With China's new prominence in global affairs, the Han race, which constitutes 90 percent of the Chinese population, is suddenly the most dominant cohesive ethnic group in the world -- and it is seeking to remain that way through strategic alliances, aggressive trade policy, and attacks on racial minorities within the country's boundaries. The less tribally cohesive, more fragmented West is, meanwhile, losing out. [. . .]On differences within Europe:
Such primitive racial instincts were supposed to be long ago passé: We're supposed to be living in Thomas Friedman's "flat" world or Kenichi Ohmae's "borderless world." By now, supposedly, everyone is increasingly interconnected and undifferentiated. Affairs should be managed neatly by deracinated professionals, working on their iPads from Brussels, Washington, or any of the other "global" capitals.
But most people do not really see themselves as members of a large multinational unit, global citizens, or "mass consumers." Instead the drivers of history remain the essentials: the desire to feed one's family, support the health of the tribe, and shape the immediate community. The particularistic continues to trump the universalistic.
The new tribalism is also increasingly evident in Europe. Just a few years ago Europhiles like French eminence grise Jacques Attali or left-wing author Jeremy Rifkin could project a utopian future European Union that would stand both as a global role model and one of the world's great powers. Today, Rifkin's ideal of a universalistic "European dream" is collapsing -- a process accelerated by the financial crisis -- as the continent is torn apart by deep-seated historical and cultural rifts.From here, the article degenerates as Kotkin asserts Anglo-American exceptionalism in regard to "successful" multiracialism, claiming: "It is in the melding of many into one dynamic culture that the Anglosphere may retain a powerful influence over our emerging world of tribes."
Europe today can best be seen as divided between three cultural tribes: Nordic-Germanic, Latin, and Slavonic. In the north, there is a vast region of prosperity, a zone of Nordic dynamism. Characterized by economies based on specialized exports, a still powerful Protestant ethic, and a culture that embraces authority, these countries -- including Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Germany, and, arguably, the Baltic states -- are becoming ever more aware of the cultural, fiscal, and attitudinal gulf between them and the southern countries.
At the same time, the attempt to build a new European identity fused with immigrants appears to be failing. As Chancellor Angela Merkel noted, Germany has failed at "multi-culturalism." Such sentiments may be reviled by the media, academics, and even business leaders in Northern Europe, but they are clearly popular at the grassroots. Once considered paragons of liberalism, countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands have incubated potent anti-immigration movements.
In a world dominated increasingly by Asia, northern Europe cannot be anything more than a peripheral global power, which may explain its new introversion. Instead these resilient cultures more accurately represent a revival of the old Hanseatic League, a network of opportunistic and prosperous trading states that ringed the North and Baltic seas during the 13th century. This new league increasingly battles over issues of trade and fiscal policy, often with ill-disguised contempt, with the southern European countries I call "the Olive Republics": a region typified by dire straits, with rapidly aging populations, enormous budget deficits, and declining industrial might. Southern Europe now constitutes a zone of lassitude that extends from Portugal and Spain through the south of France, Italy, the former Yugoslavia, Greece, and Bulgaria.
The last European tribe includes the Slavic countries, centered by Russia but extending to parts of the Balkans as well, places like Ukraine, Belarus, Serbia, and Moldova that historically have looked east as well as west and are currently defined by shrinking populations and weak democratic institutions. A historic pattern of Russian domination is evident here, based in large part on a revived Slavic identity that embraces similarities in religion, culture, history, and language with countries living under Russia's shield. In this sense the czars are back, not a great development for the rest of the world or for the fading chimera of a "common European home."
What does this resurgence of tribalism mean to the foreign policy community? Clearly more attention needs to be played to such issues as cultural vibrancy, birthrates, and economic "animal spirits." In some sense, we need to return to the perspectives of ancient writers like Herodotus and Ibn Khaldun, who attributed the rise and fall of nations to the vitality of what the latter called "group feeling."
Tribalism will also threaten the efficacy of international organizations, which tend to assume common interests between groups. Instead we have to think of future international cooperation in more traditional terms, balancing distinct sets of tribal interest. As tribes continue to pursue their own interests ever more zealously, the idealistic rhetoric of multinational organizations will become ever more risible. The way China and other developing countries snarled up the Copenhagen climate conference reflects this shift.