Western liberalism has no answer to assertive powers that take pride in their cultural roots, wrties Aris Roussinos at UnHerd.
A spectre is haunting the liberal West: the rise of the “civilisation-state”. As America’s political power wanes and its moral authority collapses, the rising challengers of Eurasia have adopted the model of the civilisation-state to distinguish themselves from a paralysed liberal order, which lurches from crisis to crisis without ever quite dying nor yet birthing a viable successor. Summarising the civilisation-state model, the political theorist Adrian Pabst observes that “in China and Russia the ruling classes reject Western liberalism and the expansion of a global market society. They define their countries as distinctive civilisations with their own unique cultural values and political institutions.” From China to India, Russia to Turkey, the great and middling powers of Eurasia are drawing ideological succour from the pre-liberal empires from which they claim descent, remoulding their non-democratic, statist political systems as a source of strength rather than weakness, and upturning the liberal-democratic triumphalism of the late 20th century.
America’s decline is impossible to disentangle from China’s rise, so it is natural that the rapid climb of the Middle Kingdom back to its historic global primacy dominates discussion of the civilisation-state. Though the phrase was popularised by the British writer Martin Jacques, the political theorist Christopher Coker observed in his excellent recent book on civilisation-states that “the turn to Confucianism began in 2005, when President Hu Jintao applauded the Confucian concept of social harmony and instructed party cadres to build a ‘harmonious society.’” In any case, it is only under his successor Xi’s rule that China as a rival civilisation-state has really penetrated the Western consciousness.“The advent of Xi Jinping as the Chinese president in 2012 propelled the idea of ‘civilization-state’ to the forefront of the political discourse,” the Indian international relations scholar Ravi Dutt Bajpai remarks, “as Xi believes that ‘a civilization carries on its back the soul of a country or nation.’”