July 27, 2020
While most people all over the world are debating the current health, geopolitical, and economic developments in the COVID19-era, the history train has already left the station quite some time ago for a drastic new destination as this era is a transformative time for humanity and earth; whether we like it or not, the train is already moving and shall not stop for a while – hopefully as that would not be good, to say the least.
Although each cultural and geopolitical region having their own wagon and nations having their compartments, we are all onboard the same train.
While people are discussing if tea or coffee should be served on the train, whether the train should run electrically or on fuel or if and how WIFI should be allowed, few people talk about the train’s destination.
However, the destination will be the historical event from this transformation era; the tea or coffee debate will appear in the footnotes.
While most humans on this planet are fortunately tolerant, positive-minded and willing to understand and help others, the danger has slipped in that many of us have grown ‘too comfortable’ with state of own mind and society in our wagon or compartment, including a sense that their own ways and beliefs are the right ones and the only possible ones.
However, managing a moving train is something very different from leading a life in a train standing idle. A moving train requires more than tolerance and understanding, it requires adaptation, change and mutual acceptance and understanding in global collaboration for direction and speed.
There are simply two choices. The train will be managed and speed-controlled in collaboration heading towards new stations of the future – together.
Or the speed and direction will start to be uncontrollable and might head towards abysses or other undesired events and destinations. Either one of them makes the next chapter in history. History’s trains cannot be turned around on the rail.
People might see a third choice, living peacefully separate in the same world but today’s global community seems too intertwined and close to each other; digitally, socially but also too close for the ability of direct threats that “just living separately in peace” seems like a hollow phrase.
Today, there is hardly any talk about the new train stations of the future or the possible abysses awaiting. Instead, doors between wagons are being closed and even curtains between compartments in a wagon are shut (with window curtains already closed for quite some time)… And the train keeps on riding, seemingly with higher speed…
Let’s dive into the train and its possible destinations by a few interesting statements from interesting individuals.
“The remainder of 2020 could pose as severe a test for the US and China as the final five months of 1941 did for the United States and Japan,”
“We should remember that when we say something is inconceivable, this is not a claim about what is possible in the world, but rather about what our minds can conceive.”
These statements have been made by Graham Allison, an American political scientist and the Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He’s the author of the book “Destined For War: Can America and China escape Thucydides’s Trap” (2017).
Even though war between Japan and the United States had been a possibility that each nation had been aware of, and prepared for since the 1920s, and Japan had already invaded several Asian nations with huge economic and political tensions rising between the USA and Japan, Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, had been a move beyond any imagination for Washington and the world.
Although the circumstances and parties are very different 80 years later, the growing and alarming distrust and hostility between Beijing and Washington have turned the China-US rivalry into a self-fulfilling prophecy and left much of the world deeply polarised.
It is acknowledged by China that the relation between China and the USA has never been at this low since formal diplomatic relations in the current chapter of history were established in 1979.
The US wagon on the train has been equipped with blasting speakers and megaphones; for months now they spit out ever-louder rhetoric by the hour against China without any nuances. It’s done in surprisingly harsh and direct words by government officials and army for the whole train to hear with many echoes.
The Chinese wagon is verbally defending these rhetorics with a surprising directness and at the same time bracing themselves for isolation, hardship and self-sustainability for the time to come.
The two major economic nations are decoupling their economic and technological connections and seem to be at odds on almost all fronts; from trade tensions and technology to mutual involvements in politics, diplomacy, culture and education.
Other nations are drawn into it and choosing sides, polarizing the global community to extremes, especially in media.
While people all over the world might say that it is exaggerated, impossible or highly unlikely that either the US or China will launch a premeditated military attack, the current trend might be a potential omen towards a train speed which cannot be controlled anymore by any of the two powers.
I am writing this small section on Wednesday night July 22, 2020 (Beijing time), just reading the news that the US is ordering China to close its consulate in Houston within 72 hours while also listening to a podcast about whether or not we should call this already a new ‘cold war’ or not…. (now on Sunday, July 26, many more events have already evolved, among others, the US consulate in Chengdu shall be closed.
Or you may read the speech by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on “the future of the free world” on July 23, 2020, in which he says that “If the free world doesn’t change Communist China, Communist China will change us.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has ramped up his China demonization program this week by closing down of the Chinese consulate Houston and visiting the UK and Denmark with various harsh anti-China speeches, strengthening the Five Eyes partners and trying to get others on board in the intensifying cycle of confrontation with China.
