India is the focal point of the patriotic narrative of India, a unifying element of an extremely complex, divided subcontinent. Even in this region, the elections for the local assembly will be an element of tension, given that they will be the first after the unilateral revocation of the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019 by the federal government (and which has further worsened Indo-Pakistani relations).

But the proximity of Kashmir to Afghanistan makes India concerned about possible infiltrations by terrorist elements from both Al Qaeda and IS. Here, too, China will remain the main concern for India’s security and foreign policy. Several rounds of talks between Indian and Chinese military officers and diplomats over the situation in Ladakh (where there have been several clashes and a massive deployment of forces in the region by the two contenders) have not yet borne fruit. There is the possibility that India will push Russia, thanks to its historical proximity, to discreetly facilitate the repositioning of the opposing forces from the disputed points of Ladakh, as a prelude to a possible summit meeting (without further indications, it remains a mere hope).

India’s other major concern with Beijing is China’s growing presence and influence in South Asia. India can be expected to strengthen its economic diplomacy with its neighbors to counter China’s growing presence in the region; and New Delhi has made progress in this regard in 2021, especially in Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

For Pakistan, there are many elements that mirror India, albeit with the important variant of the institutional weight of the armed forces, increasingly opposed to civilian leadership, and public opinion. With the victory of the Afghan Taliban, the challenge of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has increased, and the Pakistani Taliban have increased attacks on official institutions, using their own sanctuaries in Afghanistan, even though the Kabul leadership has already said that the TTP does not exist in Afghanistan and that the issue is an internal issue within Pakistan.

For Pakistan, too, China is fundamental, albeit in a different sense, given the once good relations with Beijing are rapidly deteriorating due to the management of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The growing divergences emerging between Pakistan and China over the issue of payments, development costs, security threats and the increasing resistance of local populations, especially in the Pakistani province of Balochistan, risk leaving Pakistan without support, should it decide to break ties with Beijing (given that the US would not fail to pay for its proximity to China).

2021 saw Pakistan fail to meet its payment deadlines, prompting China to withdraw funds, and even stop some projects. The CPEC slowdown has had a severe impact on Pakistan’s cash-strapped national economy, as the country’s trade deficit expands and foreign debt grows. Once hailed as a turning point for national development, CPEC has become an increasingly controversial topic in Pakistan, particularly around the port of Gwadar, where thousands of residents have called for local control of resources, which they believe will benefit exclusively China. It cannot be ruled out that Beijing may suspend work on the Gwadar port and related infrastructure projects, with a devastating impact on Pakistan, as the country’s economy remains under pressure, and there seem to be no new avenues of financial support.

So far, no country in the world has recognized the new government of Afghanistan, the so-called Islamic Emirate of the Taliban, which was built in August 2021 on the very expensive ashes of the previous architecture. First of all, the Afghan problem, beyond the institutionalized violations of civil and human rights, is a problem of recognition, where both Russia and China, which have relations with the Taliban, are reluctant to let them sit at the UN. Western countries and the leadership of the UN link the offer of recognition to an “inclusive” (sic) government. This situation is linked to the enormous governance problems for the Taliban (who do not have any), as well as financing, given that the 9 billion dollars of the reserves of the central bank of the Afghan Republic, kept by Western financial institutions, are frozen.

The local branch of IS, the Islamic State of Khorasan (ISK), formed around 2015, despite heavy difficulties and conflicts with both the “official” Taliban and Al Qaeda militias, seems to be present in all provinces of Afghanistan and represents a threat to the Taliban themselves who do not have the ability to hold ISK in check nor to prevent incursions in the surrounding areas (which go as far as India and China [East Turkestan]).

A humanitarian disaster of epic proportions awaits that wretched country, linking itself to political and security challenges. These difficult political and economic conditions have mixed with a recent drought and early winter to set the stage for a colossal humanitarian catastrophe by 2022. According to the UNDP, a staggering 97% of Afghans could fall into poverty in 2022, as the economy contracts sharply. The UN emergency food aid agency, the World Food Program, has warned of the impending famine. For the Taliban, the inability to provide for the Afghan people can make it nearly impossible to rule the country. After the war that began in 1980, 2022 could be the worst year for Afghanistan.

Even for the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, the ramifications of the fall of Afghanistan are heavy and are linked to pre-existing complex situations, where Russia and China, allies and competitors at the same time, work hard to push any other influence out of the area. The US and Western presence and/or influence, somehow less visible because of the prolonged process of reducing NATO forces in Afghanistan (and after the summer disaster in Kabul), led to the building (by China) and/or rebuilding (by Russia ) of influence, as in Moscow with the imposing push to spread again the use of Russian, which was greatly reduced from a vehicular language after the exodus of a large part of the Russian-speaking population; this decline of the use of Russian began after the end of the USSR, starting from 1991.

Kyrgyzstan’s political system was shaped into the desired form by President Sadyr Japarov: an almighty president, a constitution, a parliament that poses no obstacles. In 2022, Kyrgyzstan will face major challenges, starting with the instability of the energy and gold markets, rising food prices, high unemployment and serious corruption.

As with Kyrgyzstan, energy (fuel price increases) and environmental (persistent drought) problems could become political problems with severe protests across the area, starting with Tajikistan (which borders directly on seething Afghanistan) and ending. with Uzbekistan. But for all these states, including the most distant Kazakhstan, Afghan developments impact the region. The once quiet, solid, rich (and maid of Moscow) Kazakhstan saw a sudden and very rapid change of scene at the beginning of 2022 with President Nursultan Nazarbaev (a relic of the Soviet system), who had managed to navigate between Russians, Chinese, and Europeans, was overthrown by a very violent popular revolt, ignited by the increase in fuel prices, but which seems to contain elements of fatigue of the local population because of the immovable leadership of the country.

The crisis of Kazakhstan, quickly solved by determination of Moscow, teaches how apparent-tranquility can end up, and how Russia learnt the lessons of Maydan, where a disastrous management of the local leadership originated a major shift for the Moscow security landscape after 1991 (another, also ignored, lesson of how Russia studies the past, and acts rapidly, is the Belarus file) with the entry of Ukraine in the Western sphere of influence. Russia, a peculiar presence in Asia, will work hard to defend its space; consolidate and, if possible, expand it.

For two decades, Central Asia’s position on the map has made it important to the US, and this parameter has prevailed over a range of value-based concerns, not least democracy for national security. This has allowed several of these states to have obtained repeated waivers from US sanctions related to civil liberties and human rights, but without major pressures. Now, these exceptions, also due to the ideological approach of the Biden administration, could be suspended and sanctions applied (with the ultimate result of bringing these states closer to the Russian orbit and the growing Chinese influence, in search of energy resources). As in Pakistan, local Islamist groups close to the Al Qaeda and IS spheres could find space and enjoy sanctuaries not particularly disturbed by the Taliban forces.

The stalemate continues in Myanmar. After the coup d’etat in February of last year, despite persistent civil disobedience, the resumption of armed uprisings in the border areas, and uncertain international pressure, the military junta seems willing to remain in power by playing on the divisions of international partners and seeking to take advantage of support from regional actors, starting with China, which seeks to weaken ASEAN, to keep Westerners away and to maintain solid economic control over important parts of the Myanmar economy.

At the closing ceremony of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit on October 27, 2021, Brunei handed over the presidency of the regional bloc to Cambodia. The small nation of Southeast Asia takes its toll in a potentially crucial year for ASEAN, which finds itself besieged by a series of pressing challenges. These include strategic competition in Southeast Asia, continuing tensions in the South China Sea, the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and the Myanmar crisis. There is another reason why the presidency of Cambodia will be closely observed: the very close ties with China would make Phnom Pen a Beijing agent within ASEAN, with all the consequences and risks of such a role. Thailand, in a prolonged state of crisis since 2014, should see elections in 2022 to return to stability and normality, contributing to the recovery of ASEAN credibility

Political transitions are underway in Indonesia, the Philippines (where the progressive absorption of the Islamist insurgency in the southern part of the archipelago seems to be progressing well), Singapore and East Timor. But maritime security problems remain intact, leading to the consolidation of ties also between states which had open border problems and thus increased the military dimension of ASEAN, hitherto exclusively economic. The architecture for trilateral patrols between Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines to tackle piracy, illegal fishing, illicit trafficking and a series of transnational crimes had begun to be built before COVID-19, but progress slowed as the pandemic broke out. However, the three sides still held dialogues and consultations on how to proceed and expand their cooperative work.

Indonesia’s regional and global leadership will also be in the spotlight in 2022. Indonesia (which will host the G-20 Summit) has nonetheless shown its leadership role on some key issues in recent times which affect its national interest, such as maritime economy, or the situations in Afghanistan, after the US withdrawal, and in Myanmar, after the coup, or Thailand for the political blockade.

The Australian federal election is perhaps the most important event for the sub-area, given the ripple effect it will have on other key issues in Oceania in 2022. Although there is no confirmed date, the elections will be held between March and May. With major contenders battling over important issues, such as climate change, how to interact with China and, more broadly, what role Canberra should play on the international stage, the outcome of the vote will have significant implications not just for Australia but for entire Oceania, given the importance that this country has on the chessboard.

The current conservative government has had several setbacks (of its actions and of image), leaving aside the painful management of the AUKUS pact, the equally negative ones of wildfires, floods and COVID. If Labor achieves an electoral victory, there will be a major shift on key issues, in particular climate policy and migration. The only thing that should remain unchanged, if not accelerated, will be the massive rearmament of the armed forces, and the determination to face China, in every field and area (especially in the South Pacific).

Many Pacific Island countries have handled the pandemic well, with only a handful of cases or none; but their economies have been shattered because of the region’s reliance on a narrow range of external sources of income, particularly tourism. The mineral riches of many islands (starting with precious nickel) and their institutional events have long been at the center of Beijing’s attention, which has consolidated the cooperation of various players, such as the USA, Australia and France.


Enrico Magnani, PhD is a UN officer who specializes in military history, politico-military affairs, peacekeeping and stability operations. (The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations).


A Tropical Storm

While the main tensions in the Indo-Pacific region are concentrated, others are ongoing and growing, in some visible critical points, such as Taiwan, the Pescadores islands, the Senkaku/Diaoyu/Diaoyutai, the islets of the South China Sea (Paracelsus). All this is because of powerful deployments and exchanges of fiery declarations between Beijing and its increasingly numerous competitors, gathered around the USA. The observant, silent eyes of Chinese leaders are looking for other opportunities to extend China’s influence and its global near-monopoly on rare earth minerals and flex its muscles further. In short, there are specific and little-known situations that could have great, repercussions on a planetary level.

In this context, we want to talk about New Caledonia/Kanak, Bougainville and Tonga. These are three different territories, being groups of small archipelagos in the South Pacific. Not far away from each other, but all united by difficult economic and social situations, with important natural resources and strategic locations, different legal statutes and a turbulent political history. From a general point of view, the Chinese push towards those small islands, besides, as mentioned, trying to absorb the control of mineral resources (starting with the increasingly precious nickel), seems to retrace the great themes of Japanese expansion in the 20th century, to create a vast area of security, to ensure control of natural resources, to break the siege (including geographically) of the various barriers that stand between Beijing and free access to the Pacific, and to seriously undermine US control over these waters, unchallenged since the end of WWII.

A Small France Downunder

Let’s start with a brief analysis of the situation in New Caledonia/Kanak, which is a French overseas territory from 1853 (and from 1864 until 1924 it was a tough penitentiary for insurgents and rebels against colonial rule, and for the survivors of the bloodbath of Paris’s Commune). It has been included since 1986 in the list of non-autonomous territories to be decolonized by the UN, and which as such had the right to choose whether to become independent or remain linked to France (in the UN language peculiar to the UN, “non-selfgoverning territory means colonies and protectorates, of which there are now seventeen around the world, and which in majority are small islands scattered in several oceans, from Falklands/Malvinas to Gibraltar, from Saint Helena to New Caledonia).

