Empire Strikes Back - The Australian editorial
From China and Russia comes confirmation, if it were needed, that history did not end in 1989. The enticing thesis, famously expounded by Francis Fukuyama, that the fall of the Berlin Wall heralded worldwide convergence towards Western-style liberal democracy has well and truly collapsed. Staging the Olympic Games in Beijing has afforded the outside world a close-up look at modern China, a country that has taken giant economic and social strides but has scant regard for democratic values. Economic reform has not heralded political reform as some Western theorists glibly predicted. Some 6000km further west in the Caucases, a belligerent Russia has attacked neighbouring Georgia in an extra-territorial show of force that some have compared to Prague in 1968. The comparison is apt. Robert Kagan in his recent book The Return of History and the End of Dreams says it has become clear that the end of the Cold War was not a historical transformation but "merely a pause in the endless competition of nations and peoples. Nationalism, far from being weakened by globalisation, has now returned with a vengeance." In China and in Russia we have seen the entrenchment of a new form of authoritarianism under strong-arm governments that enjoy a measure of popular legitimacy. Their compact with their own people permits open economic activity while suppressing political activity. People making money will keep their noses out of politics, says Kagan, "especially if they know their noses will be cut off".