Since the internet bubble burst in 2000 and brought the world’s stock markets to collapse neither Europe nor the U.S. could really stabilize their economic situation. The stock market rebounded shortly only to crash unnoticed again soon after. The most recent major event was the subprime mortgage crisis. As a result of this, virtually all national banks of the western countries tried to rescue private banks and other financial institutions. This led to national bankruptcy in Iceland and almost bankruptcies in other states as Greece and Ireland.
Without further deepening this line of argumentation we get a picture of the economic uncertainty in the U.S. and in Europe which is deeply felt in society. In many places people are insecure and afraid of the future. This feeling is reinforced by the apparent resistance of China towards to the crisis. It even seems that the Chinese economy can profit from the crisis because it sells more goods to the increasingly thrifty western countries.
China grows and Europe shrinks
The events after the end of World War II were a sign that the supremacy of Europe was broken. The British and the French empires dissolved and both France and Britain ended up slowly but surely in a kind of political irrelevance. Thanks to the U.S. and the USSR, power has shifted initially only within the western powers. Asia, Africa and Latin America had little to nothing to say on the global political stage.
While the USSR slowly dissolved since the 1980s, Europe tried to regain economic and political influence through the formation of the EU. But Europe has no real influence, except by individual exponents such as France or England. The only remaining power factor is a military, namely NATO. But this organization seems to be to often a toothless tiger. As an example NATO could not prevent the insane massacre of Srebrenica on european territory. Economically the West has huge troubles like unemployment which is increasing in many countries rather than decreasing. The fear of the rising power China seems justified.
The Europeans are afraid of the Chinese competition
One can often hear of specter China and not of Nostradamus’ “prediction” of the yellow peril. This is more of a phantom than reality. The real fear of Europe lies in competing with the rest of the world, especially with China. Perhaps there is even more to it, namely the confrontation with the self-image. An image where Europe is the center of the world, coupled with the notion that while all people are equal, the Europeans are still somehow better than the Asians, Africans or Latin Americans. This self-image is held against the mirror in the form of the successful China.
Isolationism instead of opening
This confrontation together with the economic problems leads to an increasingly isolationist policy in Europe. Instead of an open mind, you cling to what little you have. The latest developments in North Africa show this symbolically. Why should Europe distance itself from the dictators? They are a guaranty for stability and status quo. Whether this is inhuman, does not matter, the main thing is that Europe must not move. Only at the last moment and only at the insistence of France, the West made a move and taken action against Gaddafi. In Syria, Algeria, Yemen, Morocco, the European policy acts in silence. Then there is the unspeakable refugee policy. A European Union with 500 million inhabitants, has no place for a few tens of thousands of refugees from North Africa. Instead of maximum solidarity for the liberating countries Europe turns the cold shoulder unmistakably to the people of Northern Africa.
In economics it is often about opportunities, opportunities that need to be taken. Europe is so concerned with itself and its fears that it will not recognize the opportunities, even if they are evident. It would not surprise me if the Chinese are now on the side of the new rulers of North Africa and have their contracts signed and sealed!