The year 2016 may go down in history as a decisive year in the course of development of human society.
Public anger around the world against political correctness and hypocrisy, globalization, acceptance of refugees and free trade, the main themes that had dominated world politics for the past 20 years, finally reached the tipping point.
As the common people in the developed world expressed their anger over the political establishment with their votes, 2016 also witnessed the rapid rise of right-wing populism and the decline of mainstream political meritocracy.
Here are the top international news marking those trends:
1. The election of Donald Trump as US president
Trump’s victory marks the beginning of an era in which political debates are now mainly framed by appeals to the emotion rather than rationality of voters, and by the repeated assertion of juicy slogans to which factual rebuttals are often ignored by the public.
Trump’s campaign in fact toppled all the guiding rules in US politics, and his populist approach will have far-reaching implications for western politics in the days ahead.
2. Britain’s decision to leave the EU
The result of the Brexit referendum not only posed enormous uncertainty to the future of the EU but also served as a wake-up call to mainstream western leaders who had embraced the ideals of globalization as a sacred cow.
The decision of the British people to leave the EU indicated that the idea of super-state unity is quickly falling out of favour with the average people, who often benefit the least from globalization.
3. The Syrian refugee crisis and the rise of extreme rightists in Europe
The influx of Middle East refugees into Europe this year has given rise to xenophobia and far-right extremism across Europe. And the problem is compounded by Islamic terrorist attacks against France, Germany and Belgium, thereby further fueling right-wing extremist sentiment on the continent.
4.The abortive coup against Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the rise of strongman politics
The unsuccessful coup attempt against President Erdoğan and his ensuing purges of the army and the government signalled a revival of strongman politics in Turkey, a country that has long been marginalized by the EU on one hand and has to fight Islamic fundamentalism on the other.
In fact,Turkey is not alone in witnessing the resurrection of strongman dictatorship. From Egypt to Eastern Europe and the Philippines, the average people are all looking to political strongmen to fix their social and economic problems.
5. Russia taking the lead in the war on IS and expanding its sphere of influence
This year saw a massive comeback by Russia on the international scene. On one hand the country is leading the war against the Islamic State, forcing it into full retreat. On the other, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has succeeded in defeating the US-backed insurgents in his country with the help of Russia. Moscow has replaced Washington as the major player in the Syrian civil war.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 29
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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