The ‘West’ is like an old man: rich, comfortable and asleep

I have heard this observation a few times in China over the years, but it is well expressed by a student who is studying in the UK: ‘The UK is nice but it like an “old man” – rich and comfortable but with no potential. China is like a “young man” who is not perfect, but still has big room for improvement and is full of energy and desire’.

We could replace ‘UK’ with a number of Western countries or indeed the ‘West’ as a whole, which holds only 14 percent of the global population.

Indeed, I have been struck by the way so many places in Western Europe, North America (which I no longer visit) and Australia have really gone to sleep. They have become old and tired, liking a nap whenever possible, not interested in innovating. They have closed their minds to the rest of the world and many within are often stuningly ignorant about the world. At the same time, the bones are not what they used to be, creaking and groaning, and diseases of old age are more and more apparent.

A good example is the tradition of Western liberal (bourgeois) democracy, which arose slowly in Europe after the French Revolution of 1789. It was specific to Western Europe and those outposts – the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand – that exported this model. Beyond these contexts, it has certainly not done so well. Above all, it was a tool of governance developed in an earlier time for earlier situations. Now it is increasingly evident that it a rather crude and out-of-date method, needing to be replaced.

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