The story of New Caledonia began a long time ago when an armed independence movement (of which Gaddafi was said to be the distant supporter and financier, as in other local states, such as Kiribati) carried out various actions against the military and police forces (and the French residents). A decisive clash took place in April 1987, the terms of which are still unclear; but we only know that it was very dire for the insurgents.

After the use of force, the door was opened to dialogue, and Paris, with the agreements of Hôtel de Matignon (the residence of the French Prime Minister) in 1988, accepted “the opening to the peaceful demands of the local populations, who lived in difficult economic conditions and launched” development programs, and economic and social integration of the locals, even if their discontent with substantial marginalization in regards to residents of French origin, remained very much alive. The agreements of the Hôtel de Matignon of June 26, 1988 provided for a ten-year transitional statute that would lead to a referendum process of self-determination for Caledonians (local or French residents), to vote for or against independence.

In 1998, upon the expiry of the agreements of the Hôtel de Matignon, those of Nouméa (from the name of the head of the territory) were signed; alongside the regulation of the electoral process, concessions were made, such as, the name Kanak, which could be accompanied by that of New Caledonia and the use of a semi-official flag (which greatly angered the metropolitan French residents). France, which in any case tried in every way to postpone and limit the access of the local population to the voters list, and consequently to the referendum (actually three referendums, according to the terms of the Nouméa Accord). Also, Paris always demanded (and obviously obtained) that the election observers sent by the UN be called “experts,” as there was nothing special to observe, as in other referendums for the independence of colonial territory (sic).

On December 12, again and for the third time (the other two were in 2018 and 2020) the vote was No to independence, and this time with very wide margin: 96.5% of the votes, while 3.5% were cast for the Yes-side. A landslide victory but very low participation. Out of about 185,000 registered voters, only 80,000 went to the 307 polling stations, or 43.88% of them. This was because of the boycott by the independentist movement (which controls the local government, however, with little responsibilities, leaving everything important in the hands of the French High Commissioner, directly appointed by Paris) who had unsuccessfully asked to postpone the vote because of the impact of COVID.

End of story? Certainly not. The problems remain, and the results of the vote show the ethnic split of the French territory, the numerical prevalence of the local element and which could be the source of future problems (and interference from the outside). Paris, in anticipation of the vote, silently and speedily sent 1,300 riot police (while many other similar forces were quickly deployed to Martinique and Guadaloupe, recently devastated by violent riots; another sign of the problems that crisscross what remains of the French empire), and even the special units of the Gendarmerie, in the case of the repetition of the serious incidents of October 2020, and fears that the vote would divide the two communities that up till now lived together peacefully, after the crisis of the 1980s.

Now, after the self congratulations where he also said “France is more beautiful because New Caledonia has decided to stay in it,” President Macron has several options ahead, both safe and uncertain. It is certain that France will have to try to invest much more financially than it has done till now to try to overcome the greatest reason for local discontent, the economic and social inequalities, while improving internal regional connections and with the Hexagon, and securing the mining assets of the territory, which will make it an economic hub in the future (in other words to ensure that nickel does not end up in Chinese hands, even through intermediary properties).

However, the low participation in the referendum undoubtedly removes the legitimacy of the vote even if Paris, with the results in hand, next year will try to have New Caledonia/Kanak removed from the list of territories to be decolonized at the UN General Assembly (and it is not guaranteed to succeed). Alongside this, if Paris wants to continue to be considered a player in the region, it must reinforce its military presence, reduced for years to a minimum level (to underline the importance of the archipelago, during the WWII, it hosted the largest US military installations of the South Pacific area) and do the same with neighboring Polynesia, also included in the list of territories to be decolonized by the UN General Assembly 2013 (again with furious reactions from Paris) and characterized by the presence of a local independence movement that has the same reasons as New Caledonia/Kanak.

Everything suggests that the French future in the area is not very easy, starting with the financial commitment that will have to be substantial and prolonged. Everything else is uncertain, and it is a lot. Those who are breathing a sigh of relief, so far, are the French residents (who feared, unreasonably, of being expelled in the event of a victory of the independence movement) and the people of Wallis and Futuna, two islets united to the territory who feared to pass from Parisian paternalism to local neo-colonialism; and they were clearly the only locals who voted against the option of independence. The USA, Australia and New Zealand had also followed the situation closely and feared that the independence of a small, sparsely populated state with great natural wealth would open the door to a dangerous rival. However, one can be sure that Beijing will continue to discreetly monitor the context and if, if the opportunity arises, it will not miss it.

A Difficult Chapter

Another difficult junction in the South Pacific is represented by the future of the island of Bougainville (whose name derives from the French admiral Louis Antoine de Bougainville who too possession of it in 1768). It is a tropical paradise, colonized and administered by Germans, Australians, Japanese, Americans and (again) Australians. The fate of the island has been linked to that of Papua New Guinea, as this territory was first mandate of the League of Nations (1920-1941) and subsequently as territory under UN trusteeship from 1945 to 1975 (when it achieved independence), again from Australia.

Ethnically, the population of the island is closet to that of the neighboring Solomons (who, as we shall see, are going through difficult times) than to that of Papua New Guinea. The problems emerged immediately after the independence of Papua New Guinea. Because Bougainville is rich in copper and gold, a large mine was established in Panguna in the early 1970s by Bougainville Copper Limited, a subsidiary of the large multinational Rio Tinto. Regional residents’ disputes with the company over negative environmental impacts, failure to share financial benefits, and negative social changes brought about by the mine have led to a local awakening of a secessionist movement that had hitherto been dormant (as can be seen, a red thread links the requests of Bougainville and New Caledonia/Kanak).

A group of local activists proclaimed the independence of Bougainville as the ‘Republic of Northern Solomon’ in 1975 and again in 1988; both times government forces suppressed the insurgents, called BRA (Bougainville Revolutionary Army). The second uprising was particularly violent and led to at least 20,000 victims (and Papua New Guinea’s employment of Sandline “contractors,” given the poor quality of its military and police forces) and which ended with a peace agreement that saw the sending of an Australian-led multinational stabilization force (“Operation Bel Isi“), the PMG (Peace Monitoring Group) which operated between 1998 and 2003. The PMG (and its substitute the Peace Monitoring Team, which ended its activity in 2005) which oversaw personnel, military police and civilians from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Vanuatu, cooperated with a small UN civilian mission, the UNPOB (UN Political Office in Bougainville) which operated to facilitate dialogue and the destruction of insurgent weapons (about 2,000 of all kinds), to respect agreed pre-electoral deadlines, and, finally, to facilitate the elections themselves.

The UNPOB ended its mission in 2005, leaving the normal economic and social assistance and aid activities of the “less advanced territories’” (as the UN calls these territories) with the UNDP (UN Development Program) as leading agency. The politically relevant aspect of the 1997 agreement (which prepared peace on the ground) led parties to decide to hold a referendum on the political independence of the island in the future, which would have a regional government with wide autonomy—all under careful Australian supervision, as Canberra, given the geographical proximity and the great economic interests of the area, is particularly interested in any development in the area.

A non-binding independence referendum was held at the end of 2019 with 98.31% of votes for independence rather than autonomy within Papua New Guinea; and, as a result, the region will become independent by 2027 (and this with all due respect to the concept of a “non-binding” referendum. But Papua New Guinea is so weak that it has little to oppose, even given the overwhelming majority in favor of independence; and Canberra does not like other convulsions in the area).

In principle, the aspirations for independence always have positive consideration and sympathy, at least formally. In reality, the international community looks at them with suspicion for the precedents they can create elsewhere, with balkanization and destabilization in tow. However, the latest developments seem to lead to an acceleration of the independence process, which the regional government of Bougainville wants to be effective as soon as possible (the ideal would be even before 2025). Australia, and first of all, New Zealand, the USA and France are observing the process very carefully, which should be peaceful (and at the moment everything suggests that it will continue to be so), but which could bring about another small, weak and potentially unstable territory at the behest of other interests (also in this case Chinese).

Australia, which has a difficult relationship, to use a euphemism, with Beijing, absolutely does not want Chinese economic agents to settle there to make Bougainville an outpost of the CCP’s imperialism. However, it is useful to remember a paradox (international relations are full of them): Papua New Guinea, which seems resigned to let Bougainville go (also because it has no other options) finds itself in the situation where the western part of the island would like to separate from Indonesia and reunite with Port Moresby, starting with the ethnic community.

However, Indonesia, which took control of that part of Papua (the last remnant of Dutch colonialism) in 1964, with a real diplomatic coup orchestrated by the USA and with the acquiescence of the UN (ignoring the wishes of the local populations and annexed to Indonesia regardless of their opinions on the matter), mindful of the disasters of East Timor and, conversely, of the prudent management of separatism in the Aceh region (eastern part of Sumatra), has opted for a conciliatory and inclusive policy, which has brought good results by calming the situation and fully reintegrating Aceh into Indonesia.

Another Outbreak

At the end of last November, the Solomon Islands also returned, albeit briefly, to international prominence. The reason was that very violent incidents broke out between the local population and the local security forces. On a geographically small scale, the capital Honiara is little more than a large town. The local government in obvious difficulty has asked for the support of neighboring countries.

Again, Australia, followed by New Zealand, Fiji and (even) Papua New Guinea, answering a desperate request by the government of Solomon Islands, sent military and police personnel with the greatest possible urgency sent a force, which although numerically small (less than 500 units), represents how serious was the violence in a small community. The Solomon Islands also emerged from a long period of instability and violence, and appeared to be stable. But the agreements were only superficial and the reasons for the difficulties remained intact, if not worsened.

What caused the riots? In apparently enchanting places (for tourists), realities are harsh. The ongoing antigovernment protests over long-standing poverty and unemployment turned violent in mid-November as crowds tried to storm parliament. Rioters burned down buildings and destroyed property in the Chinatown area of Honiara. At least three people were killed. Although calm was largely restored, tensions remain high.

But inter-provincial tension has also fueled the unrest, as many of the protesters came from the province of Malaita, a neighboring island that has a history of disputes with the Guadalcanal province, where the government is based. For example, Malaita opposed the current Prime Minister’s decision, in 2019, to formally recognize China instead of Taiwan.

In addition, various local authorities, starting with the provincial leader of Malaita, have spoken out against the presence of international troops, seen as supporting the central government. Even though the riots lasted only three days, they plunged the Solomon Islands into chaos, exposing widespread frustration with low living standards and exposing the weaknesses of local governance. Despite years of investments from abroad, especially by Australia, the Solomon Islands have not emerged from the quagmire of the lack of development and the violence that marked the small former British protectorate (independent since 1976) between 1998 and 2003.

Canberra—cautious in not repeating a deployment of a stabilization force (the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, RAMSI) which remained in place for 14 years and which ended only in 2017—(but at the same time vigilant of Beijing maneuvers and lest its agents are installed there) stressed that this time they will remain in the islands only for a limited period.

As mentioned, the reasons for the violence have not been overcome and date back to the late 1990s, when ethnic rivalries and economic differences were the spark of very serious and prolonged violence, where the inhabitants of various peripheral islands confronted and then clashed, in measures more and more violent, with those of Honiara. Tensions led to the establishment of ethnic militias; and in late 1999, after several failed attempts to broker a peace agreement, the then prime minister declared a four-month state of emergency and also requested assistance from Australia and New Zealand. But his appeal was denied.

