Extracts - Treasure Island

, par Alain Brossat, Juan Alberto Ruiz Casado

Table of contents

PART I – The Language of Hegemony

To resist within language. Alain Brossat

To eradicate the Culture of the Enemy. Alain Brossat

PART II – A War of Words : The Construction of the Anti-China Narrative

The Schmittian turn of Global Democracy. Alain Brossat

A pandemic of Sinophobia. Juan Alberto Ruiz Casado

What is happening in Xinjiang ? An epistemological challenge. Alain Brossat and Juan Alberto Ruiz Casado

“Large Space” and the New Cold War. Alain Brossat

PART III – The Effects of the New Cold War in the Taiwan Strait

The thorny issue of Taiwanese sovereignty. Alain Brossat

Taiwan as a field of disinformation. Juan Alberto Ruiz Casado

The little soldiers of the new Cold War in East Asia. Alain Brossat

Taiwan in a comparative perspective : is it Gibraltar, Switzerland, or Ukraine ? Juan Alberto Ruiz Casado

Quarantine as soft prisoning (room 703). Alain Brossat

How war fall on us. Alain Brossat and Juan Alberto Ruiz Casado

[Book available HERE or on demand at this adress : juanalbertocasado[@]gmail.com]


The Schmittian turn of Global Democracy

Alain Brossat

After the decisive victories of Stalingrad on the Russian front, Al Alamein in the desert war, in North Africa, and Guadalcanal and Midway on the Asian front, the Allies had good reasons for banking on a defeat of the Axis and consider a future with victory colours. From the second half of 1943 to the announced collapse of Nazi Germany and then of Japan, there were plenty of meetings and conferences that brought Allied leaders together : the Cairo conference brought together Roosevelt, Churchill and Chiang Kai-shek (November 1943), the Tehran conference brought together Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill (November-December 1943), the Moscow conference (preceded by three other meetings in the Soviet capital) where Soviet, British, American and Polish delegations (representing the two competing Polish governments, in exile) met in October 1944, the Yalta conference with Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill (February 1945) and finally, after the German surrender, the Potsdam Conference with Churchill and then Attlee, Truman and Stalin (July-August 1945).
During these meetings, the Allied leaders discussed the future of Germany, and more vaguely the conditions that would be imposed on defeated Japan (the Soviets only declared war on Japan after the German surrender). For the most part, the main object of their common concerns was constant : what would the post-war period look like in terms of the respective influences of the two major components of the Allied coalition, the United States and Great Britain on the one hand, the Soviet Union on the other – each of the two parties embodying a political system principally incompatible with the other – and nevertheless condemned to active collaboration during the years of the war.
In practice, whether surreptitiously or explicitly, the motive that haunted these meetings, inseparable from the anticipation of victory over the Axis, was that of zones of influence ; variable geometry, differently assessed according to the temperament and convictions of the protagonists (Churchill, viscerally anti-Communist and anti-Soviet anticipated the Cold War, just like de Gaulle, a secondary protagonist of these debates ; Roosevelt was more confident in the future of a cordial understanding with Stalin’s USSR), sometimes cynically expressed in terms of percentages, with a pencil in hand, sometimes more vaguely when the interests of one side or the other clash too directly.
In any case, concerning both Europe and East Asia (the rest of the world was almost entirely ignored, until the San Francisco conference at which the victors laid the groundwork for the UN), a guideline appeared here, on which all parties clearly agreed : the war efforts made by both sides within the framework of the victorious coalition must, in the post-war period, be continued on the ground. The power relations that had been established between allies, and as these allies embodied mainly antagonistic political systems, must find their outlet in the form of distributions inscribed in the territories and the life of the peoples. The Allies fought against Nazi Germany as the latter availed itself of the right of conquest, revoked as barbarian. For this reason, the former must invent a codification of the main reason for sharing and distribution that will enable them to avoid appearing purely and simply as conquering victors – hence the success of the keyword of “zones of influence” – Stalin did not annex Poland, Greece would not be explicitly an Anglo-American protectorate, but the key idea is there : Europe was doomed to become the body on which the balance of power between the two allied and antagonistic powers would be inscribed.

