This dis­tress­ing new es­say is noth­ing short of a deeply felt thren­ody for a rapidly per­ish­ing world or­der

The National - News - The Review - - Review The Non-fiction -

lost,” writes Luce. In fact, Sparta won. Luce’s case, how­ever, is not weak­ened by this slip-up: “Un­der Trump, the two great coun­tries seem al­most des­tined to stray into some kind of cri­sis.”

Luce fal­ters when he at­tempts to ex­plain the world from China’s per­spec­tive. It is true that China did not es­tab­lish a colo­nial em­pire as the western pow­ers did. But the con­tention that China hasn’t “sought to export its model by force or colonise other lands” is not his­tory: it is a fal­si­fi­ca­tion of his­tory per­pe­trated by the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party. To swal­low it, we must first air­brush from the past and present the ex­pe­ri­ences of Ti­betans, and over­look the ter­ror of im­mi­nent an­nex­a­tion that con­stantly stalks Tai­wan. To de­scribe Mao’s in­va­sion of In­dia as a war waged to “rec­tify China’s cen­tury of hu­mil­i­a­tion” is to sanc­tify a de­ranged despot’s ag­gres­sion and omit al­to­gether the per­spec­tive of the world’s sec­ond most pop­u­lous coun­try. In one chill­ing sen­tence, Luce iden­ti­fies Tai­wan as “China’s largest item of un­fin­ished busi­ness”. The un­stated coun­sel here seems to be that the West could make peace with China by let­ting Tai­wan fall into its clasp. But it is a delu­sion to be­lieve that con­ces­sions to Bei­jing will re­sult in the re­ces­sion of Chi­nese re­van­chism.

There is much to dis­agree with in The Re­treat of Western Lib­er­al­ism, but much more that is wise and good. Conor Cruise O’Brien de­nounced lib­er­al­ism as “the ide­ol­ogy of the rich” – “the in­gra­ti­at­ing moral mask which a toughly ac­quis­i­tive so­ci­ety wears be­fore the world it robs.” Luce has no use for masks. He spares no one, not even him­self. That is his, and his book’s, great strength.

Kapil Komireddi is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to The Re­view.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.