On a dirt road near the small town of Schleusingen in eastern Germany, journalist Nadav Eyal and a producer were driving behind a black sedan. The Jewish-Israeli journalist was led by two young neo-Nazis. One was convicted of engaging in unlawful incitement and is now running for city council. The destination of the trip was the family courtyard where he held the campaign preparation meeting.
In the small courtyard, a large bucket of marinated pork was put on the grill one after another, and the aroma was overflowing. Young people, mostly dressed in black, stood leisurely around the grill. Some T-shirts were emblazoned with the logo of a far-right heavy metal rock band, while others wore silver pendants in the shape of a five-pointed star. Eyal’s visit changes the atmosphere. Under the scrutiny of everyone, he carefully walked through the courtyard, chatting with people, as if he was “swimming with sharks”, but “lost the protection of the metal cage”.
Today is May 8, 2014, the 69th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s surrender to the Allies. For these young people in the courtyard, however, Germany’s surrender had a different meaning.
Eyal is an international political journalist. In his 20 years of practice, he has had numerous conversations with nationalists, far-right theorists, and fundamentalists. In the latter’s opinion, an interview with a Jewish-Israeli journalist is conducive to expanding circles and gaining legitimacy. Eyal’s purpose is also very simple, “If a neo-Nazi creates a kind image to the outside world, and claims that he just wants to do immigration control. I hope to reveal his true intentions.”
Many times, the interview will be due to the gradually tense atmosphere. And interrupted, even unhappy. However, confronting these extremist leaders and their followers has allowed Eyal to understand the deep ground in which these radical rhetoric resurfaces—the loss of meaning and alienation caused by global integration.
The year following that interview in the small town, Germany opened its borders to refugees. More than one million refugees arrived in Germany that year, mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Although then Chancellor Angela Merkel claimed that the country could deal with the refugee influx without raising taxes and affecting the budget, a series of social knock-on effects brought about by the refugee policy caused more and more citizens to turn to “compassion fatigue” . Nationalist parties have defined immigration as an “imminent threat”, and social divisions and conflict have earned them more attention and votes.
To a certain extent, immigration has partially alleviated the pressure on labor supply brought about by the aging of German society, but it has also profoundly tested the society’s ability to manage the integration of diverse groups. In Eyal’s view, the question is not whether advanced economies benefit from immigration, but rather that the beneficiaries of immigration policies are often the immigrants themselves and the wealthy; the nature of the conflict is not the impact of immigration on wages and economic growth. impact, but rather a sweeping change in identity, which profoundly affects culture, as well as perceptions of control over personal and public life.
The issue of immigration is just the tip of the iceberg of a larger picture of the anti-globalization movement. As early as the 18th century, the French Enlightenment thinker Voltaire pointed out the threat of globalization to identity, especially to those local groups who have not enjoyed the fruits of globalization. A further problem is that when such emotions are fermented within social groups, the establishment and the elites in power fail to respond to their needs and fears in a timely and effective manner.
Eyal, referring to Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, summed up his biggest mistake at the beginning of his term — “forgetting to tell the American public a story that conveys unity, purpose and optimism, especially in this Difficult times.” In Eyal’s view, the failure was not because the story was not told well, but because of the story itself. Repeating those positive but empty political creeds or inspirational aphorisms over and over will only be reduced to “background noise” in the face of the fear of falling into poverty.
At this point, if a politician or organization emerges to affirm or even sell these unease in a crude way, the destruction itself is demagogic enough that people don’t care if the other party has the ability or motivation to address the source of their suffering. When dissatisfaction becomes an exploitable bait, the consequence, as scholar Francis Fukuyama has argued, is that narrower forms of identity based on country, ethnicity, religion, faction, race or gender increasingly prevail.
In the era of social networking, information dissemination is more fragmented, becoming a breeding ground for rumor makers and emotional manipulators. The public is more willing to follow their feelings and have no patience to join in an objective and rational debate. Eyal believes that the age of technology has given people the ability to “disenchant”, and traditional authoritative sources have repeatedly suffered “trust deficits”. When people discover that “everyone tells a lie”, a vacuum is created that can be exploited, rationality is filled with emotion, and more and more people stop caring about the facts and only “believe what they want to believe.” The information cocoon built by platform algorithms and other tools further isolates them from different opinions, and has no motivation to check the “facts” they believe in.
Therefore, behind the sigh about “is globalization dead”, Eyal believes that this disengagement is not a momentary outbreak of hatred and ignorance, nor is it a fleeting cloud, just labeling it a “populist wave” or “righteousness” “Threats to Democracy” are both oversimplified and unhelpful.
