Politics’ old rules are being shattered all across the world.
In the United States, Donald Trump is staging a political comeback with an even greater contempt for democracy, responsibility, and decorum than he demonstrated during his first term. The former president capitalises on followers’ contempt for “elites” in business, politics, and the media, who they believe sustain a system structured specifically to repress them.
By advancing into Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected international law and the concept of national sovereignty. And China is successfully challenging the Western-created global system that has prevailed since World War II, putting to the test its ability to defend international property rights and ruthless business practises while offering developing nations in the “Global South” an alternative political and economic model of authoritarian capitalism.
Smaller revolts have occurred all across the world in the recent decade. Britain’s exit from the European Union was fueled in part by voters who believed they were “regaining control” from faraway institutions in Brussels. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s strong performance in the recent presidential elections may be a portent of a future reckoning for France’s political consensus.
As the US-engineered ancien régime crumbles, President Joe Biden’s presidency has been rooted in an effort to repair structures that underpin US power: he’s attempting to save democracy at home from Trump’s onslaught and to strengthen alliances fractured by the previous administration, including reinvigorating NATO to help Ukraine survive.
Biden was born in 1942, at a time when the United States and its allies were contemplating the shape of a post-World War II system that has mostly prevailed since. Now, his presidency may be his generation’s last chance to leave a mark on a disintegrating system and the Earth they leave behind.
The G7 summit of industrialised nations in Japan this week will focus on the Ukraine conflict, China’s threat, climate change, and international commerce. However, the overarching subject of the talks will be an effort to strengthen international laws and practises. By holding the talks in Hiroshima, the city destroyed by an American atomic bomb in 1945, Japan is attempting to highlight one endangered international consensus: the need to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
The G7 is made up of the world’s most sophisticated industrialised democracies, including the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, and Italy. Tokyo has also invited Australia, South Korea, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam, all of which are emerging economic powers and significant Asian regional players. The goal is clear: to expand and enforce the G7’s rules-based international order, as well as to counter China’s efforts to wield its huge economic and political weight to transform the way the world does business and politics. There has also been speculation recently that South Korea and maybe India may one day be granted full membership.
A new Great Game is in the works, and it has the potential to shape the world’s rules for decades to come. And many Western countries’ battles to restrain populist, anti-democratic movements at home will only complicate their efforts to maintain power overseas.
Big summits like the G7 may appear dull, but they may be just as important as the wartime gatherings of US, British, and Soviet leaders who drafted the international norms that would govern the world for the next 80 years.