The Right Turn

Basharat Peer interview with Pankaj Mishra on China and India is worth reading, and not that long, but I was particularly struck by this bit towards the end:

“India used to be the democratic exception and most other countries were authoritarian or dictatorships. Mr. Modi with his corporate chums is the greatest Indian exponent of capitalism with East Asian characteristics. I think one has to think of Mr. Modi along with Suharto, Lee Kwan Yew, and the CCP provincial bosses who then make it big in Beijing. These are all control freaks supported by the corporate and technocratic classes who prefer top-down solutions and rapid decision-making, and have contempt for anything that doesn’t directly advance their interests. So the rise of the middle class in Asia has assisted the growth of authoritarian populism rather than democracy.

The Chinese cannot but be wary of Mr. Modi and his over-the-top bonding with Shinzo Abe, the most aggressively nationalist leader Japan has known in years.”

That reminded me of a discussion on twitter in which I posited that East Asia as a whole was taking a fairly clear turn to the right, politically: more centralized authority, more nationalistic, more controls on journalism and limitations on freedom of speech, more militaristic, and more accepting of a neo-liberal economic model which includes defunding education and social welfare systems. At the time I didn’t include India in that discussion, but clearly that’s an error: Modi is making very similar moves to Abe, Park, and Xi, and is supported by a political and social movement that’s pretty easy to compare, I think, to the others.

I argued 11 years ago that Reagan, Thatcher, Gorbachev, Deng, Nakasone, et al, represented a generational shift towards nationalism and globalization in the 1980s; three decades later, after unprecedented technological and social changes, I think we may be seeing another generational convergence of neoliberal nationalist leaders, “authoritarian populists” as Mishra called them, on the world stage pushing us further down that path.


  1. Taiwan seems to be an exception to this trend. While still overall a corporatist state with centralized governance, political power is becoming more diffuse and vaguely left-wing ideas are gaining acceptance (relatively speaking- it’s still a long way from actually becoming a labor-friendly, environmentally aware society).

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