Timothy Garton Ash sees Donald Trump’s arrival in the White House in the wider context of “a new era of nationalism”. Certainly, with the ascendency of the “never forget national humiliation” narrative in China, the Brexit and the growth of the far right in Europe, and Narenda Modri and Vladamir Putin in India and Russia respectively, along with the likes of Erdogan elsewhere, there would appear to be enough evidence to support this.
Moreover, with the spectre of jingoism once again raising its ugly head, it is as difficult not to see a new type of bellicosity on the horizon, as it is to disagree with Mr Ash’s contention that “by their very nature, nationalisms are likely to clash sooner or later”. Furthermore, even if his thesis that we are about to “enter an age of global confrontation” might make us suspect that he has forgotten that the United States has been overthrowing governments and starting wars for decades, his real point is that we are heading for a conflict which could culminate in Armageddon.
Rex Tillerson’s advocacy of a more aggressive strategy towards China in the contested waters of the South China Sea along with Trump saying that the “one China” policy was up for negotiation is dangerous rhetoric and the only influence it will have, if it is followed up on, is to drive China and America into an era of brinkmanship that could very well lead to war. This is precisely Mr Ash’s point; this might be a conflict that would lead to a nuclear war.
Timothy Garton Ash does offer us some solace when he says: “No, I’m not predicting the third world war. But a 21st-century variant of the Cuban missile crisis? Entirely possible.” However, with Trump, the man who has just begun his presidency with rolling back Obamacare and a new missile defence plan, the portends are there and all the more so when it is realised that he is seeking confrontation with a Chinese government that has been drilling its citizens with a “never forget national humiliation and China must be strong”narrative and a Chinese Communist Party which might very well be prepared to go to the brink to protect not only what it views as China’s interests, but also its own legitimacy. The world might just be becoming a very dangerous place.