Some of the events that have unfolded over the last 12 months have been unsettling in ways one might have hoped were confined to the days of the Cold War. The imperialistic view of Chinese Premier Xi Jinping and his bid to roll back the constitutional checks on his reign are part of China’s ambitions to rule the far east once more. The growing power of the Russian military even as Russia slowly slides backwards into days of authoritarianism, its media as repressed as ever and its complicity in the overseas murders of dissidents has echoes of the U.S.S.R. And then there is the flagrant contempt evoked by the President of the United States in his dealings with other western nations, historically America’s allies and friends.
Against this New Zealand can only be honest about its intentions, which are – or should be – to uphold the rule of law; continue taking asylum seekers and refugees at a sustainable rate and be the face of compassion that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern talks about.
Maintaining the rule of international law has never been more important. Never has it faced threats from so many different sides including from nations who normally promote it. Corporate interests combined with politicians desperate to survive impending elections in countries like Australia and Israel where right wing Governments look more likely than ever to be swept from office have produced a dystopian tableau of murk out of which no one quite seems to know what or who will come next.
Only Russia, America and China can slow down what some days looks like a gradual march towards another global conflict. They have the power, the influence, the resources to afford to give up some of their ambitions in order to preserve peace. But do they have the will?
Against this chaotic backdrop there is another potential drama looming. For years economists have been warning of a looming stock market crash, and one that might wipe over 50% off the face value of markets across the world. Some say it might be as bad as the Great Depression which started in 1929 and whose consequences fuelled the rise of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan.
There is no suggestion that such horrible events are about to happen again, but the swing to the right or in the direction of autoritarian/autocratic regimes in progress at the moment does have unnerving historical precedents. Whilst Israel and Australia’s governments are teetering, Brazil has elected a far right President named Jair Bolsonaro. Countries such as Hungary are experiencing a surge in their right wing.
What can New Zealand do in all of this? Not much other than be the voice of reason when it abandons other nations. Maintain our high standards of health care, social welfare and education. Keep our waterways as clean as we can. Whilst accepting refugees and asylum seekers as we have in the past, do due diligence on all arrivals to make sure that they are going to be compatible.
1929 gave the world the stock market crash that started the Great Depression. 1939 gave the world the start of World War 2. 1949 saw the Communists take power on mainland China. 1979 saw the fall of the Shah in Iran. 1989 saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, but also the Tiananmen Square massacre. Nearly a decade after President Barak Obama took office, what will the world – and New Zealand see in 2019.