Meanwhile, violence was rampant in the archipelago. After several attempts, an agreement was reached between the parties, promoted by Canberra and signed in the Australian city of Townsville in 2000. The economic situation of poor islands worsened and, as often happens, the violence of politics is connected with ordinary crime; and such was the instability that in July 2003, over 2,000 military and policemen from Australia and other Pacific islands (Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, Nauru, Kiribati, Tuvalu) arrived in the Solomon Islands under the auspices of RAMSI (divided into the phases “Helpem Fren,” “Anode” and “Rata”). With the arrival of international forces, the security situation improved, but with over two hundred deaths (very few compared to what happened in nearby Bougainville). In reality, the Solomon Islands are close to the condition of a “failed state.”

This draws the attention of those who may be interested in increasing influence. The current Prime Minister, as often happens in such situations, has accused foreign powers and “certain elements” that seek to overthrow his government, indicating opposition to his decision to move closer to Beijing and break ties with Taiwan. Perhaps. But the real problems all remain, from underdevelopment to corruption, from entire economic sectors in the hands of (Chinese) ethnic groups that have a monopoly on the local market. The Solomon Islands remain one of the most aid-dependent countries in the world. 40% of the population is under the age of 14, according to data from the World Bank, and it is estimated that 70% are under the age of 30. Unemployment is endemic and the restrictions for Covid-19 have made everything, if possible, even more difficult.

Compared to what is proposed for New Caledonia/Kanak and Bougainville, interesting from a mining point of view, the Solomon Islands are less attractive. Gold mining began in 1998 at Gold Ridge on the island of Guadalcanal, which was suspended in 2006. The islands are potentially rich in undeveloped mineral resources, such as lead, zinc, nickel and gold. But the real strength of the Solomons is the geographical position, although regional relations are not optimal. In addition to Australia and New Zealand, which play a predominant role in the security-making of the area, Papua New Guinea has a problematic relationship with Honiara, accused by Port Moresby of pushing for Bougainville separatism in order to establish a unitary state among the two entities. So far, Australia does not want to go beyond a neutral peacekeeping force and does not want to mediate between opposing tendencies (ultimately for or against Beijing).

Conclusions?

In fact, it is difficult to draw a conclusion. What is certain is only that the situation is open. The players (Beijing on one side and the “others” on the opposite side) are in full swing and are trying to strengthen their positions. For example, in mid-December, the USA launched a major program to improve the infrastructure networks of communication, fundamental for the socio-economic development of territories spread over vast areas. But they are viewed with suspicion. Let’s wait, see (and hope).


Enrico Magnani, PhD is a UN officer who specializes in military history, politico-military affairs, peacekeeping and stability operations. (The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations).


Featured image: “Buka Town,” by Vireil, painted ca. 1988-2001.

What To Do About China

If the release of the deadly COVID-19 virus from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in late 2019 was intentional and sanctioned by the People’s Liberation Army germ warfare unit led by General Chen Wei, its top biological warfare expert, it was an act of belligerent aggression—on America and the rest of the world.

The proper response should have been, as immediately after Pearl Harbor on December 8, 1941, a resolute declaration of war announced by the president and supported by Congress.

Now that we know China’s game, it’s time to go kinetic.

By that I mean, as in physics, the acts resulting in motion. We have been way too reticent to act for all the wrong reasons. Our China policy needs to completely change. The only real impediment is Beijing Joe himself, who is in the pocket of the Chinese Communist Party. His Penn Biden Center at the University of Pennsylvania took $54 million just days before he assumed the presidency from the Chinese and his criminal son, Hunter, has yet to unwrap himself from a $1.5 billion Chinese investment scheme he landed when his father flew him, at taxpayer expense, to China on Air Force 2.

Enough already with placating the Chinese Communist Party or bending to its will and its absolute dictator, Xi Jinping. Xi recently said that China will not allow “sanctimonious preaching” or bullying from foreign forces, and anyone who tries “will find themselves on a collision course with a steel wall forged by 1.4 billion people.” Shut him down.

Where do we stand? The CCP wields absolute rule over 1.4 billion people, and absolute control over one of the world’s largest economies. China today is also an isolated member of the international community due to its human rights abuses and actions towards regional neighbors such as Taiwan, India, and others who dispute China’s claims in the South China Sea.

Its relations with countries like the United States, Canada, and Australia—with which it is locked in bitter disputes—are at their lowest point ever. China is a pariah nation, very much like Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany on the eve of World War II. Look at this DIA report on growing Chinese military power if you want the numbers on their vast military buildup. This is the time for a first strike.

Attempting a phony Munich-type appeasement agreement or some postponement of the inevitable is senseless and wrongheaded. China is only growing stronger, more aggressive, and more authoritarian by the day. Let’s admit the obvious—the Nixon-Kissinger plan, followed by every U.S. administration since, has not worked. Red China is not going to change its ways. They are not going to become democratic, free, or peaceful. Not happening. Just the opposite: they plan to take over the world.

We get other like-minded nations to join us in drawing a line in the sand and the sea. Taiwan is immediately an independent country, recognized as sovereign. Move on Hong Kong and we move on you. The Indian boundary line is defended and secured. Most aggressively, we have to obliterate the islands offshore that China has militarized and made into de facto aircraft carriers. Sink them. No nukes necessary.

Just as in chess, America needs a winning strategy to cleverly defeat China. Understanding our relative strengths and what is worth the most, we need to develop control over the center. Good intel on Chinese moves will be critical, as we have to make every move count. By doubling the output of every move, we can catch them off guard which will force them into bad moves that hurt them. We close with devastating disruptions—things they never expected, and it is game over.

Remember China is not trying to compete with the United States within the Westphalian order, but to overthrow that order altogether. They must be stopped now—before it is too late, and they gain the upper hand.

As Peter Navarro reminded us years ago, China’s non-kinetic “Three Warfares” may prove to be more effective at expanding China’s maritime and territorial boundaries than any arsenal of missiles or fleet of Chinese aircraft carriers. The Three Warfares were first officially recognized as an important warfighting capability by China’s Central Military Commission and Communist Party in 2003. They include everything from psychological and legal to media warfare.

The goal of China’s psychological warfare has been to deter, demoralize, or otherwise shock an opponent nation and its civilian population and thereby discourage the opponent from fighting back or taking any action at all. It has worked—until now.

Stop taking the Chinese bait. A definitive kinetic first strike becomes our best knockout punch. In early August 2019, long before this current state of conflict arose, I wrote: “A new chapter is unfolding, and China must be confronted without delay.” I have not been alone in this assessment. Read Gordon Chang’s telltale warning, The Coming Collapse of China. Beijing is a paper tiger, and we need to call her bluff and take a decisive move now.

We need to back it up with economic, political, and military counterblows to take down the Chinese Communist Party. The people of China are not our nemesis—but their Communist leadership and its extensive network are enemy number one. Thinking and planning about war with China should be our highest priority.

We still need to take all of the economic, tech transfer, tariff- and trade-related, regulatory and stock market measures I outlined earlier. But after 4 million Chinese-caused COVID-19 deaths worldwide, this is a totally different episode. It is a new chapter.

It is time to go kinetic. Then it will be game over and we can celebrate VC Day.


Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, scholar-diplomat-strategist, is CEO of the thought leadership firm The Roosevelt Group. He is the author of 18 books, including, The Plot to Destroy Trump and, with Felipe J. Cuello, Trump’s World: GEO DEUS. He appears regularly in the media, as a keynote speaker, and on television around the world. This article appeared in American Greatness.


The featured image shows “Volga Tracker” by Ling Feng.

Ideology And Global Politics: A Conversation With Ciro Paoletti

We are so very pleased and honored to present this interview with Dr. Ciro Paoletti, the renowned military historian. Dr. Paoletti is the author 26 books and several hundred essays and reviews. He serves as General Secretary of the Italian Commission of Military History, and as Director of the Association for Military and Historical Studies. He is a Life-member of the Institute for the History of the Italian Risorgimento, a member of the (US) Society for Military History, a corresponding-member of the Instituto de Geografia e História Militar do Brasil, a member of the Società Dalmata di Storia Patria, and a member of the International Commission of History of Technology. In 2007, he was awarded the SMH Moncado Prize, which he holds along with two other Italian prizes. Dr, Paoletti curretnly works for the Education, University and Research Ministry. He is interviewed by Dr. Zbigniew Janowski, on behalf of the Postil.

Zbigniew Janowski (ZJ): You are a military historian, which, if I am not mistaken, is a rare breed. I can only think of three others: Jeremy Black (English), Donald Kagen and Victor Hansen (American), and you. The four of you also happen to be conservatives. Is there any relationship between your discipline and conservatism?

Ciro Paoletti (CP): I know many military historians who belong to the Left. Many of them may have chosen the Left to be successful in terms of their career. Others are believers. I have in mind a historian, who, when asked why he was a Leftist, candidly answered: “Because this allows me to say whatever I want, feel protected, and suffer no persecution.” However, whenever a historian melts politics into his work, the result is bad quality of work. If you want history to support your political ideas, you have to be a liar. If we don’t rely on facts, if we don’t reconstruct facts properly, and if we don’t present facts as they occurred, we do bad work, and the result is therefore quite bad.

ZJ: From what you said, I gather you consider history, not just military history, to be conservative by definition. Am I right?

CP: Military history and conservatism are not necessarily linked. It depends on the time one lives in, and on the political background. As things are, in this historical period, if one in the so-called West relies on facts, he is a conservative; it is a matter of logic. When you know how things happened in the past, and apply their schemes to the current affairs, you may easily realize how close Political Correctness (PC) is to the worst 20th-century dictatorships.

In Italy we had Fascism, as you know. Fascism altered a lot of things, provided its own historical versions and interpretations, but it did not alter – never – the content of books written in the past because they were not in conformity with Fascism. Communism under Stalin modified paintings, exterminated people when they became “enemy of the people.” The Soviets banned and eliminated books from libraries, the Nazi did the same and burnt books, but did they alter their content? No.

ZJ: Is there a connection between the former totalitarian approach to history and the new PC (politically correct) ideology?

CP: PC makes changes to the original version; It does it in some books, it does it in theater. Thus, how can an honest historian join the politically correct, if it’s based on the falsification of sources?

ZJ: Italians are the most historical nation in European history. As my older friend told me, everybody must study art history, except the Italians. They live in a “museum.” Does this “historical” experience translate into greater attachment to history? Here I want to make a distinction between being culturally conservative and politically conservative.

In the US, where I live, when I say that I am conservative, people almost instinctively think I always vote Republican. To me, to be conservative means to be conservative in the cultural realm, which, in my mind, is the only realm that truly matters. Political allegiances come and go, culture lasts. When you start changing the past, you wage war on the whole cultural heritage, going all the way back to our historical beginnings. The former totalitarians may have done it as a matter of expediency; today’s totalitarians condemn history as such, and find little in it to learn from. What is your take on this?

CP: Italians are instinctively traditionalist, and highly nationalistic. They don’t like sudden changes – but there has been a generational dramatic change since 2000. Historical heritage provides an instinctive common background, comprised of Rome, the Renaissance and Garibaldi. But there it stops.

Translated into politics, this means that the majority – with the exception of the young people – is surely conservative, for almost every-time a general election has been called, the higher the number of voters, the better the result for conservatism. But, as things have gone in the last twenty-five years, almost every time the Right won, the ballot result was turned upside down by political crises and rule went to so called “technical governments” which more or less pended to the Left. And these crises, which were called by the Right “palace plots,” allowed the Left to take power again.

Paradoxically, as things are today, the Progressive Left – composed of former Communists – Is tasked to keep things as they are, to keep the power as much as possible, no matter what the compromise and the related cost for Italians, whilst Conservatives are the real progressive forces. Unfortunately, as things went in early 1995, in 2011, and 2019, the majority of Italians think voting is useless, because, no matter how you vote and what the result, later “they do what they want.”

Young people today are the product of diffused technologies and related apps. The vast majority do not read; hence they do not think, and they vote according to how familiar this or that sounds. Thus, political propaganda is basically advertising: the easier the slogan, the easier to get the vote, even if there is an instinctive resistance to “inclusion” and what it implies. People can also rely on national heritage to justify the reaction to “inclusiveness;” but this reaction is not a consequence of the national heritage, which exists by itself.

