By: Ali Muhamamd Memon
Is Populism Threatening the Liberal World Order?
2. A brief overview of liberal world order
3. What are the underpinnings that beget populism?
- Macro-level analysis
- Micro-level reasoning
4. Contemporary vicious cycle of populism and its repercussions on erratic world order
- Trumpism in United States of America and his truculent executive orders.
- Unilateral withdrawal from TPP
- Iran-US nuclear deal under stringent scrutiny, threatening multilateral diplomacy
- Re-negotiations on NAFTA
- Tumultuous exit of Britain from EU
- Vote for independence in Catalonia
- Return of right-wing populist party in Bundestag, first time after Second World War
- Challenging status quo in Iraq following Kurdish referendum
- Emergence of ‘Hindutva’ in India
- Rise of religious parties in Pakistan in the backdrop of local body elections
5. Suave methodologies to revamp liberal world order by averting threat of populism
- A new version of Marshall plan 2.0
- Role of China and its ambitious OBOR
- Engineering concept of ‘Capitalaborism’ and role of Inter-governmental organizations (IGOs)
A global order that has ruled the world since the end of cold war is in shambles. To put it simply, a turbulent wave of populism has rocked the foundations of liberal world order. An anti-thesis of Francis Fukuyama’s ‘End of History’ named ‘Clash of civilizations’ has started to root itself in volatile world order. Indeed, such transition may have dire consequences in the arena of world politics. From individual level to international level, its tragic effects can be witnessed with naked eye. To demonstrate, triumph of Donald Trump as 45th president of USA has jolted the world from a deep slumber. Having no experience in political and diplomatic affairs, as manifested by long tail of executive orders, his dogma of ‘America first’ has given rise to religious extremism, racism and Islamophobia in US. In the same manner, its ripple effect has brought the world under the cover of gloomy clouds. Apart from extremism and separatism, economic depression, isolationism, xenophobia and mass exodus have lacerated the fabric of globalization. Undoubtedly, unabated multiplication of populism tide reinforced with religious sentiments will pave a smooth road towards world war III, whose consequences will be far away from any hypothesis. This essay will shed light on the concept of liberal world order, put into limelight triggering factors that breed populism, draw contours of its pitfalls and suggest a cerebral approach to preclude this threat.
In order to proceed, let’s understand what liberal order actually is. An edifice of liberal world order is constructed with the elements of multi-lateralism, peaceful co-existence of nation-states, economic interdependence and a theory of ‘an attack on one is an attack on all’. Its basic aim is to bind states with economic iron-rings, in order to generate a peace-loving and co-operative milieu. In that context, several international organizations, for example United Nations, European Union, and regional institutions, SCO, SAARC and ASEAN play a cardinal role to fortify liberal world order. In short, liberal order emphasizes ethical principle over pursuit of power.
Before highlighting looming threats of populism, it is rudimentary to draw a conceptual sketch of populism, and what triggers its wave to spiral out of control. Populism is a political doctrine, to put it simple, a politics of a common man. It makes direct nexus with masses bypassing institutional procedure. Moreover, it includes demagogic characteristics of a leader, to mobilize a great chunk of population to settle political scores. Whereas, on the other hand, factors that aggrandize populists’ narrative are bifurcated into micro-level and macro-level analysis. First, worsening economic inequality and rampant unemployment give voice to populist parties to further their agendas. For instance, when free trade agreements, spine of liberal world order, lift trade barriers, multi-national corporations vie for maximum profit by hiring cheap labor, particularly from India and China. Consequently, they fill their big pockets at the cost of local indigenous people. Second, weak governance stemming from widespread corruption and wonkish state institutions give rationale to populist parties to engineer a mass movement. In the same manner, micro-level reasoning consist a litany of deliberate attacks on culture, civilization and religion. To illustrate, out of innumerable features of globalization, movement of people across the border is a crucial one. When people uproot from one place to another, they bring with them their own culture and practices. Resultantly, it creates uncertainty in host country, imperiling their native culture being replaced by new one. So, populism is a product of economic injustice, fragile governance system and unabated globalization.
