When I was a young man, in the nineties, the world was like this: the Cold War had just ended and during all that period the US, in the effort to confront the USSR, did all sorts of bad things. It supported -when not directly installed- dictatorships, primarily in the South America, but also in many other parts of the world. At the same time it spreaded the free market rules around the globe, in order to both contain the Soviets and economically prevail on the rest of the world, as they could take advantage from being the strongest economy. The Chicago School, the IMF policies, the WTO rounds: all was (at least so it seemed to me) part of the same US strategy to dominate the world.
The USSR was, of course, a bad place. They jailed dissidents and they were very brutal. But, with the naivety of the young people, I -along with many others- thought “ok, fair enough, but at least those are errors made along the path towards a fairer world, at least in theory. On the other side you cannot see the same equality and brotherhood ideals. Come on, the Americans let the poors die in front of the hospitals.” Ok, that was naive. But I think it was in essence a correct posture. It is pointless and it does not require to be very brave to criticize the governments of others, in that case the Communist bloc. You could do nothing about the evils of the other side of the Cold War (by the way, I am pretty sure, in retrospect, that if I was born on the other side of the Berlin wall, I had become an anti-communist). Instead, you could contribute to correct the evils of your side. Soon after the collapse of the USSR, I thought that it was even more urgent, as the US seemed to be willing to -unchallenged- dominate the world once and for all. It was the times of the Gulf war, the NATO expansion, the growing aggressive attitude of the IMF (that forced many countries -dominated through the debt- to open their markets to the American giant corporations) and the Washington consensus world dominance.
Toady, much has changed. The USSR has become a regional power with dangerous occasional efforts to scale up again to a global level, while China is the new great challenger. Market is not the danger anymore. In a few years, the love for markets -even at the highest ranks of many governments- has given way to new fascism. Ok, fascism is not maybe the exact word, but I am not interested here in thin semiology. I will group under the term ‘fascism’ a bunch of things that come together: autocracy, brutality, disregard of the rules, cult of national identity and the flag, contempt or at least suspicion for everything is foreign -both things and people- celebration of the strong and derision of the the weak, attitude of dismissing the representative bodies.
Nowadays, you seem to have no choice but to pick one autocracy or the other: either the Chinese rising power, with its disregard for democracy as a very concept, or the US declining power, well on the way to a democracy-collapse, with at least (as long as it stands) its good old freedom to speech, which you could not take for granted -along with many other freedoms- in a world ruled by China.
By the way, Obama and Trump -though they are so distant from one another- are part of the same show: the US electorate, once stick to the center, now fluctuates considerably. Both Obama and Trump know that the US in a few years is going to be the former world dominant power. Obama tried to boost the multilateral institutions, in order to build a safety net against China. Trump, on the contrary, is pursuing an isolationist policy, in the (wrong) belief that the US is still strong enough to defend itself alone and that, under any circumstances, hands-free moving is preferable.
So today, when many that once were strong US supporters are becoming increasingly China oriented -because “hey, come on, China is after all a great nation, with an incredible history, and exceptional business opportunities”- I am shifting towards Washington, even additionally pushed by the EU weak stand for its own values, a poor permormance shown in the last years first with the Greek crisis and then with the immigrants one. At least the US is a place where, whatever you thoughts are, you can always find a book or a film to support them. I am pretty sure that in a few years from now we will miss that greatly.