Another battle of ideologies
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - October 25, 2020 - 12:00am

The last Cold War lasted because it was also an ideological war. It was a global struggle between Communism and Capitalism. In simple terms, the final victor was the ideology that could provide a better life for the masses. Communism collapsed because even the countries espousing it realized that they faced a declining economy with no viable solution except to change to its rival ideology. Russia and China, therefore, abandoned communism and adopted capitalist practices. The result has been more prosperous economies together with the social problems of capitalism, especially drastic income inequality.

Today, the rivalry is between China and the United States, but I see this rivalry on two levels. One level is a rivalry to replace Western Europe’s  five centuries of dominance of the world system. Geopolitical analyst Rodger Baker says this new rivalry “...will be framed by a shift in global economic activity and trade, new energy resource competition, a weakening Russia and Europe, and a technological battle to control information. The new map of the next century will extend to the ocean floor for resources and subsea cables, to space where low Earth orbit satellites drive communications, and into the ill defined domain of cyberspace.”

The other level which may be even more intense is the battle of ideologies. In the last Cold War, many people sacrificed their lives, not for material means, but for and in behalf of the ideology they believed in. Communism even took the place of religion in many countries that espoused this belief. Today, the world will again be given a choice and the ultimate victor will be the country whose ideology will be espoused by the overwhelming majority of the world’s population.

On one hand we have the China model that says that authoritarianism and one political party is the best model for addressing all types of issues, from economic growth to building infrastructure to addressing pandemics. In such a society, the right to privacy is necessarily limited. Today, technology for large-scale face recognition has been employed by the Chinese government. This has been praised by many other governments and citizens of other countries.

The rewards of this Chinese Communist system are evident. It has transformed China from a country mired in poverty into the second largest economy in the world. It is also predicted that it will soon become the largest economy in the world.

All systems and ideologies necessarily have social costs. In China, it is the loss of human rights, religious freedom and a democratic means of changing leaders. People will have to weigh whether or not economic prosperity and material comforts for almost every citizen is worth the sacrifice. There are already many people who will say that these are worth the sacrifices.

I have tried to remain objective; but religious persecution is the hardest to accept for me. The restrictions on Christian worship and the closure of many Christian places of worship are hard to accept. The whole-scale persecution of China’s Muslims by forcing them to forsake their religion and culture and setting up “education camps” where they are forced to learn that their religion should be forsaken and they must learn the language of the Chinese majority instead of their own is also impossible to defend. If there was a voluntary education campaign, I would find that more acceptable..

On the other hand, we have the liberal democratic model of Western Europe, Japan and the United States. There are many defects in this system, especially in the implementation of the liberal democratic system. There are already the beginnings of movements to replace it with a democratic socialist model. However, this democratic socialist model is more of a change in economic principles. The basic foundations like freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly remain. Also the principle of changing leaders through elections is still preserved.

Liberal democracy has been under attack in Europe and in the United States. But it is regaining its strength in Europe where extreme rightists have lost their influence, especially in Western Europe. If Biden wins the presidency in the United States the principles of liberal democracy will find renewed energy and the world will have a new leader of liberal democracy.

On a side note, whenever I have discussions regarding the two ideologies I ask a simple question. If you and your family had to migrate, where would you choose to settle down? Would you and your family settle down in China or in some liberal democratic state like Canada, Australia or the United States?

This battle of the ideologies will have its ups and downs, just like the conflict between communism and capitalism.  There will be many limited conflicts that will arise as a result, just like in the past Cold War where we saw wars in Korea, Angola and Vietnam. But there will be no global war unless it starts by accident, a stupid  miscalculation by one of the Great Powers.

In the meantime, the world will await developments in the political and social milieu of the two – China and the United States. The Chinese Communist Party was never meant to be a dictatorship. Its structure was geared towards rule by a group of persons. Power was limited by setting a limited term for the president. When Mao changed those rules, China descended into chaos and anarchy.

What will be the result of Xi’s moves to be another Mao?

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