ZJ: In the 1970s, we used to say – after Hayek – that there is a distinction between European and American Liberalism, because one could not apply the term Conservatism in the European sense to American reality: no monarchy. Accordingly, the European liberal was conservative in the American sense, and the European socialist corresponded to the American liberal, or, supporter of state intervention, state social programs. If you remember, Hayek even wrote a chapter, in his important Constitution of Liberty, “Why I am not Conservative” – and this, despite the fact that many conservatives claimed Hayek to be in their camp. Do you think that this lack of parallel between the terms – conservative, liberal, socialist – in America is still valid? If I may suggest, my impression is that because Liberalism – or what used to be called classical Liberalism – simply disappeared and became PC. As far as the economy is concerned, both conservatives and “liberals” or democrats are for big state, something inconceivable to liberals and conservatives of old.

CP: You are right, but it depends on a tricky misunderstanding that occurred many decades ago in America. The Leftists never attempted to call themselves Socialists, and sneaked in as “progressive Liberals.” But a look at American affairs allows you to realize that the Democratic Party has never supported state interventionism till F.D. Roosevelt – who copied it from Mussolini, who was and remained a socialist all his life – and, also after Roosevelt, the Democrats were never as progressive as they claim to have been. The conservative South traditionally voted for Democrats “because Lincoln was a Republican.” Thus, due to such a core of voters, how could the Democratic Party not be conservative?

Additional example: in Italy we had the Liberal Party. In 1848 it was at the extreme Left and Republican. In 1876 it got into power and was loyal to the king. In 1948, it sat at the right and was considered a conservative party for the next 50 years. The problem is that the name on the box often does not, or does no longer, correspond to what’s inside the box. In 18th-century Britain, being a Liberal simply meant to be a supporter of free commerce, thus to be a capitalist, no matter the cost for low-income and non-mercantile classes.

As things are now, so-called Liberalism claims to be different, but actually it is still what it always was, and again no matter the cost for low-income and non-entrepreneurial classes. All those other narratives about care, inclusion, the environment, peace and love, and so on, are only a nice package to let the worst and most greedy capitalism be accepted by the people.

The same goes for conservatives: conservatives are the real revolutionaries today, because conservatives want people to use their own brain, feeding it with education and culture, in order to think, and then to act according to their own decisions. Unfortunately, thinking means realizing how dangerous debt can be, and how useful saving is. Thus, thinking is not welcome by the current Liberals, because it may affect the market in an unpredictable way. What the market likes are standard-minded people, a society whose consumers are predictable – and thus planned – in order to minimize losses due to stocking costs and unsold items, and to maximize profits.

ZJ: In our private conversations, you often refer to America as Calvinist, meaning in broad historical terms, Protestant, as opposed to Catholic, meaning different attitudes towards private and social realms. Those attitudes today do not express themselves as theological differences, nor a religious vision on how to organize earthy existence, or work-ethics, as Max Weber would have it, but as social attitudes broadly speaking. One of the characteristic features of life in early Protestantism was insistence on certain socially acceptable behavior.

There were no libertines in Protestant countries, who would mock religion. Sin is evil and thus we must eradicate it. Today religion does not have much of a grip on our lives, but PC in America does. Since punishment cannot be postponed till after death, we use the power of the state – rules, regulations, ostracism to thwart social sins. The last three decades in the US saw unprecedented growth of regulations affecting human behavior, and confessions for saying something considered socially “unacceptable.” Our reality looks like Calvin’s Geneva, with sinners prostrating themselves before the public, expiating their sins. Do you see a connection between PC, which has assumed totalitarian posture, and what you see as American Calvinism?

CP: First of all when I say “Calvinist,” I mean exactly Calvinist, not Protestant in general, because Calvinists consider salvation as a gift; and, in order to feel safe, they think they can realize whether salvation has been conceded to them by looking at the success of their actions during their lifetime. The best measure of success is money: thus, the richer one becomes, the surest one is to go to Paradise.

Due to its Puritan heritage, the USA still relies on a Calvinistic background, and this is part of the explanation. Then I’d say that the current mind depends in part on the Deism of the 17th- and 18th-centurries. That is to say: be loyal, pay your debts, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t be a liar, and be friendly to other human beings – and this depends on whom one perceives as human beings, because many deists, including Voltaire, got good returns on the money they happily invested in the slave trade – and this in part depends on a Calvinistic vision of sin and money. I have already mentioned money.

About sin, the problem was that no official absolution could exist, for it was Popish. In early America a person was judged by the community, and, when found guilty, punished. That’s why it is so important on one hand to strip some behaviors of their quality as sins – those related to sex – and on the other hand to still identify some “sinners” to go after. If a behavior is no longer a sin, that behavior is by definition correct and you are no longer a sinner.

Thus, a person who is rejected (but who is otherwise a good member of the community) is one who criticizes your behavior; for this criticism makes that person “ipso facto” wrong; thus, he is a sinner. On the other hand, if you have sinner to go after, it means your society still has a “moral code.” Thus, if it has a moral code, it is still a “good” society; and, when supporting such a code, you are “on the right side” (that is, of the community); and you act well when going after the “sinners” opposing such a code, because they are out of the community, and thus a threat.

Legal means may seem soft, but are becoming far less soft. As far as I know, if German parents prevent their child from learning what is taught about gender at school, they are fined and can be also jailed. But this is only in theory a punishment of the sinner. In fact, it’s just the same system the KGB used in case one missed the Komsomol meeting and, by the way, is just the same system used also by the Church in the Middle Age when one refused the globally accepted behavior.

The problem is that these fake liberties are in fact the surface of a dictatorship which, thanks to Facebook, Watsapp and similar things, is more and more controlling and conditioning every aspect of our life, to plan it as capitalism wants, and not as we want. And capitalism has no interest in punishing our soul after our death, because, first as things are, you can’t trade souls, for now. Second, your death would simply mean one consumer less, thus depriving the market of a client – excluding funeral houses, of course. No, capitalism wants us to behave all in the same predictable and planned way, and that’s it.

ZJ: To move on to a different but related topic: The Protestant Reformation. It is a great modern event, whose consequences we are feeling even now. The second greatest event was the French Revolution of 1789. It proclaimed equality of all. It was the end of the world as we knew it. Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France is a great document of the old frame of mind, which saw the end of a long epoch. It abolished not just the monarchy as a political system but delegitimized the idea of social hierarchy.

For about 150–200 years the world went on without noticing how destructive this is. it is one thing to say, everybody should share political power to a small extent, have the right to vote and influence politics, it is quite another to assert equality in the way it manifests itself today as “discrimination.”

CP: America and Americans are a consequence of their revolution, not of the French one. The latter abolished slavery; the former kept it. Both stated a deistic application of the Christian principle of equality. But in both cases the principle of hierarchy was preserved. I do not see the root of the idea of “discrimination” in the French Revolution. America kept discrimination alive. It did not change significantly till Martin Luther King, who was killed in 1968.

ZJ: Since you referred to slavery, would you agree that there is a difference of attitude in Catholic and Protestant colonialism for this every reason. The Spaniards and Portuguese were Catholics; the Dutch and British were Protestant. The Catholic Spaniards and Portuguese went to the new world without women; the Protestants fled the British Isles taking populations of villages – men and women. They were self-sufficient; they wanted to recreate their life in a New World on old principles minus the British hierarchy. The local population was a nuisance.

CP: The Spaniards started their colonization, wherever it was, as a military operation, thus no woman could go with them. The Portuguese started their colonization establishing trading posts to support their commercial expeditions, thus in this case too there was no room for women, at least at the beginning. The Dutch and the British were looking for free spaces to migrate. They emigrated with families. On the other hand, the French started their North-American colonization smoothly, as a commercial penetration, thus they allied with the Hurons, and converted them to Catholicism. As a result, there was no destruction of the local population in Canada, whilst it occurred in the 13 British colonies (as happened in a similar way in South America ruled by Spaniards and by the Portuguese).

America

ZJ: Let me move to 20th-century. Here is something that an American military historian, an expert on the Greek historian Thucydides, Donald Kagan, said in an interview for American Heritage: “In my view America represents something relatively new in history of international relations. We are the greatest military power in the world today and we remain the greatest economic power. There haven’t been very many times in the past when there has been a single power with so much relative strength. And we are still almost universally perceived to be what Bismarck called a satisfied power, happy with what we have, self-sufficient, not aiming to seize anything essential to others. We don’t represent the kind of menace that powers approaching our relative strength have in the past. I think there is a new set of rules for us: If America tries to exert leadership in the world, it can do so in many ways that are historically new.”

Kagan said this in 1997. It is hard to believe how much changed: September 11th and all that it entailed, financial crisis in 2008, and, above all, the rise of China, which in 1997 one could not mention as a threat to American hegemony. What, if anything, from what Kagan said still holds true about the position of the US.

CP: Kagan at that time probably presented the shared great American pride after the fall of the Soviet System, when everybody thought America to be unchallengeable. It lasted till September 11th, only a few years later. That America was “not aiming to seize anything essential to others” is something many countries could easily argue about, but my answer to your question is – not that much still holds true.

Rules to hold power are always the same, no matter the historical period and the geographical location. In case you may dispute it, it is about how much velvet to use for the glove dressing your steel hand, but that’s it. Americans still rely on Theodore Roosevelt’s statement: “Speak kindly, and bring a big stick.” The typical American likes very much the self-perception of America as the land of liberty – which in Academia no longer exists and is severely scrutinized by the progressive press and television – and of Americans as welcome everywhere because they bring democracy.

Well, in 1944 and 1945 they were perceived this way, but now? What do they bring? Political correctness? The Americans are not aiming to seize anything essential to others because they are at the top. “If America tries to exert leadership in the world, it can do so in many ways that are historically new?” Oh, please, which new ways? There are no “new ways;” there is, perhaps, only a new way for dressing and describing the old ways. But the core is the same used since the days of the Egyptians to now, passing through thirty or forty or centuries of human civilization everywhere in the world.

ZJ: To bring support to your claim I can invoke two examples. When Hilary Clinton went to India, she uttered her famous slogan, “Women’s rights are human rights.” When Barak Obama visited Ethiopia and Kenya, he was talking about gay rights. My Ethiopian friend was outraged and said: “Ethiopians have serious problems to worry about: poverty, brutality of the government, non-existence of a free press, a corrupt ruling class, rule of law, and Obama is talking about gay rights!” One can, of course, score some points at home by saying such things, but it shows Kenyans and Ethiopians that America offers no support for the people in Ethiopia and Kenya in their fight against corruption to bring necessary reforms in their countries.

When President Carter came to Poland, in 1977, he talked about violation of human rights, his wife met with the Primate of Poland, Cardinal Wyszynski. It gave us hope and created the impression that the US stands for universal values and supports opposition. In contrast to Carter, Clinton and Obama were the supporters of new ideologies.

Would you agree that the more the American mind is preoccupied with ideological thinking, the less effective it can be in shaping politics outside America, and this preoccupation weakens its own influence? What America exports now is ideology which, incidentally, is inimical to freedom. This attitude antagonizes many people in other countries. People in former communist countries in the 1970s and 1980s were looking up to America. Today, no one is looking up to America any more.

CP: I subscribe to everything you said. Americans have often a very poor perception of what happens outside America. if you look at the American press, you know all about the city, enough about the county, not that much about the state, or about the USA, and practically nothing about the world. Americans like to think that what works for them works for everybody and that everybody must be happy with it.

