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America’s faltering grip on world order

Putin and Xi in Beijing last week. Sputnik

At China’s latest Belt and Road conference last week, says Daniel Hannan in The Daily Telegraph, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping swaggered through “those vast marble halls that dictators love” surrounded by “sundry lesser despots” representing the likes of Egypt, Myanmar and the Taliban. They were united chiefly by their enthusiasm for the “coming overthrow of the Western order”. At the same moment, Joe Biden was declaring on TV that “American leadership is what holds the world together”. Strong words and true, but undermined by the way the 80-year-old kept “blinking in confusion at the autocue, a dotard president seeming to symbolise a nation past its prime”.

How vertiginously it has come upon us, “this sense that we are losing”. Only a month ago Vladimir Putin was reduced to “fawning over Kim Jong-un”, so desperate was he for allies against Kyiv. But since the horrors in Israel, previously well-disposed countries are raging at “Western hypocrisy”. We might see Ukraine and Israel as “pluralist states under attack from fascistic neighbours”, but that’s not how it looks to avowedly “anti-colonialist” leaders in the “Global South”. To them, there is “nothing special about free societies”. Liberal democracy spread, in their view, not because it was more appealing, but because “white men imposed it” – and if Western countries are finally losing ground, “so much the better”.