Although the main objective of Beijing’s nationalist push has been to build domestic support for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), it has also stoked tensions with Washington, as each side tries to outdo the other in shifting blame and avoiding accountability for its handling of COVID-19.
Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping, like other contemporaries Donald Trump, Viktor Orban, Boris Johnson, etc., are leaders with a nationalistic bent. They view their respective countries as embodiments of either Han Chinese or Hindu civilization, where the center of the world revolves around their nations in the sense that they see them as the center of history.
The COVID-19 pandemic poses an unprecedented threat to both public health and the global economy. Only by ditching nationalist rhetoric and policies, and embracing stronger international cooperation, can governments protect the people they claim to represent.
Following the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, open societies were triumphant and international cooperation became the dominant creed. Thirty years later, however, nationalism has turned out to be much more powerful and disruptive than internationalism.
Benjamin Netanyahu has been at the front line of Israeli debate since the 1980s, but this week he faces the prospect of political mortality, with parliamentary elections leaving open the very real possibility that his time in office might be over. Yet whether or not he retains his post, whether or not he ever really believed the things he said—supporters of his argue that for “Bibi,” the nationalist rhetoric has always been a vehicle, not a core belief—his efforts have been emulated the world over by right-wing populists.
Multilateralism and global cooperation are under increasing threat, posing a serious risk to future prosperity. Business and finance leaders should care deeply about this state of affairs, so why aren’t they doing much more to help counter it?
Is populism still on the rise? That question will be looming over elections in Israel, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Spain, and the European Union over the next two months. Yet it will be misplaced, for the real contest is between nationalism and internationalism.