There was once a time when the phrase “Far East”, referring to Asia and the Pacific Basin, made sense. After all, Europe had been the centre of the world, and so geographical locations were decided with reference to that fact. Yet today, it is Europe that is becoming a geo-political backwater. There is no question that China is the coming power, and that the United States will be seriously challenged to preserve its preeminent position as the world’s greatest power.
What is often forgotten in this scenario is that it is not just about a shift in geographical balance. It is also about the fact that the most populous nation on Earth is ruled by an ideology radically different from that upon which western values are founded upon. We in the west have become complacent about our values, believing that the post-1945 consensus of democracy and human rights and the rule of law is naturally superior and will therefore always triumph. Tell that to one billion Chinese.
The amazing thing is that the United States and Europe and our democratic allies spend so much time squabbling amongst ourselves over essentially minor differences whilst a force uncompromisingly in contrast to our way of live grows in power almost daily.
If we are not vigilant, and act upon that vigilance, we will awaken one morning to find that the centre of the world lies on the eastern coast of the Pacific, and we are living in the far west, the forgotten edge of humanity. And what will be the tool they utilise against us? Our own misguided nationalism, abandoning the multilateral ties of NATO and the EU which have bound both sides of the Atlantic together and which has kept us prosperous and free for 66 years, indeed spreading freedom throughout Europe post 1989. Old fashioned flag waving “ourselves alone” nationalism is on the march from Iowa to Dundalk to Marseilles to Vienna, the belief that retreat behind the barricades away from “them” will keep us safe.
The west does not need to retreat behind its individual borders as Sarah Palin or Marine Le Pen would have us do. Instead, we need to consider the idea of an Atlantic Union of North America and the European Union, based on free trade, shared employment rights and a common trade area, as well as a united approach to China and Russia.
Is it a radical concept? Absolutely. It’ll drive right wing Republicans and French National Fronters nuts. But let us be clear: At the moment, we are losing. It’s time to get back in the game.