Unfortunately, it is not so. A politician, of course, thinks above all of re-election, and thus speaks in order to keep or enhance the number of voters. This is normal, but what Obama did, and what Hilary did, seems something, in a certain sense, different: they seem to have perceived themselves as the apostles of progressive evangelism, telling the people living in the darkness how to think, behave and act. They had no doubt about being enlightened, thus better. But this is what we are dealing with since the French came to Italy in 1796 – which, believe me, was not a good period; and they were hardly welcomed, given the popular armed resistance they had to face for a very longtime – and it is something we know well. Beware of it.

When you make a comparison between Politically Correct and Communism, you are not right; the real comparison is to Jacobinism, and, of course, since people are all but stupid, the result is just what you say: no one is looking up to America any more, except, in my country, the provincial-minded and not the cultured leftists, who think America to be the land of the best by definition. By the way, until 1994, these cultured leftists were all formally Communist.

ZJ: As you said, Obama and Hilary Clinton perceived themselves as the apostles of the progressive evangelism. This struck me, because I heard the same argument some 25 years ago from conservatively minded Poles: the liberal elites feel disdain for the uneducated, simple people. And, 25 years later, the same argument came to the fore in France, Britain and the US. Trump and Johnson came to power on the wave of popular dissatisfaction with the liberal elites who are suspicious of ordinary people. It is the same thing everywhere in the Western world. The liberal elites, like the Democratic Party in the US, claim to be on the side of “the people,” but any real contact with them terrifies them: dirty, primitive, uneducated and, therefore, stupid. Or, as Hillary Clinton called them – deplorables!

CP: Yes, deplorability. This is the term which tells you who we are dealing with. But this is also why I perceive Political Correctness as Jacobinism, and not as Communism. A Communist will hate you, but will rarely look at you from on high because you don’t share his opinions; and a Communist will never consider you as “nothing:” you are equal, but opposing, thus an enemy to be destroyed – which is easier, faster and safer than re-educating. But the Jacobins felt superior; they had all the arrogance of the authors of the Encyclopedia, the same arrogance Voltaire displayed. They claimed they were right because they were enlightened. Being enlightened – of course, according to their standards, agreeing with those standards – meant ipso facto to be superior. If you think of it, you realize also that Communism was a result of the Jacobinism, not much different from it.

I would add that the worst form of arrogance is the intellectual one. This is an infringement of the first rule of democracy: parity. No matter what the Politically Correct people claim to be, they perceive as unequal everyone who is not like them. Thus they in fact deny fundamental parity to those who are not like-minded. This is undemocratic.

America, China, Russia

ZJ: I would like to ask you about China, but before that I want to ask you about ancient historians, whom, I know you studied, as most military historians do. Whom among the Greeks and Romans did you read? And, how important are they for military history?

CP: They are very important for history in general, and they are the first Europeans who wrote what they knew, and thus our cultural identity is widely indebted to them. What did I read? Thucydides, Herodotus, Polybius and Epaminondas, Caesar, Livy, Tacitus, Sallust, and Suetonius, the last ones both in Latin and in translation. How important are they for history is well-known. In military history, well, just think that the military academies normally include the Greek and the Roman wars in their teaching, because neither strategy nor tactics has changed.

ZJ: The reason I invoked the ancient historians is that the Chinese Communists are interested in them. Xi Jing Ping read Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War. Books by European classicists, for example by the Jacqueline de Romilly who wrote about Thucydides, were translated into Chinese. Recently two books on Thucydides were published here in the US – Thucydides’s Trap?: Historical Interpretation, Logic of Inquiry, and the Future of Sino-American Relationship by Steve Chan, or Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? by Graham Allison. One can observe a renaissance of ancient authors, Thucydides and Polybius, in particular, in small circles of specialists and political decision makers.

Wouldn’t you say that there is no better recommendation than the fact that non-Western communists read Western classics?

CP: I agree with you, but I’d add something. They, too, wrote incredibly valuable books. So, if they are reading ours, it’s because the first rule of a commander is – know what, and how your potential – or not – enemy thinks. This is what the Chinese are doing; and this is what we are not doing, because I don’t think our decision-makers have read, for instance, Sun Tzu. And it is dangerous.

Then you ask why the Greeks, the Romans? Well, it would be best to ask the Chinese. I can only wonder why. Maybe because our mentality is still that of ancient times, and because Greece and Rome are the roots of our culture. But honestly, I’m not a Chinese political leader; thus, I don’t know. Also, I do not know how much Classical education in the West is dead, because I do not have an idea of how it is in other countries but mine. I know that in my country we still have to study Latin and ancient Greek during the five years of high school – in the classical lyceum – or only Latin, and also five years in the scientific lyceum. Of course, a lot of families don’t like Latin and Greek, and thus look for not so “useless” subjects for their children. Nonetheless, many others still study them; and this is something. As for the last question, it is highly possible that by not reading – not reading in general I mean – the new generation of Westerners is bound to lose to the Asians who are learning from our heritage. Unless we forbid the use Facebook, WhatsApp, and related chats, I don’t know what we could do.

ZJ: Should we – and by WE I have in mind many different “WEs” or us – be afraid of the rise of China for the same reason? In the case of the West, the rise of China as a world power is threatening because we fear that the Chinese mentality, world-view is incompatible with ours, particularly the idea of the relationship between the individual and the collective. We fear that if China becomes a world-power, collectivism will have to override Western individualism. Asian countries, on the other hand, whose cultures are closer to that of China, see the threat more in economic and military terms. African countries, where China’s presence is ubiquitous, see China as a force exploiting their countries’ natural resources. China allies itself with corrupt local authorities. Is there a common denominator in everyone’s fear; or, is the situation in each of the three cases different?

CP: The answer is yes to the first two questions. The problem is that I hardly see a way to react or to avoid it.

Let’s take the case of Poland, at least the case of Poland of ten years ago. I went to Wroclaw that year, because I was going to be appointed to the scientific board of a journal published by the University of Lower Silesia, and I complimented my friend who invited me on how Poland had improved in less than ten years. I remember quite well that during the meeting of the board, when discussing the distribution of the journal, my friend said that 10 euros (yearly subscription) was too much for students. I was surprised, but made no comment. The next day, I asked him: “If a student can’t pay 10 euros per year, how can families purchase what I see in stores?” The answer – you know it but I did not know it at that time – was: “Whatever you see on sale is very inexpensive in Western terms, and it all comes from China. It’s all made in China: pencils, pens, paper, cloths, shoes, all. Otherwise we could not otherwise purchase it.” So, the terms for Poland were: better to buy Chinese goods and get what you need, even if it is not of the best quality, than not have at all.

That’ s the core of the problem: China grew because it was – and it still is – competitive in terms of prices, because of her lower standard of li ving, and because now China is competitive also in terms of quality. As things stand, you can’t stop it, unless we introduce strong protectionism. But what will happen if, for example, China causes a collapse of US bonds? What then? America would crash in a month, or less than a month, or would go to war.

So, you can’t stop it, unless you have no state debt, a lot of raw materials making you potentially self-sufficient; or, you don’t care about your citizens’ standard of living; or, if you don’t care how your citizens react in case their standard of livinggoes plummets. And there is only one country in the world, today, in such a situation: Russia, and it stands together with China – thanks to the US.

ZJ: Is there a way to avoid it?

CP: There is no way. Rather, the question is how to survive. Only in a Japanese way: keep the standard of living relatively low, keep manpower cost relatively low, increase technological innovation in order to render national production more competitive, and reduce national debt.

In all four cases, this is very hard, if not impossible, to do in the West; and in Japan it works only due to their longstanding tradition of low standard of living, hard and prolonged daily work, and, above all, a national debt which, by law, can be held only by Japanese nationals. But we can’t do it, unless a major social U-turn happens, which nobody is ready for. Think of the French under Macron in the last 28 months.

The problem is that the Chinese have a centralized decision-making process, and we have not. In military terms, they have already won, because a centralized command is always far more effective than a non-coordinated one; and in the West, we are not-coordinated.

Hopes? None, or a very small one: the increasing social gap between inner China and coastal China. To be even clearer – coastal China enjoys far better standards of living than inner China. Coastal China is in relatively good condition as far as I know, as good as Poland could be in 1980. Inner China is far below, as far below as the Soviet deep countryside could be in the 1960s, or more. Now, the Chinese government knows this and must somehow fill the gap. A way to fill the gap is to open the inner market, increasing wages in some areas. This will heavily push production – thus incomes should increase.

So there is a slight, very slight possibility that, on one hand, this may push prices as high as needed to render Chinese goods less competitive on world markets; on the other hand, there is a slight possibility that once richer, the Chinese may be a bit less disciplined than they are now, and thus they could somehow start not to obey as blindly as they do now. But I don’t believe either the former or the latter scenarios. Moreover, in Germany and Italy, we have seen how effective the dictatorial control can be, even when improving standards of living; and back then, there was no internet, and no mobile networks. Think of mobile networks and the internet controlled by Hitler and the Gestapo!

We can only hope to be left alone, because, as things are, there is no way to stop them. Besides, with this stupid Political Correctness, I don’t think there is the smallest room to challenge China. America is fighting rearguard action: it’s trying to keep the advantage it still has in terms of technology. But for how long?

ZJ: Given what you’ve said, I have two related questions. Let me begin with the following. Liberal states with their hostility toward power are ill-equipped to fight or oppose the dominance of non-liberal regimes, like China. Any attempt to endow the State with more power is seen as “fascist.” The moment Covid-19 broke out, liberal journalists claimed that the extraordinary measures which some governments took, in Poland, for example, is a smokescreen to amass more power. In the US we heard the same rhetoric. Now, weeks later, when people want to leave homes, go back to work, restart economy, and, like in the US, start rebelling against stay-at-home orders, the same liberal media outlets which complained about the government amassing power want the State to go after those who want to relax the regulations.

This leads me to believe that the liberal idea of a weak state is untenable precisely because when a danger looms, the state must have considerable power to provide order, and it is never because of extraordinary circumstances. Such circumstances, whether they manifest themselves on a daily basis or not, they exist by the very nature of political existence. For example, we don’t fight wars on daily basis, but we maintain the military in case we go to war, and it would be impossible to organize the military overnight if a country were to be invaded. It makes me think that the liberal state can work only when there is no danger (be it Covid-19, or threat to national security), which is a rare or impossible scenario.

CP: The so-called liberals wants a weak state because a weak state cannot fight an organized massive opposition. A state can oppose better than a single person; thus, a state must be weakened; and liberals, as you say, accuse the states, which try to keep some of their natural powers, as being freedom-threatening and fascist. But this in their minds has nothing to do with state-power as such. According to them, the state should be a sort of waiter, providing all the needed commodities, while allowing them to do what they want, when they want, and the way they want. The State, according to them, should be a gadget to be used as they like. So, there is no paradox: they are quite coherent. It’s the idea of the state which is different. Their idea is not ours.

ZJ: What you said in your previous answer sounds like the West’s doomsday or even its death certificate. The 20th-century is often referred to as the “American century.” That century started with a very optimistic statement by President Wilson, known as a “doctrine:” “To make the world free for democracy.” Fascism and Nazism failed. Soviet totalitarianism disintegrated. But now America and the West are being slowly replaced by a very non-democratic China. Do you see in Wilson’s doctrine something naïve; an expression of typical American optimism; or, the unfolding of the Enlightenment idea that Reason, democratic egalitarianism, will win over tribal passions and national interests?

Second, do you think that Americans will learn a permanent lesson after what one can call a defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan; or, for as long as America cherishes its Enlightenment principles, it will commit the same mistake again? Last but not least, would you say that under Trump, America already changed in this respect, not because Trump has any doctrine, but simply because he is a pragmatic businessman who sees the world in terms of dollars, not ideas and ideals, and looks at politics as a tool, not as a science of moral principles.