The rest is known, even if, on the field, it took quite a different turn from the general figures outlined by the leaders of the coalition during their various meetings. The notion of divide/sharing without conquests or annexations strictly speaking – with the exception of some border rectifications and, on the Asian front, of the annexation by the USSR of part of Sakhalin and the Kurils, without forgetting the de facto restitution of Formosa (Taiwan) to China – was the basic idea which governed the production of the geopolitical configuration of the post-war period in Europe and, more unstably, in East Asia (the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, the first act of the Cold War, shows this sufficiently) : the zones of influence were emerging quickly in Europe, with the formation of the Soviet glacis in Eastern Europe ; the crushing of the popular movement resulting from the resistance animated by the Communists in Greece ; Germany was divided into two zones destined to become two separate state entities, one placed under Western influence and the other Soviet ; Japan became a US protectorate, etc.

The question I would like to focus on here is the following : how do we pass, (in the perspective of the Western powers and first and foremost the United States) from a topos, from a discursive register in which the notion of divide/sharing with an ally (a friend – Stalin “Uncle Joe”, in US propaganda throughout the war) who is also intrinsically an enemy (of yesterday and tomorrow – the embodiment of communist evil, of a totalitarian ideology, to such an extent that even staunch anti-Communists like Churchill or de Gaulle could not question the strategy, even if they did doubt that this division could find stability and be based on a balance) – how do we pass, then, from this system of evidence to the one that has prevailed for several decades now and which relies on such different axioms ?
According to the most recent system, for the Western powers (first and foremost the United States, again) any notion of divide/sharing with a political system declared incompatible with “democracy” and embodied, henceforth, by an ascending power, China, would be heresy and forfeiture. The only conceivable historical horizon, for the immediate present and the distant future, is the democratisation of the world, a political globalization and normalization placed under the exclusive sign of liberal democracy.
The question within the question would be whether or to what extent this contrast is soluble in the historical conditions – can it be reduced purely and simply to the contrast between historical situations that are so different from each other ? War, and especially a conflict like the Second World War, is, was a merciless indicator of power struggles : the Allied landings in Normandy and Sicily and then in Provence were certainly successful, but the Soviet Army was progressing rapidly in eastern Germany when the Americans were still embroiled in the Battle of the Bulge. Of course, Stalin and Churchill put their signatures on a sheet of paper on which was scrawled : “Yugoslavia 50/50”, but on the ground, it is the partisans of Tito and not the Chetniks who really challenged the Wehrmacht… The military balance of power on the ground dictates the fate of the powers engaged in combat, including those on the winning side : it shapes the post-war geopolitical landscape in the most constraining way possible.
This is one of the effects of modern total war, in contrast to the dynastic wars of the Ancien Régime : it is not sovereigns who are fighting over disputed territories, it is worlds which are clashing – when the conflict ends, it is not only a few border lines that have been altered, it is the fate of the peoples that has radically changed. The balance of power established during the war, by force of arms, draws the unsurpassable horizon of the post-war period – the domination that the USSR exercised over Eastern Europe having driven out the Wehrmacht (the meeting between Soviet troops and US troops took place on the Elbe, on German soil) is not open for discussion, diplomacy can only endorse the results obtained on the ground.

But what is immediately noticeable at the same time is this : these elements of reality, at the very moment when they outline the unsurpassable horizon of statesmen and politicians’ actions, are converted into principles, rules of conduct and matrices of thought – into schemes of political rationality, into the basis of political strategies. It is here that the amphibology of the French term partage reveals all its resources : the notion of dividing (Europe and potentially the planet) into “areas of influence” becomes an idea of sharing, that is to say the diagram (the inscription surface) in which the allies of yesterday and the adversaries of tomorrow (from the configuration of the Second World War to that of the Cold War) are both found circumscribed, despite everything that opposes them. What holds attention in this figure is the way in which partage, as in divide (what opposes, separates), is the object of a sharing (what we have in common, in share). In a sense the unique feature of the Cold War was organized around this amphibology – being a war with multiple episodes, some of which are very violent and armed (the Korean War which inaugurated it and the Vietnam War which heralds its fading away, passing through the blockade of Berlin and a number of memorable episodes) and which, however, did not globalize, intensify or generalize nuclear confrontation in the post-Hiroshima-Nagasaki world.
It is therefore blatant that what acts as a moderating principle in the conflicts between the two superpowers that clashed through their respective allies and subordinates, is the regulatory idea of partage – divide and sharing – or, in other words, the idea according to which the zones of influence remained, in the very configuration of the Cold War, an idea of political reason, a regulatory principle – which explains why the Western powers placed under US hegemony abstain from intervening in the major political crises that occurred in Poland and Hungary in 1956, that the rocket crisis in Cuba (1962) was resolved without armed confrontation, and that the Soviets (and even the Chinese) did not intervene directly in the Vietnamese conflict, etc.

