The End of History

In The End of History and the Last Man, political scientist Francis Fukuyama argues that Western liberal democracy marks the final form of human government. Borrowing a somewhat Marxist belief that history is a progression toward an end, Fukuyama considers contemporary liberalism to be a societal apotheosis of sorts, in which all the fundamental questions in humanity can be answered in the context of such theories as rule of law, separation of powers, and the social contract. Eventually the superiority of Western liberal democracy will be universalized, ending many of the political and philosophical debates that generate discord in international affairs.

Written in 1992, Fukuyama’s work predates the meteoric rise of China, and in some ways, Russia. China, a single-party state with a multitude of restrictions on its citizens’ freedom, and Russia, a de facto authoritarian government where Vladimir Putin has once again wrangled his way into the presidency, have come to challenge the US and other models of Western liberal democracies. These examples have led many to believe Fukuyama’s thesis to be defunct. After twenty years, international affairs are still, in many instances, caught in the stranglehold between competing ideologies and interests. With China’s economic power comes its ability to influence developing nations. In a recent New York Times article, China’s ties to African nations have been further strengthened with a $20 million loan over three years, compared to $8.2 million lent conditionally by the US. Governments have taken up the Chinese model across the world in order to mirror Chinese economic success. Clearly, the end of history is not yet upon us.

Which does not mean that it will never arrive. The recent Pussy Riot affair where the Russian government harshly prosecuted a female punk band for criticizing Vladimir Putin has drawn international criticism and national outcry against the ruling. One can argue that single, isolated events, though illuminating, cannot be indicative of dramatic political changes. But a recent BBC study brings forth a long-term trend currently transpiring in China. According to the BBC, the US has approved the EB-5 visa scheme, an investment-for-residency program. A foreigner can receive a green card as long as he can prove his investment generated at least ten jobs. Currently, 75% of applicants for this scheme are Chinese, who want to leave the country in part because of the Chinese government system. According to millionaire Louie Huang, “Most of them think I’ve got so much money here but one day maybe the government will change the policies and take it all back.” Altman suggests citizens will be unwilling to place money in countries where the rule of law does not protect their property from unwarranted seizure. That a majority of China’s most prosperous are considering leaving the country is perhaps a good indication of the inherent instability of the China-style governmental system.

Are these trends indicative of the beginning of the end of history? Perhaps only time can tell.

For more information on China’s loan scheme to Africa, see
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/20/world/asia/china-pledges-20-billion-in-loans-to-african-nations.html

For more information on the Pussy Riot case, see
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/48793869/ns/world_news/#.UEpaPkLbAw8

For more information on Chinese millionaires and the US residency program, see
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-18966261

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