After analyzing briefly the core reasons of populism, one can now ascertain its deadly threats, emanating from recent overhaul in its ferocious wave. To illustrate, ‘Triumph of Donald Trump’ as a neophyte president of United States has dragged the feet of liberal world order at the lowest ebb. Indeed, hawkish US foreign policy under the veil of ‘America First’ has created flummox in global politics. Strings of petulant and reckless presidential orders have imperiled the peace of planet. First, unilateral withdrawal of US from Trans-pacific-partnership (TPP) has devised new uncertainties in East Asia. Orchestrated at formulating a similar trade union bloc like EU, it encountered for 42% of world’s economy, having 11 countries from ASEAN bloc. One-sided withdrawal has isolated US from East Asia, with its members turning gaze towards rising dragon (China) in the region, to balance their trade chart. An economically integrated and rising Asia will create ‘Thucydides’ trap’, in which a conflict is inevitable when one power collides with emerging one. Second, perennial efforts to abrogate Iran-US nuclear deal is set to re-draw new contours of sour relationship. The deal, initiated by former US president and endorsed by his European counterparts, serves as a hallmark of multi-lateral diplomacy. Having already ratified by EU, Iran’s abiding by deal, any step to revoking it will have tragic repercussions on global peace and prosperity. And it will question credibility of US in multi-lateral deals and commitments. Last, established in 1994, NAFTA is under tight vigilance for re-negotiation. With $20 trillion as its economy, it is the largest free trade agreement in world. Alleged of slashing myriad of American jobs, it has bewildered new President, compelling him to re-set its rules and regulations. All-in-all, Trump’s marauding attack on Free trade agreements (FTAs) has menaced global efforts to augment peace and economic co-operation.
Apart from seismic shifts of policies in American continent, year 2016 is considered as an ‘annus horriblus’ for Europe, following perplexing exit of Britain from EU. Founded in 1993, EU serves as a benchmark of global multi-lateralism. The history of Europe, mired in red blood of millions of innocents, forced world leaders to contrive an organization to economically integrate Europe. However, such ambitious dream has been shattered after Brexit. Consequently, it has put overall Europe in a state of chaos. Furthermore, it has impinged Europe’s economy, trade, investment and security. More worse, it paved a way to keep unwanted out by building fences at border, shoving Europe in a ‘valley of tears’. In short, Britain’s exit from European Union has created a cynical perspective regarding liberal world order.
Simultaneously, another major development that has rocked Europe and EU is popular movement for Catalonian independence. Despite acting as a mediator to resolve crisis, EU, a concerned bystander, has demonstrated unwavering response. Since Barcelona contributes 20% to Spanish GDP alone, it gives solid ground to their independence drive. Moreover, another force behind their gargantuan movement is separate language and culture of that region, which divides Spain on linguistic lines. Popular referendum, if successful in carving out separate state will create terrible precedent and embolden other separatist movement in European continent. In a nutshell, Catalonian vote for separate state is a glaring example of liberal order under great pressure.
Furthermore, following the victory of pro-EU candidates in France and Netherlands, it was widely believed that threat of populism may have stalled. But despite victory of Angela Merkel, fourth consecutive time as a chancellor of Germany, re-entry of far-right Populist Party, Alternative for Germany (AfD) in Bundestag, sweeping 11pc of votes, rekindled the perils of populism. Indeed, since the end of Great War, world is coveting for peace, keeping in mind its grim events. However, AfD, by clearing its way to Germany’s parliament, has given wake-up call to world and Europe, since the appearance of far-right wing in Bundestag first time after World War II. With xenophobic and Islamophobic sentiments, it would give tough time to strongest women in the world, which was evinced in overall poll performance, with 33% votes acquired by CDU-CSU alliance, worst since 1949. In addition to that, uncountable asylum seekers and open borders flooded with immigrants have aggrandized the fury and outrage of populist parties. Briefly, if situation persists, it would quiver already shaky EU following Brexit and Catalonian referendum.
Along the same lines of Catalonia, Kurdish people have challenged the status quo by demanding separate state, aggravating political crisis in already war-torn Middle East. Known as ‘Orphans of world’, they are divided unequally on the borders of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, with the population if 8.2, 5.6, 1.5 and 14.3 million respectively. Moreover, they generate their own income through oil rich Kirkuk province. Having persecuted at the hands of Saddam Hussein in 1990’s with poison gas attack, they want to preserve their own culture and identity. However, with their presence in nearby countries, it can devise a reciprocal response, challenging authoritative regimes rigorously. In summary, liberating Kurdistan from jaws of Iraq will create another volatile situation in Middle East.