CP: Wilson was an academic who had no actual experience in foreign affairs, and in politics other than in the USA. His principles were fine on paper, but think of how easy would it be to apply them in Danzig and neighboring area. And in Silesia? And what about Czechoslovakia, where Czechs were only half of the population? Had his been applied, as he stated them, in Poland, you would have the cities kept by Germany and in the neighboring country; in Dalmatia the cities, and only the cities, had to belong to Italy; the countryside would belong to Yugoslavia – it was a mosaic of people changing into a nightmare. It was impossible, because the countryside wanted also the city they relied on; and the city wanted to rule the countryside it relied on.

As for Afghanistan and Iraq, let’s start with the latter. A couple of American friends of mine, deeply liberal, voting Democrats, fully objected to the Iraq war. As she always said: “It’s only for the oil.” Then, from a military point of view, it started badly, because the US Expeditionary force was less than two thirds than what should have been. Thus, it was clear to everybody with a bit of military experience (including me) that from the very beginning they were going to face a lot of troubles once the offensive was achieved. Afghanistan was an additional disaster. Why? After September 11th the US needed to show that they were reacting, the faster the better. They needed a target. They knew where Osama bin Laden was and they attacked. Now, as military history teaches, nobody can seize and keep Afghanistan, nobody. That’s why the Czars never tried. The British left it unoccupied after having suffered many severe total military disasters every time they entered Afghanistan. Ok? And Moscow entered in 1979. You know how that ended.

Will they make the same mistake again? My answer is, Yes. But it does not depend on their military; it will depend on their politicians; and it has nothing or very little to do with the Enlightenment mentality, because in both cases the fight for democracy was only the badge and did not correspond that much to what was in the box.

ZJ: Ever since the collapse of Communism, Russia feels uneasy about what to do and where to go. Whatever Sovietism was, it gave them a sense of being a great power; and, of course, the victory over Nazi Germany strengthened the feeling of being a liberating force. (It did not matter that it was one totalitarian power fighting another totalitarian power). All that went hand in hand with the old idea of Imperial Russia. Then, 1991 came as a psychological blow; the colossus collapsed, but the huge territory remained. As you know, in Putin’s mind, the collapse of the Soviet Union was the 20th-century’s greatest disaster. Today, Russia’s economy is the size of that of Italy.

It leads me to think of a paradox. I gather Italy does not have imperial ambitions; it is not flying military planes, armed with nuclear weapons over Europe, and so on. But Russia does. Does Russia, Russians, or Putin live in an illusory reality? Is their perception of the world, first, based on the divorce between their real power and the illusion of power they have? Or, is historical reality so strong that it makes it almost impossible for the present generation of Russians to reconcile themselves that the world has changed. After all, Britain ruled one third of the world. It lost its Empire, but accommodated well to the new reality.

CP: Russia is a nuclear power; we Italians lost World War II. Thus, we were prevented by a treaty, and we had to renounce military ambitions. But we belong to NATO; and this dictates our behavior. Britain did not exactly accommodate to the new status. Britain was heavily forced by the USA to progressively renounce her world power status – the Suez intervention in 1956 and the Bermuda Treaty about nuclear weapons were the two major steps in Britain’s decline, both enforced by the USA. But Russia is too big to be forced, and has too many assets to be used, in order to survive.

Russia won last World War II, and thus got and still holds a permanent seat with the right of veto in the UN security council, which we Italians have not got. Russia has plenty of raw materials – which we have not, as Britain too practically never had – from uranium to natural gas, including crude oil, gold, iron and so on. Russia is overextended in two continents, bordering with China. And, not the smallest issue, Russian is still a communication language in many countries, as I saw in Prague when, in 1997, I realized a Czech captain was speaking to a Chinese colonel in Russian, and as I still realize when in the Baltic States, in Eastern Europe, or in Israel.

Whilst Britain, once she lost her colonies, remained a peripheral, relatively small island off the European Atlantic coast, Russia must exist as a world power, simply because it shares the border with China. Russia has no alternative. It must remain a world power or disappear; and this is, I think, what Putin has in mind; because I do not think anybody will prefer to let his own country disappear.

ZJ: I would agree with your last point. But on the additional supposition, that Russia’s interests are or could be co-extensive with our interests, I am not sure. However, as things stand today, Russia appears to prefer, or pretends to, a close alliance with China over America, probably to oppose America’s influence for the 1991 humiliation. But given the size of Russia’s economy, her alliance with China makes her look more like “a gas station” for China, whose primary purpose is to secure resources for itself.

You can say, and the argument seems valid, that part of the blame is the attitude of the Democrats in the US. It is mindboggling to see the Democrats running around and screaming at Trump because he wants to have a relationship with Russia. Even Steven Cohen, an American scholar of Russian history, is stunned by the Democrats’ attitude. The Democrats sound as if it was in America’s interest to continue the Cold War. None of this seems to get Russia onside the West’s cultural and political influence to oppose China.

CP: When the USSR collapsed, Russia found itself weak, and isolated. On the other hand, USA did their own best to help all the former Soviet nationalities to get their independence. Hence the USA was perceived still as an enemy destroying Russia; for in Moscow’s mind, Russia and the USSR were basically one and the same. When that process ended, Russia found itself weaker than in the past, hugely indebted, and still alone, sharing an incredibly long and impossible to defend border with an increasingly powerful China. What to do?

After what just happened, Russia could not rely on the USA, and had to find a solution. China in that moment was not a threat and, according to the old rule, “if you can’t fight them, join them,” Moscow signed the Shanghai Pact. The consequence – both partners felt their back was safe. An important Chinese general in 2007 in South Africa clearly and officially said, in an international conference I attended, that China appreciates nothing better than harmony, and harmony leads to happiness; and the Shanghai Pact was aimed to keep harmony, thus rendering everybody happy. As I later wrote in the Italian Navy Journal, this basically meant: “We want to run our own business according to our own mind. So, please, don’t intrude, or you will be against harmony, and the Pact will be turned against you.”

I do not know when, and if, Russia will be compelled in the future to choose whether to break harmony and survive, or submit to Chinese hegemony and become a satellite. But it is certain that, as things are, if the USA does not take a different approach, the relationship between Washington and Moscow will hardly change. I remember well the terror that existed in Eastern Europe in many countries, before the last US presidential election – because everybody considered the election of Hilary Clinton as the trigger for a war on Russia, with their countries in the middle. Nobody forgot that the USA entered both the World Wars led by a Democratic president, who had been re-elected promising to keep peace. It is something some Democrat should keep in mind.

ZJ: Are you saying that European alliance with the US is not necessarily in the interest of Europe and that Russia’s flying her planes over Europe is a benign exercise.

CP: Please don’t rely on the American vision: America, seen from here, did her own best to destroy Russia, and went further than strategically needed. Yugoslavia had to be dissolved, for it could no longer hold as it was. But there was no need to attack it, as was done in the 1990s, thus creating that ghost named Kossovo, and the other ghost called Bosnia, after a bloody civil war, and compelling NATO to keep its forces there for 30 years. But if it was done, it was only to deprive the Russian fleet of a possible port on the Mediterranean. That was the only reason for that war: democracy and self-determination were empty words. Now, try to see who the Serbs perceive as being closer to them – Washington or Moscow. And the answer is, Moscow, and right in the center of the Balkans! Wonderful result!

What do you think that many Poles thought? Do you think that they were supportive of the American initiative in Kiev? Not at all. Poles know quite well that in case of war, they will be alone in facing Russia, because, as the press reports, the Germans have exactly 16 effective aircrafts – 16, no kidding – and far less tanks then the Polish Army has; and in Warsaw nobody seriously thinks the USA is ready “to die for Danzig.” And what did the Americans do? The Orange surge in Kiev; and why? To establish in Kiev a government whose first declared task was not to renew the lease of Sebastopol to the Russian fleet! Could whatever person with a working brain think Putin would just happily accept the loss of such an asset? Could Putin agree to such a change? What do you think the USA would do in case a party in Italy would run saying, Let’s kick out the 6th US fleet from Naples and the Mediterranean?

I have heard with my ears Poles terrified by the perspective of an Orange success in Kiev, for that meant war on Russia, and many others in Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and the three Baltic States were frightened by the possible victory of Hilary Clinton – for that, in their mind, meant WAR, with Poland alone in the first line. Putin is no choir-boy. But the Americans, my goodness, they did their own best to push him in the corner where he is now, to push him to find an agreement with China, and now they complain!

We are losing tens or hundreds of billions of euros to be loyal to the NATO-imposed – thus American imposed – commercial embargo on Russia: does the USA care? Not at all. We, not USA, gets damaged. Obama left Iraq to be devastated because it was a former Russian ally; and then he did the same with Assad; and when Syria – which is flooding us, not America, with her refugees – after years of not ending war – asked for help, and Putin said, Yes, for he could not decently refuse to support a longstanding ally, what did Washington do? It said “Oh-oh, this is unfair.” But when Syrian people were massacred by the war, was that fair? And why did it happen? In the past 30 years, it seems that there was not a single day when Washington did not try to destabilize Russia once and for all – and this is the result.

Russia would like to come to an agreement, but America prevents it. I know that one can’t trust the Russians, but, for Heavens’ sake, when did we, the West, offer them one – I say just one – opportunity to show how reliable or unreliable they can be? Never! That’s a very bad and shortsighted policy. Only the Americans can think that it is only a matter of Russian goodwill. It is a matter of nonexistence of American goodwill. That’s it!

You say, Russian planes fly over Europe, and close the US coasts? And what does the USAF do? It patrols along the Russian border, just above the line of the Russian border? Who started first, guess… the Americans. Putin is reacting, due to many reasons, to show his Chinese allies that “he can,” that he is not the weak member of their dual alliance, to let the USA realize that he will not surrender, and that “he can stand up,” and provide evidence to his people that they are still under threat. Thus, the current situation – bad or good – has to be kept due to the external threat. And the problem is that, as things have been and still seems to be, he is right, because the external threat does exist – from America.

America wants – Russia destroyed, the European Union weak and disbanded, and China falling. As American policy is going, they may have the EU going down, but no success with the others. Thus, if they do not offer Putin a good compromise, a good loyal offer, they won’t achieve whatever result they want. And whilst Trump could, the Dems won’t; and you will see the result.

ZJ: Henry Kissinger’s view was that America in the late 1960s and 1970s was a declining power, and the best thing America could do was to contain the Soviet Union by agreeing to the division of the sphere of influence between the US and Soviet Union. Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Adviser under Carter, devised a different policy: using human rights as a weapon to build opposition in the Soviet empire and hold the communist governments accountable for their violations, and indirectly and slowly weaken communist grip on society.

After the collapse of communism, the sphere of America’s influence spread; but it spread exactly at the time when America entered the phase of its moral decline: its economic model – living on credit which was in perfect agreement with the hedonistic values of the society – led to unprecedented debt, which, as you remarked, makes it even less possible we can build a sensible opposition to China.

So, we moved from the world being split between America and the West and the Soviet Union, to the West and America being ripped apart by unprecedented debt and lack of ideological cohesion which makes it impossible to build an opposition to China. Does America have an attractive message to its allies and other countries, who are afraid of China as well, that could unite them today?

CP: No. It once had one; but now no longer does. Political correctness is not a message; and its rules seem to push people far away from America instead of becoming close to America.

ZJ: Hence my last question. Does China have an attractive message? Before you answer my question, let me read to you something that Xi Jing Ping said in 2014: “The Soviet Union collapsed because nobody was man enough to stand up and resist [its downfall]… Constitutional monarchy, imperial restoration, parliamentarism, a multiparty system and the presidential system – we considered them, tried them, but none worked.” You can contrast it with Churchill’s “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all others.” Was Churchill too optimistic, as was Pericles in his funeral oration during the Peloponnesian war? Are Xi Jing Ping’s words the next superpower’s message to the world?