Throughout the Cold War, including its moments of greatest tension, the notion of partage (in the sense of what separates, divides) between what is apologetically designated as the “free world” and what is its opposite remains an idea of political reason. The West must, in one way or another, coexist with the great political, ideological, civilizational Other, designated by the master signifier “communism” (“Soviet totalitarianism” in its pejorative name). At the time when the Cold War was ending and the rise of the motif of Peaceful Coexistence, driven in particular by Khrushchev, this notion even found a resurgence of strength, visibility and hold over the minds of those in power as well as those governed. During the Cold War, even the most committed of politicians and intellectuals in the crusade against communism were not animated by the phantasmagoria of a complete democratization of the planet ; their dream was to contain and rollback the reds, of communism, in all its forms and states, which is quite different – the proof being that they were ready to arouse and support bloody tyrannies, military dictatorships, touted as ramparts against the red peril – from Suharto to Pinochet and so many others. In this era, even the most frenzied crusaders of Western democracy remained sensitive to the motive of political otherness, of difference : in order to suppress communism in the world, Western democracies could not do without intermediary “useful” dictatorships and tyrannies.

The establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and China in 1979 clearly showed that soon after the interminable and disastrous Vietnam War, intended to block the expansion of communism in Southeast Asia (at least, this is what the narrators of the “free world” say), the spirit of the camp retained this turn inherited from the Second World War. The perpetual struggle against the other camp, the opposing camp, paradoxically implies its recognition and, what is more, the recognition of its full political otherness : it is indeed with Communist China, the China resulting from the Chinese Revolution, the China of Mao that the ultra-reactionary Nixon has chosen to contract, by inaugurating this new era in which China becomes a full member of the international community. Great Britain and France had long shown the way (1950 and 1964 respectively).
This well-known sequence placed under the sign of Realpolitik, from the Western point of view, shows how foreign, in this historical configuration, the very notion of an infinite democratization of the world remained to the strategists and ideologists of Western democracies : they had to acknowledge that difference and division did exist, they are components of the global political arena, communism as the irreducible great Other of Western democracy (or Western way democracy, as in Japan), or, in the theological-political terms cultivated by the great providentialist narrative of American democracy, a tenacious figure of political evil – the figure of the enemy, by contrast with all those other figures of evil, relative and necessary, that are the tyrannies and military regimes armed and supported by the Western powers, beginning with the United States – friends, political friends, clients, proxies, subalterns…

In other words, in this world of the Cold War and its immediate aftermath, we were in a configuration where mechanisms and processes of recognition remained active, over and over again – infinitely contrasted, tense, exposed – but never denied or disabled in the face of crises and political challenges. The mode of relations between camps and in particular between the two superpowers grappling at the time the (supposed) equilibrium of nuclear forces (known as the balance of terror) is not at all Schmittian – it is a model in which the interactions between the two opposing forces and poles also suppose forms of complementarity, some sort of conflictual complementarity which is reminiscent of the type of relationship that has been established between the capitalist bourgeoisie (the state and the employers) and the workers’ movement, in Western Europe, from the end of the 19th century to 1970-80. [1]
This is the reason why, in this plastic configuration, we can see how figures of extreme violence (the Vietnam War) coexisted with or alternated with figures of detente (peaceful coexistence, the souvenir photos on which Khrushchev and Kennedy display their good understanding). We have here a matrix (political, discursive…) which is not at all Schmittian insofar as it challenges the figure of the enemy doomed to pure and simple destruction, elimination, extermination – this for multiple reasons, this interminable post-war period being, among others and simultaneously, the world after Auschwitz and Hiroshima – a world, therefore, in which the figure of the pure and simple extermination of the enemy continued to arouse a staggering effect. In this contrasting world where the agon is placed under the sign of the most constant of ambiguities, the enemy is fought relentlessly, but “we” also talk with him, “we” deal with him, “we” make compromises and, when tensions reach a dangerous paroxysm, the people in charge activate security mechanisms whose effectiveness has never been denied (see on that the rocket crisis in Cuba – a kind of paradigm). [2]

