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Spotlight: The Western world is overwhelmed by populism

(Xinhua)    20:54, November 02, 2016

BEIJING, Nov. 2 -- With Brexit a reality, Donald Trump's emergence in the U.S. presidential election and the rise of extreme right-wing parties in Germanyand France, populism has resurged in the Western world and has become a great force on the European and U.S. political scenes.

As Paul Taggart, professor of politics at the University of Sussex, said, populism is a barometer through which the health of a political system can be assessed.

Looking into the current rising of populism, it is easy to see that the Western political system has encountered problems deeply rooted in the contraction of the middle class and a widening wealth gap.

According to McKinsey &Company, the real household income of 65 percent of families or 540 million people in advanced economies has stagnated or decreased from 2005 to 2014.

In the United States, the income of the poorest 20 percent of its population accounts for only 3.1 percent of the national wealth, while the richest 20 percent possess more than half.

The American people are dissatisfied and even angry with economic inequality, and they hate the current economic and political system.

Political outsider Trump capitalized on this popular sentiment and successfully disguised himself as a champion of the public will.

According to a CNN report, 150 voters for Trump in 31 cities confessed that they would not vote for Trump himself in the election but are casting a vote based on their discontent.

According to a poll by the U.S. television network MSNBC, most of Trump's admirers are white, blue-collar male workers belonging to the silent majority who had refused to vote in the past. Over 70 percent of them have an annual income of no more than 100,000 U.S. dollars, less than the average annual income of the Republican Party's voting tank, and another 43 percent are poorly educated without a university diploma.

These voters have chosen Trump over Hillary Clintonbecause of their own discontent with the latter whom they have found unreliable, citing Clinton's email controversy as an example.

With Wikileaks releasing more information and casting doubt on Clinton's ability to lead, American voters have found themselves caught in an electoral nightmare, a Trump-vs-Clinton dilemma in which neither candidate is a good choice. Trump and Cinton have become the least popular nominees in American electoral history.

Pro-Brexit voters are similar to Trump's supporters in many aspects: most of them are older, white, poorly-educated people who live in rural areas, dissatisfied with their living conditions, and fear a massive influx of immigrants.

Fiona Hill, director of the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution, said that the parallels between the United States and the United Kingdom show the "depth of the anger" against elites.

Brexit supporters and Trump followers are both "anti-establishment, anti-globalization and anti-immigration," Hill said.

With the triple shock of the financial crisis, rising debt and the refugee fiasco, Europeans loath economic recession and are struggling to keep their own cultural identity.

Jakub Grygiel, a senior fellow-in-residence of the Center for European Policy Analysis at the U.S. Foreign Policy Research Institute, wrote about the heated populism in Europe.

In his essay titled "The Return of Europe's Nation-States" published in the magazine Foreign Affairs, Grygiel wrote that "Europe currently finds itself in the throes of its worst political crisis since World War II. Across the continent, traditional political parties have lost their appeal as populist, Euroskeptical movements have attracted widespread support."

To draw votes, European politicians are preaching protectionism and isolationism. French conservative hopefuls for the 2017 presidential ticket have tried to reach out to disillusioned voters by presenting their ideas to tackle mass unemployment and handle security and immigration.

Similarly, Clinton and Trump have also focused on these issues in all three of their televised debates. Trump accused certain countries of stealing U.S. companies and jobs, and insisted that a wall along the Mexican border should be built and paid for by Mexico to block the flow of illegal immigrants.

Populism has endangered the stable development of the global economy. According to the AFP, Brexit and the rise of Trump have exacerbated the global economic crisis.

During The G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting held on Oct. 6 in Washington D.C., trade protectionism and anti-globalization sentiments were identified as a big threat to the global economy.

Business and financial leaders worldwide also expressed concerns over rampant anti-globalization sentiments at the Annual Meetings of the IMF and World Bank held in early October.

One thing remains certain in today's uncertain world: unless underlying issues are addressed, the worst of populism could be yet to come.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Du Mingming, Bianji)

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