CP: A mistake usually made in the West and above all in America, is that of thinking of the others as compact. Europe is not compact – think of the differences among the different European peoples – and China too is not, and it is big, enormous, and, till now, the most populated country of the world. Can you imagine what if all the ethnic groups would start acting with the same freedom we have in the West? Divisions, quarrels, differences, and who would settle them? They would soon be back to the War Lords time, or something like it; and that was a very sad time. We cannot, and we must not think that what works for us, here and now, may suit the others in the same time, and in another part of the world, because this is just the mistake Political Correctness does: it’s right, it works here, hence it must be exported everywhere. That’s wrong.

Some years ago I met an American based in London, who had a deep knowledge of the Far East and he had to agree with me when I told him that we can’t export democracy; we can’t enforce other people to accept democracy, because if they want not to have it, there is nothing to do, and we can’t go to war to impose democracy. This is America’s biggest fault – to believe that the American way of life can work everywhere, and thus must be exported and, in some cases, enforced. As long as it was a sort of shared idea, it could be neglected. But for the last 25 years, it is no longer so. It was officially stated by Warren Christopher in an article published in 1995 in Foreign Policy. Christopher wrote that the post-USSR-collapse situation presented the USA with an exceptional opportunity to shape the world according to their standards. His idea was based on four points; and the fourth was the support for democracy and human rights, according to American interests and ideals. Soon thereafter, senator Robert Dole also published an article – “Shaping America’s Global Future.” He said basically the same things Christopher said. Thus one could conclude that, no matter the party ruling the country, that policy had to be the future American policy.

So, back to China, why should the Chinese accept to share American standards, if those standards can’t be safely applied to their country? Primum edere, deinde philosophari – Food first, then philosophy. After that, many other things can follow.

ZJ: Dr. Paoletti, thank you for your time.

The image shows “Fury of Achilles,” by Charles-Antoine Coypel, painted in 1737.

Universities As Political Actors: The Case Of UBC

You would think that with all the looting, the statistics showing blacks are 39 times more likely to commit a violent crime against a white than vice versa, the billions of dollars white taxpayers have paid to create the best possible schools for blacks, the decades of affirmative action, the endless celebration of black culture in the media, the presence of blacks in almost every advertisement, the rap music on Sunday mornings in CBC radio — you would think that universities might reflect critically, for once, about black and white relations in the West in light of the destructive George Floyd riots.

But instead universities are already announcing they will intensify their celebrations of the black race and their condemnation of “institutional white racism.” Just like Porn Hub and every major corporation from Bank of America to Nickelodeon, university presidents across Canada are announcing they will increase their commitment “for the recruitment, retention and support of Black students, staff, and faculty”, including the allocation of “Excellence Chairs to Black Studies.”

Let’s examine one case from which these cited words are taken: The University of British Columbia, the third biggest university in Canada. It started with a rather odd tweet sent on May 31 by president Santa Ono to the UBC community of himself playing a “song” in his cello dedicated “to George Floyd & everyone who is suffering today from racial injustice.”

The next day he released an open Letter to the UBC Community, “Together against Racism and Injustice” announcing that his office plans “to diversify our community at every level through defined programs.” What could Santa Ono mean by the words “at every level” considering that white students are currently a minority at UBC, every member in the Faculty of Arts is a leftist, there are numerous institutes and programs dedicated to diversity, and there is a massive “Equity and Inclusion Office” with an army of 23 professional race-hustlers working every day to “assessing, planning, developing, and monitoring” efforts to make UBC “diverse and inclusive”?

We are not joking, whites are already a minority at UBC. In 2015, the Vancouver Sun reported that only 35% of the student population was white, with white males accounting “for only about one in six students.” The proportion of Chinese students alone was 39 percent. We can safely assume there are less white students in 2020. Will a lower percentage of white student applicants be admitted to make space for foreign students who pay significantly higher tuition fees? It is well known that university administrator lust after the much higher fees of international students to finance their hyper-inflated salaries and bloated diversity offices. For the record: international students at UBC numbered 16,322(!) for the 2017/18 calendar year, of which the majority were Chinese.

Ono says he wants to “ensure adequate resources to implement the goals and actions of the Inclusion Action Plan.” This plan was implemented by UBC’s Executive in December 2019. Its basic goal is to attract and retain “the best and brightest students, staff, and faculty from around the world.” Never mind the immorality of a program dedicated to enticing the “best and brightest” from the Third World, we know that this program is inherently anti-white. Contrariwise, why does Ono write in his Letter to the UBC Community that he wants to meet with “Black Caucus and the Asian Canadian Community Engagement Group”, as well as the Indigenous community, without a word about meeting an European ethnic group?

Massive Diversity Infrastructure At UBC

“We will be organizing a series of public engagements focused on anti-racism”, says Ono. What could this possibly entail if not an all out war against white students? The Equity and Inclusion Office, as I said, is already engaged every day in “institution-wide efforts to create a supportive environment for working, learning and living where respect, diversity, opportunity and inclusion are valued.”

And this office is the tip of a massive iceberg. Here is a list of some of the academic programs and institutes dedicated to “principles of equity and social justice,” “ethnicity and immigration”, “equitable outcomes”, “transformative knowledge”, etc:

This is not all. “UBC has academic programs and concentrations specifically addressing Aboriginal topics and many courses with significant Aboriginal or Indigenous content.” All the courses in the Department of Sociology are dedicated to cultural Marxism with a long list of courses on “Culture and Power; Race, Ethnicity and Immigration.”

The Department of History has a few courses on European history, which consist mostly in condemnations of white imperialism, whereas the descriptions of courses on Asia and non-whites generally are positively about their achievements, backed by multiple courses on “Ethnicity, Race and Nationalism; Gender, Sexuality, and the Body; Migration, Borderlands, and Transnational History; Culture/Power/History; First Nations, Aboriginal, and Indigenous History.”

The School of Social Work is all about “critical transformative knowledge” against “white racism.” There is a little Institute of European Studies which is distinctly preoccupied with immigration and the threat of “right wing populism” in Europe. You don’t believe me? Take a look at their “Speaker Series” for the calendar year 2019/20, you will find titles such as “Radical Diversity: Postmigrant Perspectives on Art, Culture and Politics.” Here is one of their Talks: “Right-wing Populism and Climate Change in Europe.”

Most of the student clubs at UBC are non-political in orientation, but the political ones are into radical leftist politics and diversity, and quite a few are dedicated to the promotion of the race of Asians, Blacks, Indigenous peoples, and other ethnic groups. A few clubs are about the culture of ethnic Europeans but these are apolitical, folksy like, very subdued.

The incredible bias that exists at UBC against white male students was well documented by the prolific student activist in Canada, Franz Kurtzke, as we reported at CEC a few months ago. Kurtzke, a philosophy student at UBC, has filed 11 anti-male and anti-white discrimination claims against UBC.

Ono and Yip

There is no point going over the rest of Ono’s points, which consist in nothing more than robotic statements we read all day from dull academic administrators about “diversity and inclusion.” It is really irresponsible for someone whose expertise revolves around the rather trivial subject of “eye inflammation” without any background in the Social Sciences and the history of Canada to talk about the “deeply rooted racism in Canada.” How can this charlatan insist that “UBC itself is not immune to racism and injustice” given the overwhelmingly obsessive dedication of UBC to diversity? One cannot but conclude that Santa Ono is seeking to wipe out every remaining feature of UBC’s Euro-Canadian character.

When he put together this contrived tribute “to George Floyd” did he even do some research about this case? Had he done so he would have found out that Floyd was a meth addict, cocaine addict, beat and robbed a pregnant woman, a porn star, served 5 years in prison, tested positive for Covid-19, and resisted arrest. This is not to justify his death. I just find it beyond comprehension that UBC is planning to intensify the ethnocide of whites in honor of this character. Does he not know that a university is an institution created by whites for the purpose of advancing to the next generation highest achievements of humans?

His Chinese wife, Wendy Yip, who is a public figure, hired as “UBC Ambassador”, actually tweeted the other day a link to an Asian group claiming “that the fact that so many people are avoiding Asian food it’s just a sneaky new form of racism.” She has been regularly implying in tweets that White Canadians are “racist” because they are eating less Asian food since Covid-19 was unleashed upon the West by the Chinese Communist Party. Neither one of them has ever objected to the Chinese demographic replacement and mass imprisonment and torture of the Uighur minority in China. How about one talk about the incredibly inhuman and barbaric practice of dog eating by the Chinese? 10 million dogs and 10 million cats are devoured by the Chinese per year, with thousands boiled alive.

One cannot but conclude that the goal of Santa Ono is to bring to completion the ethnocide of Euro-Canadians at UBC at the same time that he promotes stronger research partnerships with the Communist Party of China.

Email Santa Ono: presidents.[email protected]

Here are some suggested questions to ask this university president who claims his office is open to the public:

  • Why do you think that UBC needs to build even more its massive infrastructure againast “white racism”?
  • What evidence do you have that Canada remains “deeply rooted in racism”?
  • Why do thousands of international students from Asia and Africa come to study in racist UBC?
  • Why hundreds of thousands of immigrants crave to inhabit white created countries if they will suffer from white supremacists?
  • Why does he never say a word about promoting diversity in Asia?

This article appears courtesy of the Council of European Canadians.

Ricardo Duchesne has been interviewed in the Postil. He the author of The Uniqueness of Western Civilization, Faustian Man in a Multicultural Age, Canada in Decay: Mass Immigration, Diversity, and the Ethnocide of Euro-Canadians.

The image shows a poster by He Kongde, dated September 1965. The caption reads: “The struggle of all the people in the world against American imperialism will be victorious!”

America Reborn

Does the world need or want a strong United States? This essential question, whether consciously iterated or not, underlies much of what passes for commentary on the presidency of Donald Trump. Of course, there is the easy caricature that is to be found in the popular media, of Trump as the great villain of the age, who also happens to be stupid, boorish, and well, a “Nazi.” Such vilification has been ongoing ever since the man was elected.

Those who purvey this caricature seem mindless of the consequences of their outrage. They like to imagine that somehow the direct opposite of the Trump presidency will magically be embodied in the Democratic Party, and all will be well again. Such willful naivety, or perhaps confusion, also suggests that the critics of Trump have little interest in understanding what kind of a nation the US is and should be – internally and on the international stage.

But there is also another view. More sober and guided by political realism. And this view understands that the world will always need a strong nation that will pull the rest of the countries towards a particular kind of future. The world has never been so introverted that it does not need leadership. Thus, under whose aegis will be the world be at its best? This question cannot be answered by simply repeating platitudes about social justice. Indeed, justice in the context of politics means alliances with nations that follow a common cause.

There are two questions that must be answered by those who are anti-Trump: Does the world need a strong United States? If not, which nation will be the world-leader? There is an important difference in these two questions – because strength does not necessarily impart leadership, although it is a necessary component. Which nation does the world want to follow? There are, of course, choices.

There is China, which is now busy trying to build a world empire, no matter what the cost. Although it has acquired a lot of wealth, mostly from the USA, it has serious internal fault-lines, chief among them being a population that may or may not be loyal to the Communist state.

There is Russia, which seeks dominance in Eurasia but which is still struggling with decades of Communist destruction; nor does it have the political maturity to take on a decisive leadership role – indeed, what does Russia stand for today?

Then, there is the EU, which is still hoping to become a force to be reckoned with – but it is inherently nothing more than a collection of progressivise, pseudo-moralistic agendas (climate change, third-world migration, multiculturalism). Nor has the EU trading bloc furthered any kind of real economic boom, as it was supposed to do. If it were not for the UK, Germany and France, the EU would be long dead – and the UK has just made its exist from this rule by bureaucrats. The EU will always be an on-going social experiment, with feet of clay; and its various social agendas render it useless for any kind of leadership role. And then there is the USA, which still functions with the ideal of the free market.