Taiwan as a field for disinformation

Juan Alberto Ruiz Casado

The “aggressive” Chinese raids over Taiwan
In the past years we have seen countless alarming headlines about the repeated sorties by Chinese military aircrafts allegedly threatening Taiwan. Although such flights did exist, their divergent discursive interpretation merits further examination. Taiwan’s government and Western media in general have been railing against these numerous “aggressive intrusions”. [3] From the other side of the strait, these air operations are not only justified, but their number has been increasing as they gained media exposure. The analysis of these discourses can help us elucidate how to account for these opposing positions around the same objective fact.
To begin with, only a share of journalist pieces or political statements have specified that those flights took place over the Taiwanese “Air Defence Identification Zone” (ADIZ), and it is almost impossible to find publications that have made the effort to explain what this entails. Mistakenly, journalists and politicians sometimes directly mention incursions into “Taiwanese airspace” or flights “over Taiwan”, confusing readers either as a result of ignorance or a concealed interest in disinformation. This is also the result of the hegemonic language that rejoices in the description of an evil China and a threatened democratic Taiwan, a Manichean and simplistic description of a highly complex conflict anchored by antagonistic discourses lacking perspective. As public discourse and democratic debate relies on the political imaginary constructed by such narratives, it is necessary to initiate a deep discursive analysis on the construction of Chinese “aggression” through hegemonic language. The ultimate hope is to help broaden the much-needed perspective when analysing conflicts such as that of Taiwan, around which this discursive struggle is highly pronounced. To be more specific, this article will focus on the discursive strategy of a British mass media that has long blown in favour of the language of hegemony : The Guardian.

Among the dozens of The Guardian news items that mention the “ADIZ”, “Taiwan air defence zone” [4] is mentioned on a good number of occasions, dropping the word “identification” and making it sound more severe as it becomes a purely “defensive” zone. On a couple of occasions there is even talk of “Taiwan scrambles jet fighters after Chinese aircraft enter airspace”, [5] or of “incursions into Taiwanese airspace”. [6] The case of a lengthy opinion piece mentioning the “Taiwanese airspace” and co-authored by The Guardian’s Taipei correspondent, Helen Davidson, who should know better being placed in Taiwan, is particularly infamous. [7] Regardless of our opinion in relation to the attitude of the Chinese military activities, the fact that those claims are misleading or directly false must not be ignored.
But in order to understand that the Chinese military aircrafts entered the ADIZ and not the Taiwanese airspace, it is first necessary to explain what each thing is, since the average reader is not usually familiar with these terms. The overwhelming majority of “incursions” on the Taiwanese ADIZ occur over international waters south of the island, more than 100 kilometres off the coast of Taiwan, so that the Chinese aircrafts have neither entered Taiwanese air space nor flown in its direction. [8] In fact, the coast of Taiwan is closer to the Chinese coast than it is to the area where these “aggressive incursions” in the ADIZ are reported. If one day China was to create its own ADIZ in this portion of the South China Sea, which it could perfectly do, it would surely superimpose itself on parts of the over-dimensioned Taiwanese ADIZ, since parts of it are closer to China’s coast than to Taiwan’s.
Based on international legislation, the notion of sovereign airspace corresponds to the maritime definition of territorial waters, which is 22.2 kilometres away from the coastline. The ADIZ, however, is something very different. To begin with, “ADIZ has not any legal foundation that is explicitly stipulated in International law”. [9] In fact, only about twenty countries in the world have established an ADIZ. China did not have any until 2013, when news broke of its establishment covering a large area of the East China Sea coming into conflict with the ADIZs of neighbouring countries. How is this possible ? Plain and simple, because each country establishes its ADIZ based on its own criteria, without any type of limit or written guide stipulated by international law. And so we have that the ADIZ of Taiwan not only occupies a very wide strip of international maritime space to the south of the island, but it also reaches well inside the territory of mainland China. In other words, the Taiwanese ADIZ overlaps Chinese airspace. Thus, incursions over the Taiwanese ADIZ strictly occur on a daily basis since, paradoxically, there are plenty of Chinese military airports within the Taiwanese ADIZ.
Of course, to avoid this absurdity, the Taiwanese military acts only when Chinese military planes cross the purported “middle line” of the Taiwan Strait separating the island from the mainland. However, this line also lacks international validity : it was created ad hoc by the United States (US) during the Cold War to protect the proto-fascist regime of the Republic of China (ROC) exiled to the island. Furthermore, it cannot be considered as a line separating two countries at war, such as the Demilitarised Zone separating the two Koreas, inasmuch as the ROC is not considered internationally as a different country from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In other words, China does not commit any affront against international law by crossing the “middle line”, or by flying its aircrafts through the Taiwanese ADIZ—which is somewhat different from Taiwan’s national airspace—even if those actions can be subjectively deemed as irresponsible due to the undeniable tensions existing between the ROC and the PRC.

