Last year has been a year of many ups or many downs – depending on where you are situated on the political spectrum internationally. In fact, it has been such a momentous year, that it deserves a comprehensive review.
It seems though that a pattern is emerging: a paradigm shift is occurring in the world we live in. We might eventually come to remember 2016 as the end of a world-order.
Trump is Anti-Establishment, But Not in the Way You Think
Let’s begin with the Man of the Year, Donald Trump. Or as the politically-correct TIME Magazine put it, the Person of the Year.
Trump won the election pledging to “drain the swamp” in Washington DC, and yet, pundits on both Left and Right despair that he seems to have filled his cabinet with more of the swamp. Trump’s victory was achieved on the back of “flyover country”, the blue-collar rustbelt of America who is tired of being looked down upon by the magnates of Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Yet, it seems that Trump has filled his cabinet with a gerontocracy of Wall Street elites.
Where is the swamp-draining in that?
Or perhaps we should stop trusting the pundits.
The leading media and social-media narratives focus on economics as the basis for the Establishment. What Trump is, however, is an ideological anti-establishmentarian. That is shown in everyone he picks, from his VP-Elect to the new US Ambassador to China.
What Trump is doing is picking all the best people qualified for the job – but who think diametrically opposite from the people they are replacing. For instance, Rex Tillerson is the Secretary of State, replacing Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton was against fossil fuels; Tillerson is the CEO of an Oil Company that deals in fossil fuels (oil is the first of fossil fuels). Clinton paraded her hatred for Russia; Tillerson parades his deals and friendship with Russia. Clinton is believed to be on the side of the 99% during the Occupy Wall Street Protests; Tillerson is as 1% as you can get.
Trump is not waging war against the Economic Establishment; he is waging war against the liberal establishment. For that, he gains the cheering of Conservatives.
More specifically, they are cheering for an end to the liberal establishment’s class warfare: females vs males; immigrant culture vs local culture; atheism vs Christianity; LGBT vs cis; 1% against 99%; Nerd vs Yank; Hollywood vs Everyone Else, etc. People who have been used to liberal class warfare resonate with Trump’s United America message, regardless of how honest he actually is.
The question on the “flyover” voter’s mind is not, “Why is my next paycheck not coming?” It is instead, “Why is the government caring more about screwing about with kindergarten [transgender] bathrooms than how I can feed my family?”
Singapore, China, Taiwan
On the other side of the Pacific, a sleeping dragon awakens.
And Singapore just got a close brush with it.
While China is cautiously observing Trump, everyone else is cautiously observing China. And everyone is perplexed by China’s end-game.
In fact, though, Trump and Xi make a peculiar couple. Trump is the anti-American-Establishment politician; Xi is the anti-Global-establishment politician. China’s strategy is to restore its global influence by countering the global establishment.
China’s surprising behaviour is not really surprising if you understand China.
The key to understanding China is that the Chinese Nation is defined by race: the Han Chinese.
Hence, Trump’s apparent White Nationalism is a great complement.
Han Chinese Nationalism explains Singapore’s recent Hong Kong incident. What needs to be noted is not that China was petulant about One China, but that China expressed disappointment that Singapore Chinese did not rally behind the legitimate government of the Chinese People.
Predictably, our government panicked. Because we were born as a nineteenth-century British colony, we inherited the politics of territorial nation-states. Hence, the Straits Times and the government saw this as China trying to assert influence or sovereignty over Singapore.
We fail to realise that China conceives of nations along ethnic lines, rather than territorial lines. Which leads to the somewhat jarring reality that all overseas Chinese are regarded as Chinese Nationals.
This is a general attitude in the Chinese government that bleeds through its Confucius Institutes. Thus, Westerners are stunned by what they see as attempts to spread the Communist Revolution. What the West misses is that China’s aim is to reunite the Chinese Nation, not to spread Marxism.
Taiwan, meanwhile, remains a dead knot. If Donald Trump is wise – which he might not be – he should realise that America has bought a false picture from Taiwan. Apparently, so has the Straits Times.
Inasmuch as Taiwan retains its status as the Republic of China, the knot will remain tight.
The most ominous news for the liberal establishment, though, is that religious conservatism and fundamentalism is on the rise.
The most obvious player, ISIS, represents the new global face of the Culture War that began in America. Characterising it as a terrorist state is a gross misrepresentation. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a cultural movement, of which the State is merely a methodology. If the methodology fails, another can always be used instead.
This adds to the powder keg, where the tension in Israel over the Temple Mount is still unresolved.
Meanwhile, in Russia, the Orthodox Church has recovered its ancient status. For the first time in over a century, the Russian government held an official diplomats’ dinner at an Orthodox cathedral.
If anything, God is still not dead.
As we enter a new year, it seems like the wheels of time are turning, and an epoch is coming to an end. The only question for liberals is: how will you navigate a new conservative age?