Courtesy Reuters
Foreign Affairs From The Anthology: The Clash of Civilizations? The Debate
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Civilization Grafting: No Culture is an Island

The end of the Cold War has indeed brought about a new phase in world politics, yet its impact is not unidirectional. The tense confrontation between the two armed camps has disappeared and in this sense ideological conflict seems to have come to an end, for the moment. But conflicts of economic and political interests are becoming more and more common among the major nations of the world, and more and more tense. Neither civilization nor culture has become the "fundamental source of conflict in this new world."

The new world is beginning to resemble the one in which I grew up in the 1930s. Of course, tremendous changes have taken place; nonetheless there are increasing similarities. Western capitalism has changed greatly, but the current global recession is in many ways similar to the Great Depression. The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany may no longer exist, but the economic, social and political factors that led to their emergence still do-economic dislocation, xenophobia and populism.

The Cold War has ended, but hot wars rage in more than thirty countries and regions. The wave of immigrants from poor territories to rich countries and the influx of people from rural areas to cities have reached an unprecedented scale, forming what the U.N. Population Fund has called the "current crisis of mankind." We can hardly say these phenomena result from conflict between different civilizations.

CHINA'S ERRANT EXPERIMENT

For most countries the task is not to demarcate civilizations but to mix and meld them. In the former colonial countries, the problems of poverty and starvation have never been solved by their own civilizations or by the interaction of their indigenous civilization with Western civilization. But this search for a successful formula for economic well-being and political freedom continues.

Look at China. The Chinese people eagerly embraced Communism in the pursuit of economic development and political dignity. The bankruptcy of Maoism and socialism occurred a dozen years before the collapse of the former Soviet Union. It

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