The excessive posturing by Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz as world diplomats demanding peace, dialogue, and constructive engagement with authoritarian powers such as China and Russia at a time when Russia is waging a war in Europe and threatens to nuke us while China threatens to start a war against Taiwan stems from their naivety in seeing the world as they want it to be rather than as how it actually is.
Both Macron and Scholz want to live in a world where they can constructively engage with the current regimes of Russia and China. They think that more trade and openness would eventually lead to increased security and collaboration with these regimes. It is as if they have learned nothing from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as they persist in projecting a worldview that compromises our security and our order.
Empirically, we know that capitalism didn’t make authoritarian regimes more democratic and more open, on the contrary, it gave them the power to be even more authoritarian, imperialist, and bellicose. Saudi Arabia is a rogue state which literally butchers its dissidents, China has accumulated enough wealth and power that by now it feels confident enough to control Hong Kong and threatens war against Taiwan. Iran became an international terrorist state. Turkey has dissolved its democracy and become an authoritarian country while other smaller countries like Thailand and the Philippines are also reverting to authoritarianism. Russia is the prime and excellent example which shows that capitalism doesn’t necessarily make people appreciate democratic values.
There is surely a very insular and naive mindset behind the idea that the world is going to change merely with beautiful talking points and the posturing of pacifist values, but the problem with this idea is that it is also dangerous, reckless, and extremely irresponsible. The European leaders who are currently taking democracy and liberalism for granted are dangerous to our democracy because they are forcing us to drop our guard while our economic and political rivals accumulate more power on a global scale at our expense and our security. This is not how I would like the world to be, but it is reality. As China extends its influence in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, China will amass more power to counteract the international-rules-based-order we have lived in since the end of the Second World War, and as a result, authoritarian nations will have more influence and power in how the world is run. Russia was able to invade Georgia, Syria, and Ukraine after capitalism enabled it to amass enough wealth and rebuild its army. In addition, the consequences of the ever-increasing power and influence of authoritarian states are directly felt in our democracies as far-right political parties are further inspired to strengthen and wage their causes. There is also no coincidence in the fact that the European states who are most enthusiastic to make deals with Russia and China are the states which are mostly experiencing a collapse of their democratic institutions: namely Hungary and Malta.
The European mindset of our leaders has to change for the sake of our security and future economic prosperity. It also has to change for the sake of the world, unless we want to live in a world where it is acceptable that China and Russia invade neighbors with impunity and a terrorist state like Iran, arbitrarily executes 15,000 of its own people while in turn, is allowed to wage terroristic wars across the globe. I can not even articulate the seriousness and the magnitude of the historic vicissitudes we are going through today. Those who live in their own power bubbles like Emmanuel Macron are believing in fairy tales.
Europe could do something very different than hoping that China would eventually convert into the good guy: instead of hoping and dreaming in fairy tales, Europe can rise to compete with China itself. Here is how such an international policy would have resulted in different actions by Scholz: instead of organising an industrial delegation to China, Scholz should have organised a delegation to India. India is the next economic frontier and Europe is missing out on this great opportunity. Africa is emerging and even there Europe is missing great opportunities. It is imperative that Europe front-runs China in the global race for trade and political alliances by removing trade restrictions with African countries and Latin America while simultaneously changing domestic tax regimes to incentivise more industrial investment and entrepreneurship. Talking nice won’t make a difference.
Europe has enough economic power to leverage political values and promote the international-rules-based order without acting in a bellicose and imperialist manner. We have to start being more creative with our trade policies and more pragmatic, but knowing also that this pragmatism involves the international rule of law. If we get rich while we can not enjoy our freedoms, getting rich will defeat its purpose. Yet, Europeans are getting poorer still even when their foreign policy is one of openness to authoritarian regimes. And depending on authoritarian regimes for our energy supplies made us only worse off. We have enough lessons to know how we should move forward.