US President Donald Trump, right, speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in November 2017.  File picture: Andy Wong/ AP
US President Donald Trump, right, speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in November 2017. File picture: Andy Wong/ AP

The war drums are beating and Trump is the drummer

By PAUL ZILUNGISELE TEMBE Time of article published May 21, 2019

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The world is witnessing geopolitical and structural conditions that threaten to surpass those witnessed during the World War II and the subsequent Cold-War era. These conditions heavily impact on the efforts of south-south co-operation and the rest of the developing world.

Tense global conditions seem to be the result of lack of co-operation and unequal economic relations between the global south and north.

Recent tendencies that seem bent on exacerbating stability and peace efforts include growing unilateralism, trade wars, and the rise of far-right movements. Given this scenario, what factors ought to be considered for a successful “construction of a community of shared future for mankind”?

The Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilisations (CDAC) event held recently in Beijing reflects an effort towards a community of shared future for mankind.

During the opening ceremon,y President Xi remarked that “various civilisations are not destined to clash”. On the contrary, Xi pointed out the need for co-operation among different civilisations. He warned that “civilisations will lose vitality if countries go back to isolation and cut themselves off from the rest of the world”.

He concluded: “It’s foolish to believe one’s race and civilisation are superior to others, and it’s disastrous to wilfully reshape or even replace other civilisations.”

The opening remarks by President Xi seem to be an antidote to predictions by Samuel Huntington, who described the 21st century as an era of “Clash of Civilisations”.

Huntington was of the idea that with the end of intense ideological confrontation, global conflicts would take the form of a cultural nature.

Huntington argued that: “the great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural where principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilisations”.

However, Huntington treated both societies and civilisations as if they were static entities. President Xi, on the other hand, warned at the CDAC opening ceremony that “civilisations need to keep pace with the times”.

It is now abundantly evident that the US, under President Donald Trump, poses a clear and present danger to the notion of peaceful coexistence among nations and civilisations.

The war drums are beating, courtesy of Vietnam-dodger John Bolton and evangelist Mike Pompeo, to destabilise even further the Middle East through ratcheting up more economic sanctions in the region.

Watching on the sidelines without a cogent strategy to counter US martial might is the impotent EU. This is despite the fact that the illegitimate sanctions directly and negatively affect more the business and national interests of EU countries.

Who would have thought that China, under President Xi Jinping, would emerge as the guardian of ­globalisation and champion of civilisational dialogue?

This much has become apparent, with the US choosing to prioritise its “national interests” instead of joining other countries in safeguarding the international order.

Since the Trump regime is not based on coherent policies and principles, but is driven by individual instinctive whims, contradictions are apparent in its support of serial human rights abusers who also double as the largest purchasers of US armaments.

It’s therefore reassuring to hear a voice of reason emanating from President Xi, as at last Tuesday’s CDAC opening ceremony.

President Xi’s message offered a tonic in the midst of war drums, that “if someone thinks their own race and civilisation is superior and insists on remoulding or replacing other ­civilisations, it would be a stupid and disastrous act”.

Except for the war hawks in the Pentagon and White House, there is no disputing that Trump has a genius for indulging in disastrous acts.

Nearly 60 years ago, US Army ­general Dwight Eisenhower warned succeeding generations to “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex”.

The call by President Xi during the CDAC stresses the importance of cross-civilisational exchanges, not only as an existential imperative in the interest of peaceful coexistence, but as a practical necessity in order to deal with the interlinked problems of ­terrorism, inequality, migration, poverty and climate change.

As the world braces for the cumulative effects of the trade war by the reigning two economic superpowers, one hopes sanity will prevail so that there can be mutual sharing of ideas, cultures, peoples and technologies.

To retreat to a laager mentality is to defy the very logic of globalisation, pioneered by US multinationals, which transcends borders, time and space.

* Tembe is senior researcher at the Thabo Mbheki African Leadership Institute and an associate professor at Zhejiang Normal University.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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