Backlight feels like wholemeal bread – NRC

Are daily evening show has only just started, when Arjen Lubach has already taken a week’s holiday. Of course you will never get the momentum going that way. Strangely enough, the satirist uses that week’s holiday to present a replacement daily program with stand-up comedians on NPO1.

In the first broadcast he had Raoul Heertje and Alex Ploeg. Unfortunately, they did nothing with current events, which you would expect under the Lubach flag. Heertje had something to say about the desire to liquidate Putin, but actually more about the demonstrating wappies. Alex Ploeg even came to the Apple store with the hostage. You wonder how long ago this was recorded. In any case, they did not burn their hands on the depressing war in Ukraine. Heertje said that we know too little about it: “Most people don’t even know where exactly those two dots should go.”

The war in Ukraine feels like a prologue. What will follow from this is still uncertain, but it cannot be much good. A new Cold War between Russia and the West is an obvious choice. But Backlight point the lens further away. The new Cold War will be between China and the US.

In VPRO Backlight: The world map according to China (NPO2) by Shuchen Tan, several economists argue that China will soon overtake the US as the largest economy. The US government strongly opposes this. Eye opener: China was also the largest for centuries, until Europe started colonizing in the seventeenth century.

What does Ukraine have to do with that? Like Russian President Putin, Chinese President Xi also has such an independent piece of land that he wants back, but which has alienated itself from its big brother into a Western-style democracy: Taiwan. As with Ukraine, the West wants to protect Taiwan in the name of freedom and democracy, but also for strategic reasons. The Chinese government believes it belongs in its sphere of influence.

take Taiwan

Is China going to bring back Taiwan? Yes, but maybe not through an invasion, but through a blockade. Is the US going to do something about that? Presumably not militarily, as they do not in Ukraine, but perhaps with sanctions. According to this documentary, China is very interested in the current Western sanctions against Russia. Will the Chinese regime also get it if it takes Taiwan? Complication: The Western and Chinese economies are completely intertwined. Unbuttoning would be too painful for both of them.

That’s how I learned from Backlight in one hour more about the world than in a whole week of watching TV. That feels good. Yet I rarely watch. Why is that? Backlight feels like whole wheat bread. Nutritious, but if I can choose, I reach for a currant bun with cheese. The documentary series often deals with global economic issues, which I don’t come to naturally either. And it makes me gloomy: the future that Backlight is usually frightening. The chosen visual language is also not attractive: you mainly see talking heads, interspersed by cityscapes with high offices. I was blown away when an inflatable tank came into view – the artwork ‘Tank Man’ by Taiwanese artist Shake.

If it comes to a global trade conflict, China will win, says Chinese economist Andy Xie, because the Chinese people would have greater stamina: “The Chinese are used to suffering. They are masters at that.” According to him, Chinese learn: “Life is not about imitating happiness, but about eating bitterness.” Sounds good. But is it true? It may also be that the Chinese cannot send their leader home if he calls a famine upon them, but the Westerners can.

This column will be written by various authors until April 25.

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