Future of The Liberal Order in Post-Truth Globalism and Eurasian Response (part-II)
WELCOMED by a splintered economy, coupled with a global pandemic and the re-emergence of the strategic stretch between NATO and Russia in Ukraine, the first batch of digital natives (millennials) equipped with Post-Truth intelligence has taken over full institutional control around 2020. Millennials are followed by Gen Z and Gen Alpha. They both were in cradles when the twin towers collapsed and NATO stumbled in Iraq; they were in pre-school when America’s post–Cold War bravado flashed and the US Marines killed Osama Bin Laden.
These highs and lows played little role in intensifying their prejudice against anti-liberalism like their predecessors. They ask for logic before supporting the current “democratic offensive” of NATO across the Carpathian Mountains. Their shared sense of collectivity denies living under the oppression of terminologies unless they actually serve the needs of their digitally transformed individualism. The notion of American exceptionalism is not etched into Gen Z ideological bedrocks” says Samuel Barnett (a research analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace). “Nearly half of Zoomers say U.S. foreign policy should prioritize combating climate change; only 12% say it should focus on countering Chinese aggression”, he adds.
While sensing the sensitivity of this polity with a fascinating complexity of desire and individualism, Mark Gearan, Director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School warns “As millennials and Gen Z become the largest voting bloc, their values and participation provide hope for the future and also a sense of urgency that our country must address the pressing issues that concern them”. Post-Truth generations all over the world grew up with the promises and perils of technology. While facing a drift of sophisticated perception wars against grounded objectivity, they advocate a worldview crafted in digital echo chambers, producing a galvanized awareness about self, the world and deprivations in the world. They are pragmatic, assertive, individualistic and entitled, but “at the same time more miserable than ever before”, analyzed by Jean Twenge after processing information from surveys of 11 million young people, writing 7 books and dozens of publications.
Stanford scholar Roberta Katz declares Generation Z a “highly collaborative cohort” that cares deeply about shared global issues like climate change and inequality. They value diversity but at the same time keen in developing their own unique identities due to the enormous sense of existence they have been through after the advent of the World Wide Web. The trends of retreat from the patience of the democratic evolution towards a perception-driven, populist dispensation of political choices are evident in many Asian states. For example, large proportions of the young electorate subscribe to the political sensationalism of Imran Khan and Narendra Modi in South Asia. Both India and Pakistan inherited the legacy of Westminster’s democracy.
By using virtual reality tools for indoctrination, truth subversion and dream-weaving, these leaders systematically glorified middle-class insecurities to form an active identity consciousness based on religion or ultra-nationalism. They successfully consolidated their truncated heroism using the internet-driven process of psychological enforcement. Pakistan is currently facing one of the most toxic polarization and institutional chaos of its history. Similarly, there is a rising conceptual retreat towards localized cultural identities in the European central plain in response to the global hegemon of Western transnational elite, a spontaneous popular resistance to democrats and globalists, nested in those policy gaps causing disparity, state aggressions and forced migrations. These European change agents claim they are neither left nor right-wing.
Alexander Dugin, inspired by Julius Evola and René Guénon, provides one important part of the conceptual fuel. His publication “The Foundations of Geopolitics: The Geopolitical Future of Russia” had a significant influence on the Russian military, police and foreign policy elite, and has been used as a textbook in the Academy of the General Staff of the Russian military. The idea is the leading ideologies of the 20th century—fascism, communism and liberalism have lost practicality so it is imperative to reinvigorate pre-modern values that were shared by the great Eastern and Western civilizations of the past and carve out a multipolar world characterized by the uniqueness of diverse civilizational characters and provide space for ethnicity and evolution of languages. Alexander Dugin is a conceptual link between Russia and the union between Lega and the Five Star Movement in Italy, or the conservative German party, Alternative für Deutschland, Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Melenchon in France and, to some extent, Donald Trump. Steve Bannon met him in Milan in 2018 and both have published their conversation. Just recently, Finnish conservative leader Petteri Orpo won a nail-biting three-way election race, defeating Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s centre left. Unfortunately, the Ukraine-Russia War has pushed the disengagement to the next level.
Then comes the question: who plans to fill the vacuum. Here comes China! The driver of the Greater Eurasian Bloc mainly includes China, Russia and Central Asia. China, after scrupulously examining the frustration and conflict-driven imposition of Western global order on different cultures, proposed apparently a consensus-driven, pragmatist foreign policy backed with trillions of BRI dollars.
BRI connects world resources from Malacca Straits in Southeast Asia to Colombo and Gwadar in the Indian Ocean, Djibouti in East Africa, Piraeus in the Mediterranean, to Nicaragua in Latin America. China is also consolidating the land mass of the bloc, stretching it to the Middle East (Iran, KSA, Turkey) South Asia (Pakistan and Afghanistan) and, to some extent, Eastern Europe. The recent peace deal between the traditional rivals Iran and KSA is a magnificent optics of China’s soft power on the global stage. Chinese President Xi Jinping, while attending the opening ceremony of the plenary session of the second Eurasian Economic Forum held in Moscow, stated Eurasia is the region with the largest population, the largest number of countries and the most diverse civilizations in the world. He further noted the historical trend toward multipolarity and economic globalization is irresistible, adding that it is the broad consensus of the international community to uphold genuine multilateralism and promote coordinated development across regions.
However, China’s future challenge is its controlled value system designed to converge a large homogenous chunk of human beings. The mechanized regulations responsible for China’s rise are also a threat to the sustainability of this expansion while dealing with the tremendous cultural diversity across the BRI corridors. In future, China needs to chip in some speedy aesthetics and academics to handle the paradoxical mechanics of global connectivity and reduce cultural frictions. If China could manage presenting a more organic interpretation of business cooperation backed with a universally admired value system, a comprehensive Eurasian Shift is no more a farfetched proposition.
—The writer is a columnist and researcher. He teaches Public Policy at National Defence University of Pakistan.