Su Shulin, Chairman of Sinopec gestures during a press conference in Hong Kong Monday, Aug. 24, 2009. Sinopec also known as China Petroleum & Chemical Corp, Asia's biggest refiner by volume said its first-half profit soared threefold from a year earlier on lower crude costs and changes in government price control.
The legitimacy for belief in the universality of Western way of life has been backed by results, mostly the economic ones. Now, as the West faces severe internal crises – governance inefficiency, financial difficulties and incapability to offer an effective state-building know-how, anti-West movements in much of the non-Western world are getting stronger.
Talking about the decline of the West has become a cliché. The theory is disputable and it is not a purpose of this article to examine it. But consider; who has the fastest train the world? Once a railway power the USA, has been surpassed by China. World´s tallest building stands in the United Arabian Emirates. And the fastest computer in the world is not in Silicon Valley nor in Pentagon but in China.
Know-how which does not work
The economic dominance of The West culminated on the verge of the Cold War and afterwards. The West seemed to have an exclusive know-how for economic success. Free market and as little state interventions as possible became a religion. “Living in debt from college to coffin” doctrine seemed to be omnipresent. The bubble eventually burst. And the West has been dealing with the aftermath since. The great “you can afford whatever pops into your mind” strategy, seems to be transforming into “let´s not spend and see what happens” attitude.
And so, while balancing the austerity packages on one hand and bail-out funds on the other, China, India or Turkey have been enjoying the most prosperous times in their modern history. Deservedly so. Instead of envying them or fear them, it is time for the West to respect them. To acknowledge their way to success, which may differ from its own one, but that does not make the former any worse. Rather it proves that the Western way to prosperity has a viable alternative.
To live up to such stance, the West changed their denomination from “developing countries” to “emerging countries”. And if the West will not clean its own messy courtyard very quickly, China, Indonesia or South Africa will emerge soon.
Who will deal with those problems?
It is politicians, who have to give an impulse to start solving our problems. Although politicians - the lack of effective governance - is precisely the problem number one. Therefore the West finds itself moving in the circle with no green bright sign saying exit.
Because of the 4-year election cycle, the politics tends to degrade into a continuous campaign. Reelection seems to be the supreme goal of most of our representatives. Inability to do the overdue but unpopular measures, to once and for all solve the unfolding financial crises, undermines the people´s believe in the political system. And if the Westerners do not respect their system, how could they export it? How could they take it to lands, where it has no tradition and history? There is just terrible absence of legitimacy, which would justify such behavior.
A bit of humbleness
Respect another ways of life, respect another cultures with its priorities, and another nations with its standards, is the standpoint the West must hold. Although it is necessary to stress that there are basic and undisputable human rights which must be uphold no matter the outer or inner circumstances. Right to have a decent live, right for freedom of religion and belief, pursuit of happiness – as Americans like to put it, these the West must promote globally. Often it uses them just as a justification.
There is little talk about human rights with the officials of China or Saudi Arabia; the countries economically needed. The importance of the principal rights is stressed when Western interests are endangered, not when human rights are endangered.
So it is basic human rights, the ones which truly are universal, the West must export. They are universal not because they work well in The West. It is because no matter the place, its history or present, the benefits they bring are universal. Human life is the supreme value, and that must be repeated.
Learn to lose
So, to conclude, understand that our ideas – while seemingly perfect in the conditions we live in – are not applicable globally. And the selective behavior, the problems the West faces and its hypocrisy in dealing with them, disqualifies it from claiming any moral superiority.
The West likes to spread its peaceful values by force. Rather it should do so by being an example and wait to see who follows. Hopefully some will do. And if not, it just has to show its maturity and deal with it, without tears and without fists, exactly as it so often wants others to do.
Filip Tucek studies international relations and diplomacy. He works for The European Values think tank and FORUM 2000 Foundation. For further information visit: www.filiptucek.com