• Yaël Massini

East vs. West, or a thousand-yearstory of love and hate

Updated: Aug 17, 2021

Nowadays, we often hear that Western ideas and the Western world are coming to an end. We also hear that during the 21st century, there will be a shift of focus towards Asia. When it came to that subject, we often have mixed up feelings. Passing from interest, curiosity or excitement to perceived danger, insecurity, fear or hate. The future of the Western world and Western ideas have become a huge issue in the last decades.

When it comes to that subject, I love to quote Paul Valery (1919) who perfectly summarizes this dilemma in his book La Crise de l’Esprit: “Will Europe become what it really is, that is to say: a small cape on the Asian continent? Or will Europe remain what it seems, that is to say: the precious part of the terrestrial universe, the pearl of the sphere, the brain of a vast body? ”.We don’t pretend to have the answer, but we would like to shed some light on the facts, as in these times, it’s easier to refer to stereotypes to answer this question. However, this matter is not as easy as it may seem. What is Asia? What is the West? Are they real entities or mere constructions built across centuries?

This story may cover many aspects: the rise of China and its future place in the world, as well as the questions this country raises concerning our political systems and values. We can also see that debate in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, and particularly with the waves of attacks and praises that have been expressed towards China’s policies and management of the crisis. The US-China relations also were, and still are, hot topics. From the perspective of trade relations and the decoupling phenomenon, it could be interesting to focus on the historical ties between these two countries, and the possible Thucydide trap that both countries are running to.

We can also observe the debate rising over the migration question, with the refugees’ crisis or the EU- Turkey relationship. Within our societies, we often hear stereotypes, and have to deal with many subjects ranging from economic matters, such as outsourcing symbolized by the famous “made in China,” to the place of Islam in our western societies. Also, the long-lasting debate between secularism and the Christian roots of the Western world contrast with the growing phenomenon of Islamophobia. These are some of many subjects that we have witnessed recently and that have one point in common: the East-West division. Are we divided, or are we not? That should be our question.

Written By: Yaël Massini


Valéry, P. (1919) “La Crise de l’Esprit”. Dicocitations, Le Monde. https://dicocitations.lemonde.fr/citation_ historique_ ajout/652.php

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