George Soros Slams Modi Government's Nationalist Agenda At Davos 2020

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Billionaire philanthropist George Soros hits out at Putin, Trump, Xi and Modi at Davos 2020. Says it's frightening that the democratically elected Narendra Modi government  is creating a Hindu nationalist state. He also pledged $ 1 billion towards a university project as a long-term strategy for access to quality education, specifically an education that reinforces the autonomy of the individual by cultivating critical thinking and emphasising academic freedom.

The following are excerpts of remarks delivered By George Soros at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland 0n Thursday:

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"We live at a transformational moment in history. The survival of open societies is endangered and we face an even greater crisis: climate change. It is threatening the survival of our civilization. These twin challenges have inspired me to announce the most important project of my life here tonight.

As I argue in my recent book, In Defense of Open Society, in a revolutionary moment the range of possibilities is far wider than in normal times. It has become easier to influence events than to understand what is going on. As a consequence, outcomes are unlikely to correspond to people’s expectations. This has already caused widespread disappointment that populist politicians have exploited for their own purposes.

Open Society has not always needed defending as it does today. Some forty years ago, when I got engaged in what I call my political philanthropy, the wind was at our back and carried us forward. International cooperation was the prevailing creed. In some ways it prevailed even in the crumbling and ideologically bankrupt Soviet Union – remember the marxist’s slogan “workers of the world unite”? In contrast, the European Union was in the ascendant and I considered it the embodiment of the open society.

But the tide turned against open societies after the crash of 2008 because it constituted a failure of international cooperation. This in turn led to the rise of nationalism, the great enemy of open society.

In the middle of last year I still cherished some hopes that there would be another reversal towards international cooperation. The European parliamentary elections produced surprisingly favourable results. Participation increased by 8%—the first uptick since the Parliament was established. More importantly, the silent majority spoke up in favour of greater European cooperation.

But by the end of the year my hopes were dashed. The strongest powers, the US, China and Russia remained in the hands of would-be or actual dictators and the ranks of authoritarian rulers continued to grow.

The fight to prevent Brexit—harmful both to Britain and to the EU—ended in a crushing defeat.

Nationalism, far from being reversed, made further headway. The biggest and most frightening setback occurred in India where a democratically elected Narendra Modi is creating a Hindu nationalist state, imposing punitive measures on Kashmir, a semi-autonomous Muslim region, and threatening to deprive millions of Muslims of their citizenship.

In Latin America a humanitarian catastrophe continues to unfold. By the beginning of this year almost 5 million Venezuelans had emigrated, causing tremendous disruption in neighboring countries. At the same time, Bolsonaro has failed to prevent the destruction of the rain forests in Brazil in order to open it up for cattle ranching. In a further blow, the UN climate conference in Madrid broke up without reaching any meaningful agreement.

Watch the entire speech and media interaction of George Soros' at Davos 2020 on January 23:

To top it all off, Kim Jong-un threatened the United States with its nuclear capabilities in his New Year’s speech and Trump’s impetuous actions heightened the risk of a conflagration in the Middle East.

Let me now turn to another vexing topic, the relationship between the United States and China. It has become incredibly complicated and difficult to understand. The interaction between the two presidents, Donald Trump and Xi Jinping, provides a useful clue. Both face internal constraints and various enemies. Both try to extend the powers of their office to its limit and beyond. While they have found some mutually beneficial reasons to cooperate, their motivations are completely different.

President Trump is a con man and the ultimate narcissist who wants the world to revolve around him. When his fantasy of becoming president came true, his narcissism developed a pathological dimension. Indeed, he has transgressed the limits imposed on the presidency by the Constitution and has been impeached for it. At the same time, he has managed to gather a large number of followers who have bought into his alternative reality. This has turned his narcissism into a malignant disease. He came to believe that he could impose his alternative reality not only on his followers but on reality itself.

Trump’s counterpart, Xi Jinping, suffered a traumatic experience in his early youth. His father had been one of the founders of the Chinese Communist Party. He was expelled, and his son, Xi Jinping, grew up in rural exile. Since that time, the goal of Xi’s leadership became to reassert the Communist Party’s dominance over Chinese life. He called it the “Chinese dream” of a “rejuvenated” China capable of projecting its power and influence throughout the world. Xi Jinping has abolished a carefully developed system of collective leadership and became a dictator as soon as he gained sufficient strength to do so.

When it comes to their motivations, they are totally different, Trump is willing to sacrifice the national interests for his personal interests and he will do practically anything to win re-election. By contrast, Xi Jinping is eager to exploit Trump’s weaknesses and use artificial intelligence to achieve total control over his people.

President Trump didn’t have a strategic plan when he authorized the launching of a missile that killed the leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Suleimani, and an Iraqi pro-Iranian militia commander; but he has an unfailing instinct that tells him how his faithful followers would respond to his actions. They are jubilant. This made the task of the Democrats, who impeached him, extremely difficult. The trial in the Senate is shaping up to be a strictly pro forma affair because the Republican majority in the Senate is united behind Trump—although Chief Justice Roberts, who is presiding, may surprise us.

At the same time, Trump’s economic team has managed to overheat an already buoyant economy. The stock market, already celebrating Trump’s military success, is breaking out to reach new heights. But an overheated economy can’t be kept boiling for too long.

If all this had happened closer to the elections, it would have assured his reelection. His problem is that the elections are still 10 months away and in a revolutionary situation, that is a lifetime.

From an open society point of view, the situation is quite grim. It would be easy to give in to despair, but that would be a mistake. The public is beginning to be aware of the dangers of climate change. It has certainly become the top priority of the European Union – but we can’t count on the United States while Trump is in power because he is a climate denier.

There are also grounds to hope for the survival of open societies. They have their weaknesses, but so do repressive regimes. The greatest shortcoming of dictatorships is that when they are successful, they don’t know when or how to stop being repressive. They lack the checks and balances that give democracies a degree of stability. As a result, the oppressed revolt.