To further clarify, an ADIZ usually has to fulfil three conditions : it only covers undisputed territory (which is not the case of Taiwan’s ADIZ), it does not apply to foreign aircrafts not intending to enter territorial airspace (which is why it should not apply to Chinese military aircrafts flying over international waters and with a direction other than the island of Taiwan), and it does not overlap other ADIZs (which is the case with Taiwan as it overlaps Chinese airspace and any reasonable Chinese ADIZ created in the area). When the PRC established its first ADIZ in the East China Sea, in conflict with those of other countries (South Korea, Japan, ROC), legal experts attacked China by arguing that “the specific identification requirements declared by China go beyond typical ADIZs in that they apply to aircraft flying through the zone but not entering Chinese airspace”. [10] However, the same reasoning process is totally absent on critiques of the Chinese incursions over Taiwan’s ADIZ. In addition, experts indicated an especially significant legal concern : “that if China enforces its ADIZ in ways that prevents other states from freely transiting that airspace, it would violate freedom of overflight rights on the high seas”. [11] Well, this is precisely what Taiwan is doing now, chasing Chinese airplanes for entering an airspace over waters where there should be freedom of overflight and accusing them of carrying “threatening” incursions, when these planes only fly through the area but do not enter or head towards the Taiwanese airspace. What in one case was described as a sign of the Chinese authoritarian threat, in the case of Taiwan it was viewed favourably, depicting China as an aggressor.

The Chinese side sees, thus, the issue from a very different perspective. From this standpoint, the problem with the Taiwanese ADIZ is that it is designed in such a way that it damages the PRC’s freedom to fly through international waters in this area as do, for example, the military planes of the Taiwanese allies. For instance, when US military airplanes fly over the Taiwanese ADIZ, they are neither tracked by surface-to-air missiles nor are Taiwanese jets scrambled to push them out. Therefore, China feels cornered by this discriminatory ADIZ, which would only make sense under a perspective of war : it is a statement that for the Taiwanese authorities the civil war is still ongoing. The use of the ADIZ “should value sovereignty of the other countries in order to maintain international peace and security”, [12] and this does not happen in the case of Taiwan and its over-sized and over-enforced ADIZ. The question that arises then is why Taiwan and its allies make such a fuss. The answer is that it is not merely because of practical military considerations but because of the discursive struggle framed within this New Cold War mentality between China and the US (plus its allies).
On the one hand, the United States, Taiwan and, in general, the entire anti-China coalition that fears the growth of this country, take advantage of these events to insist on the rhetoric of the perfect enemy. China is discursively constructed as the vile communist monster that destroys everything it touches, which plans to subdue its neighbours and rivals for its own benefit, which attacks and threatens without reasonable argument, only for the enjoyment of its evil leadership. Of course this is done in a way that becomes naturalised through gradual repetition and beautiful words. These Chinese incursions are often described as “grey zone tactics” that wear down and intimidate the inferior Taiwanese air forces (a form of “war of attrition”), so that in March 2021 the government of Taiwan decided to suspend the interdiction of each one of these raids and simply monitor them by means of radars and anti-aircraft missiles.
Even more shocking is the fact that in 2017 the ROC’s Ministry of National Defence said that, “as similar incidents had grown too common over the past weeks”, it would “no longer issue reports about aircraft or ships from China’s People Liberation Army moving close to Taiwan”. [13] It made more sense to act without so much trumpet blasting and avoid scaremongering, social polarisation, militaristic escalation, and massive expenditure (through massive weapon purchases). Why did that all change ? The short answer is that the ADIZ issue is now instrumentalized to further demonise China : exaggerating and misrepresenting it is part of the recent discursive strategy that bolsters Taiwan’s DPP position as a pillar of containment against the global enemy. The element of exaggeration and misrepresentation of reality applies to practically every factor of geopolitical contention of which China is a part, and the ADIZ issue is no different. As the Taiwan’s premier gladly put it when referring to these incursions : “It’s evident that the world, the international community, rejects such behaviours by China more and more”. [14]

