We live in a time marked by controversy. There are a lot of positive currents, growing wealth and wellbeing. Developments in science and technology bring great opportunities that we are yet to fully understand.
Until the return of power politics in recent years, democracy has ruled supreme in the evolution of social systems and history was even thought to have come to its “end”. Today, however, we face uncertainties, that affect the continuity of traditional international systems.
Free trade and protectionism are facing off again, and there is tension in trade politics. A few years ago the international currency wars, or the competitive devaluations of currency, did not bode well for the future. Today trade war rhetoric is business as usual, even though the situation escalating into one would not benefit anyone.
At the same time countries face deterioration of domestic security and cohesion and growing tensions in security politics. The security environment has become more complex and its predictability lessened. According to the Pew Research Center, polarisation in the U.S. is higher than ever before.
Democracy has been challenged. Since the time of Deng Xiaoping, for four decades China has been growing stronger and it is catching up to the West, despite the Western countries’ head start in industrialization. China has spread its influence not only into developing countries, but increasingly into the West as well, for example in the form of investments. In many areas the Chinese have risen or are rising to the top and challenging old power structures. The world’s largest banks are Chinese and the country is building parallel international institutions of its own.
For me the wakeup call came in 2003 at Cambridge University, listening to a lecture given by professor Li Yining, an advisor in Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms. Since then I have followed China’s rise to an economic world power closely, and my hunch has been that the West will wake up only when it really starts to feel the effects itself.
Now there is a competitor for democracy, an authoritarian system, where a grassroots market economy is combined with a centrally controlled political system. Compared to this system, the challenge democracy faces is the inability to reform and change. Frustration in democratic decision making seems to be something in common across the political field, though the reasons for it might differ.
Democracy faces challenges from many directions. For changes and reforms to be positive they need to start inside the system. The West must shed its skin and revitalize.
In addition to this competition between social systems and internal conflicts, the world faces problems that reach far wider, such as questions related to the environment, migration, lack of resources and the reasons causing them. Questions, that affect all of us more and more each day.
The writer is a political planner for The Finns Party