Western liberal democracy, already weakened by nativist movements in Europe, was dealt a further blow by two events: the re-election win of President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Xi Jinping of China. Both have a chance of indefinitely being in power.
Another threat, albeit a low-intensity one, came to the fore. This one related to the business practices and solutions of Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy headquartered in the United Kingdom. The company has recently come under the spotlight for the probable abuse of massive data it acquired from Facebook. The company has also accessed data from other Big Data companies.
Beijing and Moscow
When the political and technological threats are combined, it is apparent how serious the challenge to Liberal Democracy is. Geopolitical challenges are being brought about by Russia and China. These two countries have the United States at the cross-hairs. This does not mean that the two countries are against a free world. In reality, both Russia and China are trying to resurrect themselves to be at par with their glorious age. This is true especially when it comes to Beijing. It wants to be on the same pedestal as the United States, after multiple humiliating years. Moscow has the same goal. Memories of the once powerful Soviet Union is still in the political psyche.
China must cross a number of hurdles before it reaches any kind of superpower status. The country has massive debt and innumerable policy tensions linked to the state capitalist system controlled by a party. The Chinese population is also an impoverished one. Russia is much weaker than China when it comes to its desire to lead the world. The Russian economy is an atrophied one and energy exports continues to be its mainstay. The population is not even 50 percent of that of the United States.
The two countries predictably play the role of a spoiler at present. The role involves the use of military and diplomatic instruments to inhibit European and American interests when they do not gel with Beijing or Moscow. Although both Russia and China holds few cards, the countries are astutely using them. The list of actions includes using veto powers in the United Nations Security Council and the optimal use of gray zone tactics. The specific circumstances of the civil war in Syria have helped Moscow to raise its profile by a wide margin in the Middle East.