Notably, his team are hardly using the word China anymore but striving to give the “demon” a face by talking, since a couple of weeks, about the “Chinese Communist Party.”
We can see the progress of a precise and intentional program for demonizing China in a series of speeches by top US officials which started on June 24, 2020, with the first speech by US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien in which he mentioned the series of speeches (listen from 7:30 if you do not want to listen to it all).
Here are these speeches by US top officials during these past 4 weeks:
FBI Director Christopher Wray on the 7th of July on
China’s Attempt to Influence U.S. Institutions.
These are in-depth, well-prepared speeches besides the daily or better hourly rhetorics, or propaganda, and obviously part of a larger mission by the USA influenced by the current state of politics, economies, technologies and social models in the geopolitical world.
The US mission has gone from reacting and acting against ‘individual (possibly intentional, fabricated) occasions’ such as Huawei, coronavirus, Hongkong or trade towards a total demonization of the Chinese Communist Party being a threat for the world and the world’s future since this month.
Since recent weeks, this US mission is not wasting as much as one minute to get this stigmatized and consistently negative image of China out in the world.
Circumstances and situations which US top officials claim in their speeches about China are not being backed up anymore by facts, figures, or indications of analytic sources. or reality. The clash has gone into a mode of morality and ideology, demonizing China as a threat to the ‘free world’ for the future. Facts aren’t necessary.
China has not stood still in this confrontation; it strongly opposes the accusations and threats by the USA but China’s reach is very limited in Western media.
Here is an example of Wolf warrior diplomacy in which Chinese diplomats on twitter and other social media strongly oppose the demonisation:
But make no mistake that China should be standing still and just watching the US increase the speed of its confrontational mission. China is, full speed, preparing to brace itself for long-term isolation and it is outlining precise tactics for worst-case scenarios.
This is not about ‘just’ trade anymore, this is a policy and mission aiming at controlling the transformation towards a new chapter in history.
Many “old” economic, financial and social models and infrastructure have become obsolete or exposed in the digital era of 5G and AI – as we can see also from social unrest in different countries. Some countries might be better prepared than others to be ready for the future.
It is remarkable and also sad and scary how quiet the rest of the world remains in this development, with the exception of just a few countries. Many of those silent are traditional allies of the USA. I am daily reading Dutch and EU news sites but there is little mention of this utterly dangerous trend. Other nations are also hesitant to talk with China knowing that theUS is looking over their shoulder.
Please read the statement of Graham Allison again :
“We should remember that when we say something is inconceivable, this is not a claim about what is possible in the world, but rather about what our minds can conceive”
One can be absolutely certain that these speeches and these rhetorics brought out systematically as an influencing information are not the final stage of the mission.
Iwas talking about “Cold War” earlier – so feared by many. At this stage, my hope starts to turn from global collaboration to a stable and safe “Cold War” environment (naive perhaps, but I will come back to that later).
The current stage is a visible, clear writing on the wall about the risk of a true war in the foreseeable future. People should wake up to this omen and, more importantly, start to talk about it.
Humanity has witnessed this before but the difference is that today both giant nations are deeply intertwined with the world, especially economically but also digitally and by politics and cultures.
And the train keeps on riding full speed…
“Everybody wants to be part of something grand every now and then (and they should be), but it seems like these politicians want to continue to be part of something very small …..”
By Geert Mak, a Dutch journalist and non-fiction writer in one of his online live programs this week related to the EU summit earlier this week (translated from Dutch):
“The state of emergency in Europe is enormous and the actions of the Netherlands (and a number of other countries) are blocking necessary measures, a dangerous game especially in the long run. It is not only about the economy, there are much more important things. Though statesmen and especially stateswomen in Germany are very aware of this.
The survival of the European Union is of vital importance in the 21st century tackling global problems such as the environment. If you are going to undermine and sabotage the European Union, and the Netherlands is busy with this, then you seriously affect the solution (if still possible) for these future issues. It is going to be very complicated in the next decades but the base lies in good international relations and collaboration and maintaining the international system which is pressured to be threatened.
Everybody wants to be part of something grand every now and then (and they should be), but it seems like these politicians want to continue to be part of something very small…..”
The nostalgia of Europe is definitely over, this week the EU reached compromise on the financial COVID19 support program with emotional but cold debates on ‘loans vs. gifts’ and ‘rule of law’ (with a bitter taste of morality) and what the program can do for my country instead for the EU.
As also mentioned by Geert Mak: they should leave the rhetoric or moral question of gifts vs. loans. The money provided to already deeply indebted countries in the form of loans will never be seen (or paid back) again so the possibility of presenting it as a gift would have been a great opportunity to show solidarity and unity but ‘principles’ seemed to have prevailed.