In the new book “Countercurrent Times”, Eyal’s reports have covered many countries in Europe, Asia, America and Africa, depicting an anti-globalization scene across the world from a first perspective, not only trying to dissect the trend of this wave Frames and outlines also depict the vivid individuals behind this wave.
The book was written at the end of 2020. Affected by the new crown epidemic, Eyal’s chances of business trips have been significantly reduced. The epidemic has become his main reporting topic, and it has also given him a new perspective on globalization.
In April 2020, the World Trade Organization (WTO) had predicted that global merchandise trade volume would shrink by 12.9% to 32% in 2020 due to the impact of the epidemic. Although the world trading system is more resilient than expected, and this figure was finally fixed at 5.3%, the gap between the rich and the poor, political uncertainty, rising geopolitical tensions during the epidemic, and the fragile and uneven economic recovery have given the Globalization with its ills casts a new shadow. When the crisis is transmitted globally across borders, it further exposes and exacerbates chronic diseases in many countries.
Eyal believes that if globalization is allowed to subside without more aggressive remedial measures, the consequences will be very serious, such as the achievements of global poverty reduction may be erased because of it. When they do, they get frustrated. Frustration breeds anger, anger kills rational words, and sometimes even violence.” This is not a dilemma or issue that is unique to individual countries or regions. In Eyal’s view, the ebb and flow of globalization has shaped the international environment and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
When the old globalization order undergoes drastic changes, how China should respond is also one of the topics that Eyal, who has visited China for many interviews, tries to discuss in his book. The origins of China and globalization can be traced back to the Opium Wars of the 19th century. Since then, China has been shrouded in the dark side of globalization. Today, nearly two centuries later, China has developed into the world’s second largest economy, the largest trader in goods, and the largest foreign investment recipient. It is the largest trading partner of more than 120 countries and regions. As a “firm supporter and defender”, “beneficiary and contributor” of economic globalization, China has become more and more deeply involved in the globalization system, enjoying the dividends brought by the prosperity of the system, and also enduring the The impact of system turbulence.
Recently, Eyal’s “Countercurrent Age” was published in China. “Southern People Weekly” interviewed the Israeli journalist who has been active in reporting on the anti-globalization movement, to discuss the origin and way out of the “countercurrent era” in his eyes, the relationship and responsibilities of major powers in the era of competition and cooperation, and the situation of individuals in the changing situation with selection and so on. As he advocates at the end of the book, keep progress going, not just nostalgic.
“Once a major country falls into the quagmire of confrontation, it will suffer heavy losses”
You mention in your book, “Both China and the United States should remember the profound lessons of the Belle Époque from the late 19th century to 1914: the first leaps of globalization took place, but international institutions and imperial alliances remained stuck in the world of the past. What lessons and lessons can we learn from history?
A more recent lesson comes from the Cold War. The decades-long Cold War was a colossal waste of human life, time and money. The Third World War did not break out, but we are not far from war, sometimes even close at hand.
The world today is more complex than it was in the 20th century. Human beings are facing the dual crisis of global biodiversity loss and climate change, which are related to human survival and development. At the same time, the relationship between major powers has changed from competition to confrontation. History has taught us many lessons, but one should not be forgotten: in modern history, once a major country falls into the quagmire of confrontation, it will suffer heavy losses.
In an era of radical change, how can countries with different political and economic systems alleviate differences and seek cooperation? How can China-US relations develop in a healthy way?
First of all, not everyone can like each other, there is no one model that suits all countries. “Washington Consensus” (Note: Washington Consensus, refers to a set of neoliberal political and economic theories that appeared in the late 1980s and aimed at Latin American countries and Eastern European transition countries. This series of theories “is controlled by the U.S. government and its developed by international economic organizations and implemented by them in various ways”) is the best example.
As Kennedy said, “Peace is a necessary and reasonable goal that rational people should pursue (Note: from Kennedy’s speech in 1963, the year after the Cuban Missile Crisis ended).” China and the United States have differences on many issues. Both countries should work together to find ways to resolve these differences without resorting to violence or threats of violence. Both sides should recognize that sometimes when differences are difficult to resolve, it is better to maintain the status quo than to intensify the conflict.