Nevertheless, situation in Asian continent is far more ominous than rest of the world. Brewing extremism and hatred for other religions in India poses stupendous threat to peace and tranquility in Asia, having porous borders. Indeed, religious freedom is a pre-requisite for social and economic development. But with nationalists’ leaders at the helm of affairs, religious impunity is a herculean task. To demonstrate, in numbers, alone in 2017, mob lynching against Muslims for cow slaughtering has been staggering. Mobilizing under the banner of ‘Hindutva’, an Indian state with its own version of Hinduism, it constitutes an enormous risk to liberal world order, in which policies can be shaped to pacify national interest. In short, when the biggest democracy of the world falls prey to anti-liberal mantra, prospects of violence and conflict are high.
Likewise, re-birth of far-right religious parties in NA-120 elections have dithered political conditions in the country, amid execution of flagship project of BRI (Belt and Road Initiative). By acquiring 13% of overall votes with ill-conceived ideology, it has hampered religious freedom and doctored up xenophobia in the country. Moreover, it has paved a way for other parties to settle political score under religious umbrella, as demonstrated by recent siege of federal capital and followed by country-wide protests, plunging constitutional rights of freedom of movement of citizens. However, on the other hand, it will create an utterly befuddling situation for timely completion of CPEC projects. With the total budget of $62 billion, it is a symbol of economic interdependence and peaceful milieu. Moreover, it will attract loads of foreign investment in its special economic zones. Therefore, anything short of strong commitment will beget a string of uncertain events, equally repugnant for country and liberal world order.
Leading through a sequence, it is crucial to draw a road-map to revive liberal world order in order to overpower populism and mitigate uproar in the world. In this regard, twenty-first century is vying for an upgraded version of Truman doctrine and Marshall Plan. The latter highlights an all-embracing approach adapted by former US presidents to ink US foreign policies. They were rather proactive than reactive. To illustrate, in order to avoid mistakes made in past by abandoning Europe at the mercy of ‘Treaty of Versailles’, which eventually led to World war II, President Truman and Marshall revealed their future plan to re-build war-ravaged Europe by providing economic aid and promoting stability. It was indeed a holistic approach to nip in the bud the multiplication of Jingoism in the region. Such long-term strategic policy is a need of an hour to shove Europe and world out of horrendous crisis.
In the same manner, role of China, as Asia’s giant power, is very decisive in this regard. With the ambitious BRI project, worth trillion of dollars, it envisages of binding 68 nations under one belt. Two types of projects are under its ambit (i) revival of ancient Silk Road; roads and bridges. (ii) 21st century Maritime Silk Road. With president Xi Jinping appearing as a strongest man of the China, it bodes well for the future of economic liberalism. Undoubtedly, successful completion of BRI will compound Europe and Asia into single united body with special economic zones, open borders and cultural developments. On the whole, China’s ‘project of the century’ will thwart the dangers stemming from populism through ‘East-West connectivity’.
Lastly, to allay absolute losers of globalization and to avoid its unintended consequences, a new concept of ‘Capitalaborism’ should be commenced. Indeed, no social or economic order grants fruitful outcomes until it shares fair distribution in good times and loses at bad times. Moreover, compensation programs should be launched by multi-national institutions to blur the discriminatory characteristics of globalization i.e. ‘money in the hands of elites’. Therefore, rigorous steps should be taken to mend the terms of trade deals or design an International system so that it could equally benefit capital and workers, instead of predilection on one side only.
To conclude, one thing is palpable; perils of populism superseding liberal world order are high, unless concrete steps are taken to halt its dangerous tide. Pestilence generating from populism is multi-faceted in nature. Under the pretext of preserving culture and civilization, a popular backlash is witnessed against foreigners and a ferocious crackdown against religious freedom. Especially, ban on immigration in US based on prejudice and hatred against Muslim countries can formulate a reciprocal response, certainly unfriendly to world’s peace and harmony. At the same time, rise of far-right religious parties to gain political interests under the veil of religious sentiments across the globe have endorsed the hazard of ‘clash of civilizations’. In addition to that, culmination of authoritative and nationalists’ regime in almost every continent of the world have given currency to the callous concept of xenophobia, Islamophobia and extremism. Therefore, there is a dire need to address bitter policies of inequality, arrange social compensation programmes, create awareness of bright side of economic interdependence, and arrange an inclusive labour market, to block the tide of populism from getting out of control. This essay explained a broad concept of liberal world order, threw light on raison d’être of populism and its offshoots, and proposed an implementable blue-print to eradicate threats of populism.