Definitely, the EU wagon has quite a few curtains shut between its compartments and they will probably not be opened for quite some time to come, if ever.
The summit was all about money and the height and thicknesses of the different castle walls of ‘rule of law’ and ‘morality’ between different squads. Little to nothing in the news about environment, global collaboration, safety, geopolitical stability or high-tech evolution with respect to this summit.
And words were scarce about the European spirit or solidarity among and by the leaders…
Irecall organizing the European Week in Eindhoven, the Netherlands in 1993 during my study at the Eindhoven University of Technology, a seminar and bonding with hundreds of students from all over Europe discussing the future of Europe. “Nationalism and Unification, are European colours fading away?” – was the slogan at that time. It was a nostalgic time full of dreams, hopes and ambitions.
Europe should recall its role in history and while some countries understand this better than others, it is of vital importance for the new chapter in history that Europe remains unified as one and maintain close relations with the rest of the world, economically, politically, socially and culturally.
That is essential, in my view, for the sake of peace, moderation and for Europe’s role in the new global future.
This week I talked with a dear friend about the EU summit; he mentioned that the summit looked like a bunch of MBA students from a prestige university working together on an investment thesis for saving a multinational from bankruptcy and where each student represented a corporate division and would be graded individually by her or his performance and management style. A rather illuminating metaphor…
And the train keeps on riding full speed…
“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
Both Bill Gates and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo used this line in April from a speech by Winston Churchill as an analogy for the COVID19 pandemic.
Winston Churchill made this line in a speech on November 10, 1942. World War II was far from over, but Britain and its allies had won its first major victory over Nazi forces.
The coronavirus has already revealed many sensitivities and mirrors to ourselves in each and every society. We are just at the beginning of change or better at beginning of consciousness for change.
Every country with its people should realize that the train of history is moving. Admittedly, it’s difficult because today’s trains are running so smoothly that it makes you doze off, neither feeling the speed nor hearing the repetition of rhetorics.
And on the other hand, most people are rightfully worried about their own health status and how their own compartment is handling the pandemic while still others are protesting against other compartments that have restricted the freedom of movement.
Many governments in countries where first COVID19 peaks have passed are expressing a sense of ‘going back to normality’. In Europe, people are starting to travel again for their summer holidays or gathering for parties (despite new upcoming coronavirus outbreaks). In China, people are more reserved and protected although travelling is increasing as well and public life is returning to the streets.
Others – such as the USA and South America – are still amid the growth towards their first real peaks. And COVID19 expectations for Africa and hugely populated countries such as Indonesia or India are still quite a mystery.
One way or another, most countries have been deeply affected by COVID-19. However, the virus has not yet been interpreted as the message it fundamentally is: that humanity is entering a new chapter of history, an era of permanent change. And that there is no going back to the old normal!
From this perspective, COVID19 is ‘just’ a carrier, an accelerator for people to realize that change is necessary for humanity in many ways. The environment is knocking at our doors for our disastrous performance in the past decades, the high-tech evolution is facing us with immense challenges of respectful and responsible global collaboration, and current economic and social models are leaving us with shameful disparities in classes, races and wealth – instead of basic, respectful, safe and decent lives.
There are reasons why so much protesting and social unrest is happening around the world these years. The Corona can be seen as a wake-up call, a message about the urgent need for fundamental and worldwide transformation in the ways we think and live.
But why is COVID19 not interpreted as a message in that way?
I think a main reason is that we are too occupied and egoistically prioritize our own compartments in the train, not being able (or ignoring) to feel the train moving and not being able to sense the hints for change coming from the coronavirus dancing throughout the train or, with less nuance, we are in denial of the enormous risks and dangers coming from the blasting loudspeakers spitting pompous, aggressive messages and actions by the hour.
Let us be clear here, there is no going back to normal, the train of transformation is moving. Churchill said it is perhaps the end of the beginning but honestly this first end of a beginning of this new era is hardly to be seen yet, anywhere.
As Geert Mak hinted “some politicians are too small” meaning – in my perspective – too small to see, sense, adapt and sacrifice for a bigger future.
But the train is increasing its speed…
Wrapping up and speaking out…
In this (still) connected world, there is no hiding anymore for anyone of us, the train is moving and we are all on board that train. We can hide behind the curtains, shut the doors or close our ears and eyes but we cannot stop the train and get off. So we are all on the journey towards the future, a new chapter in the global history book. Humanity is living in this transformative time with inevitable and immense challenges and changes awaiting us – and already happening.