I am neither Chinese nor American, and I hope that the two sides can have a peaceful and responsible dialogue, always bearing in mind the greatest lesson that our shared history has taught us: that countries and their citizens are capable of destroying civilization and ensnaring themselves in great turmoil. mass killings. If we are not careful, we may be dragged into the abyss of war again. Faced with many differences, China and the United States can conduct serious dialogues and discuss them one by one. Of course, it will be a long road, and it will continue for a long time.
Globalization is present in every aspect of our lives, and at the same time, geopolitical influences are becoming more frequent. We might as well consider these questions: What has historically made people’s lives better? What kind of world do we want our children to live in? Is it a world of constant friction between great powers, or a world where the flow of goods, capital and ideas is relatively smooth? I guess the answer is obvious.
“Many people put populism on ultra-nationalism”
You mention in your book that after World War II, the fears of the war and public opinion among world leaders inhibited their actions. But now, people’s memory of war is gradually blurred, and the understanding of war will be influenced to some extent by confrontation environment and propaganda narrative, which may evolve a dangerous mood.
If policymakers govern the country in a purely nationalistic way, it is almost certain to end catastrophically. We should recognize the reasons why people “wave the flag,” such as why they oppose immigration. Globalization is not a simple transplant of Western values. At the same time, we must reject ultra-nationalism, racism, fundamentalism, etc.
In recent years, a concept that has appeared as frequently as “nationalism” is “populism”. You propose in your book that “populism” has become a blanket term, trying to be all-encompassing, so it’s very hollow. What misunderstandings do you think may exist when talking about “populism”?
The misunderstanding is that many people have put on the guise of “populism” for extreme “nationalism”. Indeed, globally, we are witnessing not a wave of populism but a resurgence of ultranationalism. I don’t see any so-called “populist leaders” really trying to change the social hierarchy of power. It is worth mentioning that while Trump is constantly being labelled a “populist”, he has always called himself a “nationalist”. “Populism” is often used by ultra-nationalists as a prop or special effect to whitewash themselves, when they are really doing something completely different.
Dialectical view of the impact of globalization
In Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, Francis Fukuyama mentions that nationalism is not rooted in economic motives, but in the need for identity, which cannot be simply met by economic means. What do you think?
In general, he is right. Behind the relatively stylized term “identity,” however, people want something more practical: they want to educate their children in their own way, they want jobs, they want the freedom to influence the political process, and they want protected communities.
You know, no one except religious fanatics or radical environmentalists rejects the benefits of globalization, such as smartphones, international flights, and so on. Globalization is like a luxury cruise ship, many people are trapped in the cabin, the lower deck and the engine room, they are not allowed to make a sound, and they must not make a mess so that the cruise can continue to sail. And now those in the dark are rebelling, refusing to lose themselves in the globalized system.
You say “inequality and its exploitation at the global level are key drivers of income and living standards”, does that mean you think the negative effects of globalization can only be mitigated, not eliminated?
In a sense it does, the question is how much we can cut. Look at China, almost everyone has crossed the global poverty line these days. In recent decades, not only China, but many countries and regions have made remarkable achievements in poverty reduction. However, the process of globalization is sometimes accompanied by the destruction of the ecological environment of some countries and regions, and most of the created value flows to non-local communities. This is a dialectical process. Therefore, we need to reform the old globalization system to reduce the negative effects of globalization.
You mention in your book that many anti-globalization proponents rose up because their sense of security, identity, and livelihood were at stake. As victims of globalization, they rarely hold the capital that can be gamed, so where is their way out?
E: Not everyone is willing to accept the negative effects of globalization. Some will fight, even at the cost of their lives. For them, the most immediate and simple way to escape the harm of globalization is to destroy it. To do this, they just have to vote for Trump or Marine Le Pen. What is a good way out? It depends more on the beneficiaries of the current world order. Only if they provide more and wider support will the whole system of globalization not fall apart. To put it more directly: these vested interests should pay more taxes.
But the reality is that in the face of these pre-existing and intensifying phenomena, the reaction of the elite is often somewhat arrogant and ruthless, which seems to them to be a “moral choice”. Can this cognitive gap be reversed?
A: Of course. In a sense, shifts have already taken place, such as Biden’s recent signing of the largest infrastructure reform bill in the U.S. in more than half a century. This reminds me of the Great Depression, when Roosevelt introduced a series of New Deals that reshaped America. So it will take time and a catastrophe for the elites to wake up. They need to realize that a lot of the problems aren’t caused by the economy, that’s just part of the story. Identity is equally critical. Identity crises are a breeding ground for xenophobia, and the consequences go far beyond that.
