October 7, 2021 –
When Samuel Huntington described the “clash of civilizations” in 1993, he was criticized for reinforcing a self-fulfilling prophecy. Today we face a tectonic global clash, but not necessarily of the type Huntington foresaw; clashing are two conflicting visions of the future global order. One, championed by autocratic states like China and Russia, advocates a return to “a 19th-century global order where great powers rule over their own distinct spheres of influence.” The world’s democracies want an order based on the international rule of law, democratic governance, and individual rights. How this clash evolves will be the story of the 21st century.
Niall Ferguson is the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a senior faculty fellow of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. He is also a visiting professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing.