After World War II, the number of liberal democracies and free market economies in the world grew and many scholars were convinced that autocratic regimes would eventually be eliminated (e.g. fall of the Berlin Wall, USSR, Arab Spring uprising), but, alas, our optimism was misplaced.
Once established democracies, Thailand, Turkey, Poland, Hungary, Venezuela, Egypt, Burundi, Greece, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Philippines and Kenya have, to varying degrees, quashed the integrity of their elections, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, respect for human rights and rule of law.
Then there is Russia and Saudi Arabia who are both engaging in unprovoked attacks on sovereign neighbouring countries with the intent of annexing or defeating.
In recent years, populist leaders made huge gains in Germany and France and won in Italy, Austria and the United States.
The rise of populism is a return to pre-World War II. Populism always thrives during times of perceived or actual hardships for the majority.
It takes a charismatic leader to promote hatred against a villain—most often a visible minority.
Nazis used the Jews; Poland the Muslims, ISIS the white infidels and Trump the blacks and immigrants.
Populist leaders win elections when anger supplants reason.
A populist leader is always easy to identify as their sole reason for existing is to discredit or destroy institutions of democracy and to push for unilateral control once elected.
Today’s world for those of us who believe in democracies is worrisome. At the same time the United States has disengaged as the world conscience and referee, China and Russia have re-engaged.
Russia has become a giant killer in terms of interfering in democratic elections in every country listed above and beyond.
China’s power is economic.
China generates 35 per cent of the world economic growth and holds 1.2 trillion dollars in US treasury bills, America’s single largest creditor.
China is also filling the moral (or opportunist) vacuum left by the United States and has become the leader in finding solutions for climate change and world poverty.
Two actions taken by China should be receiving our utmost attention.
In 2003, China embarked on the One Belt, One Road. It is a $3 trillion investment in roads, railways, ports and other infrastructure to connect 60 countries in Asia, Europe, Middle East and Africa to China.
The work is progressing through Africa.
This massive network of land and sea is the modern-day Silk Road and will take millions of individuals out of poverty and open up massive new markets for China.
China is a centrally-governed Communist country with a market economy. To keep corruption and graft out of the upper ranks, there were 10-year term limits placed on the Supreme leader.
But last week everything changed when Party members voted to leave Xi Jinping in office indefinitely. The world economic powerhouse has just moved from checks and balances for its leader to Emperor rule.
That should be a concern for market-economy democracies.
The world is in a very vulnerable state as democracies erode or collapse and powerful totalitarian countries rise in both economic and military power.
The free world has counted on Americans to be the moral leader and democratic defender for over eight decades but under Trump that season has ended.
It is now incumbent upon world leaders from democracies, who are threatened by populism, but still standing, including Germany, France, Scandinavian countries, Great Britain, Ireland, Netherlands, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand, to collectively fill the American void.