By Chandran Nair
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia-According to Edelman’s 23rd annual trust and credibility survey, the Chinese government has earned the highest level of trust from its citizens of any country.
The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, India, Indonesia, and Singapore followed close behind. These countries were also the least polarised internally, while the US, UK, France, Italy, Spain all came out as severely polarised or at risk of severe polarisation.
Another poll by the European Council on Foreign Relations found that around 50 percent of Indians and Turks believe that the coming world order will be multipolar, or no longer dominated by the West. By contrast, just 37 percent of Americans, 31 percent of EU inhabitants and 29 percent of Brits thought the same.
These surveys are just one barometer, but they nonetheless provide a useful insight into the sentiments within the non-Western world as the shift in global power from West to the Rest alters our understanding of realities in these countries, which for too long have been framed by the ideological biases of mainstream global media.
On the one hand, we have a group of countries where mistrust of government is high, yet believe their form of governance is superior and the current world order should remain fixed (the West). On the other hand, we have a group of countries where trust in government is high and see the future as being a different place, in which they have a say on the global stage (the Rest).
This is obviously a generalisation from the available data. But the observation is that it is crucial for the West to recognise that the non-Western world sees the past, present and future very differently and that the West should learn to respect views beyond its own.
No doubt many Westerners reading these data points will say “Of course these countries claim to have trust in their government – after all, these governments are authoritarian.”
The reality is, hundreds of millions have seen their lives improved under these so called “authoritarian regimes”. In the last four decades, China has successfully lifted 800 million individuals out of poverty, which accounts for nearly three-quarters of the world's reduction in extreme poverty. The people trust their government. Equally, Singapore, Indonesia, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia have seen massive development and improvements in the quality of life for everyday citizens.
The West’s economic stagnation is leading its governments to seek out external threats in the non-Western world to regain citizens’ trust.
Uniting against a common enemy is a tried and tested strategy. But the post-Western world order may see this approach fonder: many countries, if the data is to be believed, are interested in working towards a more inclusive and collaborative future; not a polarised one.
As Critics Agonise, Multipolar World Inevitably Emerges
By Chandran Nair