How wars fall on us
Alain Brossat and Juan Alberto Ruiz Casado

One of the paradoxical effects of propaganda is that instead of keeping us alert, it anaesthetises us. When you have been told for years that the neighbour, the close enemy, threatens to invade you and could well do so the next morning, you end up getting accustomed to this type of message, however alarmist it may be, and you go about your ordinary business rather than arranging the construction of a personal or family fallout shelter... It is also because more is needed than just the mechanical repetition of propaganda messages and a spasmodic agitation against the enemy at our gates to convince us effectively of the actuality of war directly affecting us, that is to say of the possibility of a war which, this time, would no longer take place in newspapers, on television screens, or on social networks, but indeed in our own lives, which would directly affect our living conditions and endanger our own existence.
What, in the first place, characterises us, inhabitants of the Global North, is in fact that we consider our condition immune or rather immunised, that is to say secure and protected against vital dangers (war first and foremost) as something granted, a constituent element of our condition. We know, of course, that we do not live in a world or an age which has left war behind, either by the grace of the uninterrupted moral progress of mankind or by that of the wisdom of our leaders ; but fundamentally, for us, war, the wars that surround us, more or less close or more or less distant, are images, they are information, they are indeed a kind of spectacle, violent and repulsive – but it only affects others.
Therefore, the specificity of our immune condition is to arouse the generalised illusion of an exclusion clause : one that would make our latitudes, in the Global North, by destination and so to speak by right, areas where war is banished. The reverse or complement of this illusion is the radical loss of the imaginative faculties that would allow us to anticipate the possibility that, despite everything, war will one day fall on us.

