IN today’s shaky state of international relations, countries will usually rationalise the behaviour of other countries in a very uninformed way, leading to the misjudgment and misreading of intentions from actions.
As generally observed, there are two factors why a nation acts in one way or another: faith and ideology. Faith, which has always been closely associated with religion, will refer to Christianity and Islam.
Ideology is to be understood as a system of government, such as democracy and communism. Over the years, there have appeared variants of these being practised by countries to suit their different conditions.
Historically, contests among countries have always involved state actions taken in the name of faith or ideology, or both, at different times. In the Middle Ages, countries fought wars in the Middle East to spread Christianity. During the period of empires, Christianity and economics were merged.
After the two World Wars, ideology and the competition between democracy and communism became an important instrument of state for the big winners — the United States, Russia and China. In the cause of pushing forward with democracy in the world, the US imposed a system of alliances comprising her allies in the wars. In Eastern Europe, communism took effect strongly as a state ideology championed by the Soviet Union. This development led to the Cold War, dividing Europe between a democratic West and a communist East, separated by the Berlin Wall.
In China, Mao Zedong led a “Long March” that enabled an indigenous form of communism to take root in the country from 1949 onwards. In 1978, Deng Xiaoping brought in his Four Modernisation Plan to help open up the country to foreign trade, investment and greater external integration with the world.
A clear indication that a third variant of ideology had appeared next to democracy and communism, that of globalisation and the growing pull of economics for countries.
China is currently leading the world to gain as much from globalisation as possible. This appears to be the new ideology under President Xi Jingping and is marked by a greater involvement of countries in the global economy and helping to restructure the financial architecture in ways that can benefit more countries. Its success at using globalisation raised warning signs worldwide. Many fear that China is about to repeat what she once did in Africa some years ago. This had then been regarded as a one-sided deal, with all the returns going back to China and less to the African nations involved.
The religion ideology paradigm has remained a dominant choice to explain nation states’ behaviours throughout history. Variants of the ideology para-digm are seen at work in the world, through democracy, communism and globalisation. Now, nation states and extrapolitical groups worldwide have been drawn into using religion variants, such as the religion-based schism between Sunnis and Shias.