But we have choices to make, sooner better than later…
Choice 1 that most of us are passive and prefer to shy away from change and thinking about the future while teaming up with traditional, like-minded people and countries that are closing doors and building walls to ‘those other-minded’.
A rather ‘safe and secure’ choice it seems, keeping the present modes of operations alive in all spheres of society while bracing for change.
Choice 2 – in which we feel the moving train and realize that we all are in a transformative time with huge opportunities and huge risks as well. And the only way forward is a global collaboration with ‘all different-minded’ hand in hand with respect, responsibility, diversity and duties for everyone to come to the right common grounds and build a new chapter in humanity’s history.
A rather ‘complex, demanding, unprecedented’ choice with uncertainties, changes and adaptations.
The first choice seems to be a kind of denial – or, at least, resistance to change – well entrenched in today’s global geopolitical developments while the second choice appears further away than ever. Along with choice 1, experts are fearing a state of ‘Cold War’, most of them talking about an unprecedented economic disaster.
A Cold War would be a shameful new chapter in history for humanity in relation to the environment and it would solidify the disparities in races, classes, wealth, safety and respect.
It would steal the attention and resources desperately needed for radical change worldwide.
On the other hand, as said earlier in this article, a ‘Cold War’ might be one of the least drastic solutions for the survival of humanity, as long as the ‘Cold War’ is stable and two blocs are living rather peacefully next to each other. If so, it would not be the worst solution.
But here we are forgetting a crucial flaw in Choice 1: The train towards a new chapter in history is already moving in full-speed and humanity as a whole is currently not in control of the speed, neither of the direction!
Everybody is still busy in their own wagons – with doing ‘only’ rhetorics, decoupling and diplomatic actions that are self-serving, national(istic) and often confrontational. But if only one important actor decided to rise up and take responsibility because the speed and direction are too uncontrollable and dangerous for their compartment, it might have an irreversible positive consequence for the whole world.
Many seem to conveniently overlook that fact that in this era of huge global challenges and needs for transformation, the rhetorics and short-sighted actions come out louder and louder from where the systems are beginning to crumble and turning obsolete and where social unrest due to economic, social, racist and welfare disparities come to the surface and explode.
Unlike the past, we cannot decouple our wagons or destroy another wagon without destroying the whole train – humanity. That’s what globalisation with its human, digital, economic, cultural and technical interdependencies fundamentally means. Self-isolation or bullying is no longer an option for anyone.
That is the “little” flaw in Choice 1!
It is not only about a real war between countries which would abruptly affect or possibly completely end humanity’s existence – omnicide. It’s also about the impossibility of whole national and geopolitical regions shutting down or isolating themselves from the rest of us. Everything is related to everything else, de-coupling is an impossibility. “Co-existence or no-existence” – as Danish philosopher Piet Hein said.
Many people might still believe that the possibility of a new world war is exaggerated and even impossible but please remember again the words above by Graham Allison. Or, otherwise, remember on which inconceivable ruins and soils filled with human flesh, bones and bloodthe last major ‘Cold War’ was built.
Which ‘Cold War’ has ever been built on peace?
No, would it not be better to start struggling and acting for Choice 2 and do so now? It is our utmost responsibility and duty today for our next generations and the next chapter in history to initiate global collaboration in diversity with mutual duties and respect.
It will require unprecedented changes, disruptions, learnings and adaptations in the lives of all of us but it is the only way forward towards the new era finding common grounds for developing new sustainable, economic, financial and social models in harmony – with ourselves and with Nature – to eliminate the environmental disaster and basic human disparities and create a stable, sustainable and safe future environment for humanity.
That’s what I call Rebooting Humanity…
We must urgently start acting today as it is a very long, complex, demanding and unprecedented journey and the train keeps riding. Shouldn’t it be possible for us human beings to come together in the interest of everyone of us?
As Geert Mak said “Everybody wants to be part of something grand every now and then (and they should be)”.
Which inspirational and responsible leader(s) would stand up and grasp the present – Corona-related – grand opportunity, gather the current leaders around the globe in a room and not come out the room before there is a blueprint for a responsible journey – knowing where our train is heading and controlling the speed.
And not only leaders, of course: People worldwide sharing the idea of Rebooting Humanity and making – for the first time – humanity the measure of everything – not the individual and not the state but humanity.
If not now, when?
杜墨 Gordon Dumoulin
Written on July 26, 2020 in Beijing, China