On December 18, 2021, large-scale protests broke out in London, England, against the government’s epidemic prevention measures. Figure/Visual China
“Fixing an unfinished house”
There is a view that we will be at the junction of two worlds for a long time, the old world has collapsed, and the new world will be difficult to give birth for a long time. Do you think we will be stuck in limited globalization for a long time?
No. In the post-globalization era, the world is likely to face two ways out: either we give full play to the key role of international organizations, change our attitude towards poor communities, and build a better and more effective global system; or we bid farewell to globalization and turn to a global system. A system dominated by ultra-nationalism or fundamentalism. Of course, even in the latter case, we will still retain some form of international trade, but it will be very limited. In any case, globalization is not going away anytime soon.
What I can see at the moment is that the world is going multipolar, globalization is in trouble, ultra-nationalism is gaining more and more legitimacy in the political realm and influencing economic decision-making, which is not going to lead to good results.
What principles should the new globalization system respect?
We need to build solidarity and a sense of responsibility. Only in this way will the system of globalization not collapse. We have to get rid of the notion of “it’s not about me”. At the same time, establish a set of globally applicable and binding rules.
Subject: Are you optimistic about this?
E: Besides optimism, do I have any other options? If we don’t fix this unfinished house (the global system), someone in the house will destroy it.
In a globalized world, caring for each other is self-serving
You show great empathy in your book. Is this empathy given to you as a journalist?
it’s being Jewish that makes me empathetic. I will always remember my grandfather’s story. When the Nazis came to power in Germany, he worked as a laborer in Palestine under British escrow. Because of the policy of restricting Jewish immigration, he only stayed by illegally overstaying his passport, and looked for opportunities to apply for visas for his wife and children to help them escape from Nazi-occupied Poland. He went to the consulates of various countries, begging for help. Even if a brave or empathetic person stood up, he could save lives, but grandfather got nothing. His wife and children were killed in death camps in Poland. His experience taught me to never ignore the suffering of others.
What strengths and limitations does being Jewish give you in observing the anti-globalization movement?
It has been 2,000 years since the Jewish nation started the road of exile. Jews spread across many countries and regions in the West and Asia, forming a supranational community based on religion and cultural heritage. With the abolition of anti-Semitic policies, Jews have contributed enormously to scientific, political, and cultural causes worldwide. We are both a Jewish community and a global citizen. The Jewish ethnic population is small, and we have always been a marginalized group in a sense. So, when people in America talk to me about their fears of Americanization or losing their identity, I totally understand.
At a time when the global village is becoming more and more divided, what elements do you think should be included in the values of the “global community”?
We need reason, concern for the truth, an open mind and a belief in global solidarity. Our commitment to global solidarity is not purely out of compassion, but out of self-interest. In a globalized world, selfishness means caring for each other. Like this global pandemic: no one is safe until everyone is safe. If you just look out for yourself and ignore the inequitable distribution of vaccines around the world, you will soon find that mutant strains from Africa have made their way to your backyard.
When exploring the new operation mode of globalization, how should we as individuals balance and find ways of identifying ourselves, such as racial identity, ethnic identity, national identity and world identity?
As we are exposed to more ideas, expressions, facts, ways of living, etc., the layers of our identities become richer, and identities naturally become more complex. It is a false dichotomy to think that cosmopolitan citizenship and patriot status cannot be both. It’s like raising a child. Instead of dividing the limited love and giving it to the second and third children, your love grows with it.
Your book is published in multiple languages, including English, German, and Italian, as well as Brazilian, Spanish, and more. When interviewed from different countries for the publication of your new book, do you think there are some common anxieties or questions?
Oh, absolutely. This is a powerful testament to the challenges and destiny we all face.
You have been to China many times. What is your biggest curiosity about China’s current and future development?
I am very curious about how China will continue to develop and maintain rapid growth, and how domestic reforms will be advanced. I am also very concerned about China’s strategies and measures to deal with the global warming crisis in the next ten years.
When we interviewed Ray Dalio (American investor and founder of Bridgewater Fund) last year, he described 2020 as “the first year of a long-term stress test.” What do you think of the 2020s that have kicked off? What is your biggest curiosity and concern for the next ten years?
The 2020s will be a time of rebellion. In many parts of the world, established power structures are seen by some as empty, corrupt or incapable of meeting current challenges. But the problem is that at present, they are only changing for the sake of change, and they don’t know what new one will replace after overthrowing the old one. Therefore, we need to provide a better alternative to direct this disaffected and change-seeking group sentiment towards building a new, more stable and just international order. Otherwise, our children will pay for it.