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Peace of Westphalia in the news, April 2022

I’m not sure what I expected from these alerts, but they turn out to be more depressing than anything. Most of the references are in obscure online journals and have nothing interesting to contribute, even by way of reference. Here are some from the first part of April:

  • The first one is not so bad: a letter from the Financial Times that corrects an article putting the Congress of Vienna as the origin of “international co-operation to banish war.” I definitely think it is appropriate to reference the Peace of Westphalia when speaking of international co-operation, although I doubt banishing war was one of their goals in the 1640’s.
  • Next up, an article in a jounral called Mint titled “Systems of global governance should move beyond realpolitik.” Like the previous reference, this one traces “International diplomacy as practised today […] back to the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 and the post-Napoleonic Concert of Europe.” He argues that this system has not kept up with the rise of nationalism, but his solution is an international government. My favourite thing about this article is the sentence, “Carl Von Clausewitz famously described diplomacy as the continuation of war by other means,” which is exactly backwards but could be funny in the right context.
  • Next is yet another conference by the LaRouche organization known as the Schiller Institute. I’m not going to give it any more credibility by linking to it. Most of the participants are obscure, but they somehow managed to convince the current Russian ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, to give a talk.
  • Finally, we have an article in the China Daily, which officially bills itself as ChinaDaily.com.cn and uses that domain name. Presumably this is a government mouthpiece, which argues here that the U.S. needs to be more like China, quoting British journalist Martin Jacques: “The US is wedded to singularity and the exclusion of those countries it perceives to be different and therefore unacceptable, he said. China, in comparison, is pluralist in its mentality.” I know virtually nothing about Martin Jacques, who seems to pass as an expert on China, but I feel confident that this is as close to the reverse of the truth as one can come.
    He cites Westphalia as the origin of the West’s division of space into nation-states, and contrasts it with China’s pluralist view: “China’s starting point is tianxia, (or) all under heaven, a world that is open to all and not defined by boundaries or discrimination.” I am not an expert on China, but I had two graduate courses in Chinese history, so I know that China believes in a world “not defined by boundaries” because they believe everything to fall under the lordship of China. They have historically refused to recognize the sovereignty of other states, and only dealt with them under the pretense that they are tributaries of the Chinese emperor. Obviously this didn’t work out too well in the 19th century when China found it was no longer the dominant power in East Asia. I like to try to understand opposing viewpoints, but I can’t come up with any reasonable way that one could describe this extreme ethnocentric view of the world as “pluralist.”

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