The foundations of this illusion are both socio-cultural and historical. In the generally democratic societies of the Global North, the pacification of mores is a general process, the effect of which is the lowering of the level of violence in human relationships and interactions, the rise of immune paradigms in all spheres of life – relationships between men and women, adults and children, teachers and students, humans and animals, etc. Lively violence and, in general, everything related to warrior paradigms is now, in these societies, affected by a resolutely negative sign. Not only do we live in peace, but this peace is now intimately linked to the sphere of morals and daily life. It is in this sense that, naturally, terrorism, such as it is likely to burst into our peaceful spaces, inspires us with particular horror.
But it is also because we have now come to the end of a long historical sequence placed under the paradoxical sign of an armed peace, of a cold war overhung by the sword of Damocles of nuclear terror, and which, precisely, by freezing the balance of power and establishing a kind of balance of terror, has not led to a hot war.
As a result, we have almost come to make “nuclear deterrence” our own spontaneous or implicit religion of peace. We have become accustomed to a world where, strangely, the balance of terror “protected” us, has made it possible to overcome several major crises between the opposing power blocs (Korean War, Budapest insurrection, Cuban Missile Crisis, blockade of Berlin, Vietnam War, invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet army...) and where the wars, from then on, were projected and disseminated on all the periphery of the Global North, which has somehow become a sanctuary.
For us Europeans, the first alerts indicating that the feeling of security resulting from this situation of relative equilibrium was in truth illusory occurred even before the fall of the Soviet bloc : from the beginning of the 1980s with the arms race on our soil between the two superpowers of the time, the United States and the USSR, with the dangerous rise in the bidding surrounding the establishment in the two Germany(ies) of the time of the Pershing and SS 20 medium-range rockets, both likely to be equipped with nuclear charges... And then, the quite tangible sign of the change of era in progress, traumatising in many respects for European opinions, was the return of the war on the very soil of old Europe with the break-up of Yugoslavia, in the din of arms, with its procession of massacres, acts of barbarism, scenes of civil war against the backdrop of a Balkan remake of the Second World War world...
The problem is that we have an infinite faculty not to “believe”, that is to say not to draw the intellectual and practical consequences of what, moreover, we know perfectly ; this is true of war as it is of global warming, the mirage of economic growth, etc. In Europe, we had before our eyes, on our doorstep, an entire decade of intra-Yugoslavian wars (1991-2001) and that should have been enough to convince us that war had returned “among us”, that it was more than time to dismiss the illusion that our privileged existences would be placed under a regime of perpetual peace.
But, in practice, everything happened as if a thick, hermetic wall of glass separated us from the Yugoslav war. As long as shells didn’t fall on us, and none of our towns were besieged, as long as our immune way of life wasn’t affected, we were inclined to carry on as before, sticking to our course, going about our business and acting as if peace was contractually guaranteed to us, once and for all.
The war in Ukraine is what brought us out of this interminable torpor, this all too comfortable illusion. If European governments and public opinion have reacted with such vociferous indignation to the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army, it is not in the first place under the effect of moral, humanitarian sentiments, of convictions backed by international law, human rights, the horror that a war of conquest inspires in us, etc. It is in fact that Putin’s unexpected initiative produced the most painful of awakenings and effects of the return to reality ; this, by tearing Europeans (not only, but first and foremost, for obvious reasons) from the foundations of the new epoch. This epoch is not the era of the glorious and irresistible democratic globalization which only the last four of the retarded authoritarian and totalitarian regimes resist ; it is indeed that in which the Western hegemony in decline is put to battle in order to confront the rising powers which, more and more openly, challenge this hegemony and no longer bend before the dictates of the universalist imperialism of Western democracy. This new epoch is, in the present, that of a New Cold War now liable to heat up disastrously on the occasion of the first local or regional crisis to come. In this configuration, the fiction of the sanctuaries of the Global North spared by the war is shattered.
This is what the new Ukrainian paradigm shows perfectly : if it happens, as the strategists of the new Atlanticism say (whether in the American or European version), that the “borders of NATO” are those separating the opposing worlds of the democratic West and Putinian despotism, then the slightest armed incident on the border of Poland and Ukraine or Belarus is likely to turn into a casus belli leading to a war of the worlds...

It is exactly the same here, in East Asia, in obviously specific geo-political conditions – I mean : the same matrix of the time (epoch) and what makes it so dangerous is similar in this region of the world, given, of course, the obvious disparities resulting from different histories and contexts – European continent, East Asian as Grossraum, “wide space”...
You have been told for years now that you live, on this island, in one of the most dangerous places in the world, permanently exposed to the threat of invasion by your powerful neighbour, on the front line of the, for the moment, virtual war raging between the so-called “free world” (Democracy, the only civilised and tolerable regime of politics), and authoritarianism or continental totalitarianism... And the completely unexpected effect of this verbal outbidding hitherto followed by no particular effect, is that these cries of alarm which are also battle cries have become background noise that you have gotten used to and which, although they keep getting more and more deafening, do not prevent you from sleeping and, above all, do not change your habits.

Everything happens as if we weren’t living that badly in the eye of the storm, insofar as it (this eye) presents all the appearances of a world at peace. As an island microcosm, Taiwanese society is a model of an immune society, remarkable for anyone who comes from elsewhere, from Europe, from the United States a fortiori, by the gentleness of its morals, the safety of its streets, the very low level of visible social conflict, the affability of its police, in comparison with a country like France, for example, etc. Everything happens as if, bizarrely, the perpetual incantations about the imminent threats hanging over this island and its inhabitants had an effect of suspending or revoking these very threats – as if all that was needed was to make the windmills of the “Chinese threat” turn tirelessly, so that it turns into a paper tiger.