Here, an important point needs to be clarified. Leadership is not colonialism, imperialism, or hegemony. It is simply the necessity of hierarchies, if any kind of order is to exist. Otherwise, there is only chaos. So, which nation allows for the greatest freedom (one may argue about the nature of this freedom – but that is simply a rhetorical trick), and which nation promises the best methodology for economic stability.

Drieu Godefridi, in his latest book, Reload! Comment l’Amérique invente le siècle (Reload! How America is Inventing the Century) offers his choice. For him, it is only and always America, which he sees as undergoing a grand economic rebirth (which he calls a “renaissance”), under Trump, whose economic policies have geared America for dominance in the century ahead. That is the premise of the book, which Godefridi then proceeds to elaborate both eloquently and strongly. Currently, the book is only available in French. Perhaps, soon, it will be available in English. Of course, Godefridi is writing for the EU audience, “where the decline of America is a European fantasy.”

Indeed, the tradition of anti-Americanism has deep roots in Europe, going back to Georges-Louis Leclerc and Voltaire, and where it takes on three characteristics: First, there is the envy of American inventiveness and wealth, especially in the area of technology (indeed, the modern world is now defined and determined only by American inventions). The fruit of this ingenuity is massive wealth.

Second, there is the view that American culture is inherently corrupting and destructive and thus must be controlled if it cannot be avoided. This generates a sense of superiority, where European culture is better than what is available in America. Third, there is the wary regard of American military might, which has cast the nation into the role of the “policeman of the world.”

Godefridi boldly addresses this anti-Americanism by first linking it with those easy anti-Trump sentiments that are daily declaimed in the media, and which train people “to hate, despise and dread the figure of Trump.” Such rancor arises from that sense of superiority, wherein Trump embodies the entire caricature of the “ugly American.”

Second, and more importantly, there is the apposition of the American economic model and the EU one. The latter is readily summarized: “That in Europe, the Left does not consider over-regulation a problem is normal. After all, in the socialist worldview it is freedom that oppresses and it is the law that liberates. So, it is not only normal but desirable that human relationships be regulated more and more, often down to the minutest detail.”

Thus, the EU economic model is micromanagement, so that production becomes largely a “department” of the state. This runs counter to the American model which, despite much tampering by the Obama administration, is now being set free. And the result is a US economy that is out-performing all others in the West. It is the “Trump miracle.”

To show how well the US economy is doing, Godefridi points to some cold, hard facts:

  • With a population four times smaller than China, the GDP of the US is 50 percent higher than that of the Asian dragon, having crossed the $20 Trillion mark back in 2018.
  • In world GDP, the US share now is 25 percent – a level not seen since 1980.
  • American GDP per citizen is 50 percent higher than the French GDP per citizen – and the gap is widening.
  • The US is responsible for 40 percent of the world’s entire military spending – and this percentage is increasing.

So, what accounts for this humming economy? Very simply the policies of the man a lot of people love to hate – President Trump – who has ushered in a new American renaissance, “the rebirth of a conquering America, dominant and faithful to its founding values.”

The book is divided into two parts. The first, entitled, “Internal Politics,” deals with the various hurdles that Trump has had to face ever since he became President, from the Russian Collusion delusion and the two-year probe by Mueller – to the economic mess left by Obama – all those regulations which hindered and curtailed free enterprise and which now need to be eliminated.

Thus, Trump has diligently reduced imports in order to boost American prosperity; he has repealed laws that hinder freedom; he has fixed the justice system which had become overly-populated by members of an activist judiciary; he has begun to limit the power of the Deep State; and he has revived the energy industries, by breaking free from the mantra of “renewables” and relaunching coal, oil and shale – so much so that America is now entirely energy-independent. Such is the meaning of, “America First.”

Indeed, it is this freed-up energy that is driving the American miracle economy, which had been made to bend to the dictates of climate alarmist ideologies: “In the energy sector, it is as if Obama never existed!” What we now see is an America being run on the free-market model, rather than an America being run according to the EU model: “Evolution is always richer, more diverse and unpredictable than the wise, ‘apriorist’ theoretical constructions of experts.”

The second part of the book, entitled, “International Relations,” looks at the effect that President Trump is having on the world stage. He has moved the US embassy to Jerusalem; he has re-negotiated free trade; he has dealt decisively with China, NATO, and the UN; he has rejected the Marrakesh Pact and the Paris Accord; and he has signaled an end to foreign military entanglements, thus redefining the meaning of international relations. In each case, Trump has deeply left his mark.

By moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem, Trump took the lead in recognizing a simple fact, which everyone likes to ignore – that it is in Jerusalem where the Israeli government is located, and it is to Jerusalem that all foreign missions go when they want to deal with Israel. So, why not locate the embassy where Israeli power resides? The only objection to having the embassy in Jerusalem is a “moral” one, in that Jerusalem is regarded by some as being “occupied land.” Of course, no one bothers to explain what that term actually means in the context of history and contemporary politics.

As for free trade, Trump’s aim is straight forward, and entirely free of ideological blinkers: “…what Trump wants, in fact, is exactly what the American workers and the middle class of the United States both want – to reap a greater share of the fruits of prosperity.” How is this a bad thing?

In regards to China, Trump fully understands the “source” of that nation’s wealth. First, all of its industry is owned by the state, not individuals. Certainly, certain people have become billionaires in such a system – but they are ultimately “managers” of companies that owned by the Communist state. Of course, this wealth has been used to lift many Chinese people into prosperity – but this does not change the fact that wealth itself, within the Communist system, is another mechanism of control, and that the vast majority of the Chinese people have very little share in this prosperity.

Second, the source of China’s wealth is the result of piracy – namely, the outright theft of countless US intellectual property rights (such rights are also stolen from other nations as well). And the products produced from these patents and inventions are then sold back to the West.

In effect, Trump knows very well that the Chinese have not really created anything – they have simply taken American ingenuity and have learned to profit from it vastly. With a new trade deal, Trump has struck a serious blow to China’s entire wealth-generating strategy by shutting down intellectual property theft.

Wryly, Godefridi points out – meanwhile, back in Europe, everyone is worried about climate change!

As for NATO, Trump as simply asserted that the US will no longer foot the bill. If other nations want NATO to exist, then they will have to finance its existence. The US will no longer be paying for everyone else’s defense. Of course, this will mean that in order to keep NATO afloat, Europe will have to wean itself from the many progressive social programs that have become part of “European culture,” and start managing its own defense.

Godefridi then looks at the UN by way of its most recent diktat – the Marrakesh Pact, which allows regular migration into the West from the third-world countries, hand-picked by UN bureaucrats as somehow “endangered” and in need of being relocated to the West. This Pact ignores the will of the people living in the West and simply imposes floods of migrants from disparate parts of the world as a “reality” that cannot be refused by any parliament or any referendum.

Of course, Europe and Canada are eager participants in this disastrous scheme – without bothering to ask their own citizens, whose very tax-money is blithely being used to fund this population transfer. Although opposition is rising, it is hard to predict how effective it can, given what has already been accomplished by the UN. This is what the phrase, “open borders” means. The UN, an unelected agency, nevertheless dictates what a Western nation can and cannot do.

As for the US, Trump has wisely rejected the Marrakesh Pact, as being just one more disastrous socialist scheme. And the stakes are indeed high, for it will lead to migratory anarchy in the West: “The alternative is between the open borders of the contemporary Left, and the practice of our civilization since the dawn of time, that is to say, border control: We only access a country through consent.”

Godefridi describes the UN as, “the privileged means of normative colonization by national democracies.” As many have already pointed out, the UN is an institution that has long outlived its usefulness. A reform is certainly needed, if not an outright dismantlement. Godefridi recognizes that there is certainly a need for institutional exchange between nations, But is the UN the proper institution for such exchange? Most would say that it is not. Whether Trump is able to dismantle the current structure of the UN remains to be seen.

Further, the entire climate change industry has met a formidable foe in Trump, who simply walked away from the madness that is the Paris Accord, which would like see the West entirely deindustrialized, with no real access to any kind of energy, since both solar and wind are disastrous. As Godefridi observed in his earlier book, The Green Reich, fossil fuels have brought freedom to humanity. Take these fuels away, and humanity loses its freedom.

Trump’s decision to minimize involvement in Afghanistan and not to proceed with regime change in Syria has upturned the approach of previous administrations – of bombing other countries into democracy. Instead, he has taken up the greater challenge of reducing American presence in the world, so that the various nations look after themselves rather than look for America “police protection.” Indeed, America has spent Trillions in all kinds of foreign entanglements – and sacrificed the lives of thousands of its young men and women.

And all for what? The gain of this huge sacrifice has been minimal. This is the question before the Trump administration – will it continue to feed the demands of the Industrial Military Complex? It would appear not, for in 2018, Trump ordered a full audit of the Pentagon, which is valued at $2.4 Trillion – that is “equivalent to Apple + Walmart + the state of
California, all doubled.” We will have to wait to see the consequence of this audit.

Godefridi continues his analysis of Trumpian America by examining the current culture war that is now taking place. He rightly sees America, and indeed the entire West, as engaged in a death-struggle of two worldviews. One, which he simply calls “Europe” is fixated on trying to live in the future, by somehow creating a Utopia that will contain no inequality (sexual, religious, or racial); that will function perfectly on renewable, “green” energy; that will have no borders; that will have happy citizens eager to pay ever-increasing taxes to keep the Utopia going. Those who hate Trump want the Utopia for America.

Then, there is the other worldview – one based in the reality of daily life. This worldview regards government of any kind, whether liberal of conservative, as inherently against the people. Thus, it is not politics that is the essential component of a good life, but civil society – which can never be constructed by government regulations: “The individual and the family, capitalism and its progress: such are the bright lights of the conservative American Weltanschauung, from 1776 to the present day.”

This clash of two opposing worldviews leads Godefridi to give a complete explanation of what he calls the “American renaissance.” He astutely observes that America’s rebirth will come about as a result of an agonistic managerial approach, which is “the more sophisticated and realistic conflict management technique,” and which “consists in using the conflicts, within contexts and people, to spark the best for the one the plan that really matters: that of the final decision.”

This agonistic approach is little understood by the commentators and media analysts – because they adhere to another approach, namely, of ataraxia, derived from the Epicureans and the Stoics, which endorses the “idea that happiness is forged in the absence of trouble. Thus, peace, harmony, constancy … calm and tranquility! Every trouble, according to this early utilitarian point of view, comes about because of an avoidance of happiness.” In effect, this is the avoidance of decision-making, which leads to systemic chaos.

Thus, America’s rebirth is coming about because of Trump’s “Management, not in spite of, but because of, conflict. The capacity to decide and stick to decisions that are rooted in principles and riveted to goals, while searching for the new angle.” This approach is transforming America into the economic engine of the world once again. Such is the true meaning of “Make American Great Again.”

Lastly, Godefridi imagines the future, in the year 2075 – and this is what he sees…

  • America will be dominant in most sectors – economic, military, cultural.
  • The 21st-century will not belong to China, because it is simply not built to succeed. Its economy is driven by the dollar, and its political structures are totalitarian. Further, China will lose out to Russia in Asia.
  • As for the European Union, it will fall apart, because of its unsustainable commitment to ecology, which will entirely suffocate freedom, innovation, and the ordinary people’s ability to save. There will be more riots, like the Yellow Vests, because the middle-class will no longer be able to afford necessities, such as, heating, electricity, transportation.
  • Thus, Europe will be partly rebarbarized, before a probable rebound.

But despite all this, the fire of humanity’ advancement will continue to burn in America, from where it will once again rekindle humanity to achieve all that its genius allows.

Godefridi ends his book with this hopeful declaration – “Le XXIe siècle est américain” (The 21st-century is American).

The image shows, “Major Anderson Raising the Flag on the Morning of His Taking Possession of Fort Sumter, Dec. 27, 1860,” by Edwin D. White, painted in 1862.