The current state of the world is quite gloomy. It is no longer
multi-polar and based on unique independent solidarities wherein one
might discern local strengths and weaknesses: for instance the
governing of a country, a regional issue like East African food
shortages, or the rippling of automatic financial transactions as they
shift millions of shares in micro-seconds.
We see instead that there are weak pan-regional actors not living up
to their goals-for instance, the G-20 talks but often does not deliver
fully; and the UN meetings (on several subjects) suffer many vetoes so
cannot move forward coherently; or the financial regulators who don´t
cope well with digital black boxes programmed by `rocket scientists´.
Some would suggest it´s the end of history. However, Francis
Fukuyama´s essay of 1989 (or his 1992 book) is history also: we have
moved on - but have we really? We continue to be primitive animals.
Now we are dressed in a veneer of sophistication that is modified by
our various cultural inclinations, notwithstanding our different skin
tones: let me give some examples from China and Europe.
China has had cross-regional leaders for millennia and still remembers
guru like Confucius and before him, Sun Tzu. They both offered advice
to their leaders and their notes seem appropriate today. Both guys
however were advising within warring states: indeed the treatise of
Sun Tzu is called The Art of War, suggesting above all "... supreme
excellence consists in breaking the enemy´s resistance without
fighting" which leads on to "... in the practical art of war, the best
thing of all is to take the enemy´s country whole and intact; to
shatter and destroy it is not so good". These aphorisms have recently
been grasped by Chinese leaders to proclaim their nation is not
warmongering but peaceful in intent. But others worry, as Sun Tzu also
wrote "...be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be
extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby, you
can be the director of the opponent´s fate", and thus "...what is of
supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy´s strategy". In this
particular sense the nations close to China´s borders wonder about its
intentions that were once seen as benign. They suggest it would be
well that the Chinese remember Confucius saying "...remember, no
matter where you go, there you are".
It is ominous too that the polymath Bertrand Russell said as late as
1961 "... opinions that are held with passion are always those for
which no good ground exists; indeed the passion is the measure of the
holders´ lack of rational conviction. Opinions in politics and
religion are almost always held passionately". He did however hold out
some hope "... the main things which seem to me important on their own
account, and not merely as means to other things, are knowledge, art,
instinctive happiness, and relations of friendship or affection".
Clearly he is emphasising our need to look to compromise and
compassion, and is saying we must not accept the Machiavellian view
that `the end justifies the means´.
So `we weave the webs of deceit, of euphemisms, and downright lies´.
For what purpose? Professor Pang Zhongying has suggested that China
wallows in a poverty of thought as it reflects too much on ancient
texts that may have little relevance to today. But in my view, the
experiences of others show that individuals project soft power not the
Frank-Jürgen Richter is founder and chairman of Horasis
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