In a world where each nation’s values are so incredibly diverse, one value that most countries agree on—now more than ever—is that of domestic security. Liberal and free democracies, aristocracies, communist-led governments, and authoritarian regimes have begun to believe that although the world is becoming more globalized, the greatest threat to the rule of law is not only intervention by other nation-states, but can also lie within their own borders. An example of a country which has analyzed the threat of the outside world and foreign intervention is China.
China has long valued the importance of securing their borders. China’s main period of isolation began during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Proclaimed in 1432 as a means to manage the increasing problem of Japanese piracy, a sea ban was lawfully instituted by Ming rulers that restricted all outside trade and coastal exploration. However, the sea ban soon became a tool to primarily isolate China from the growing globalized world. As countries knocked on their doors to explore and spread messages of Western religion and thought, the country became increasingly strict with its isolation policies, even amongst its own citizens. Today, as technology and a free-flow of information has become an enemy of the state, the country has become even more strict than the Ming Dynasty. Cui Lei of The Diplomat reports that “the government has imposed strict regulations on the internet, blocked some foreign websites with unfavorable information through the Great Firewall, forbidden university teachers from adopting textbooks compiled by Western scholars, and set limitations on travel abroad by government personnel, among other steps.” President Xi Jinping has observed the growing unrest among leaders and their citizens in other nation-states, opting to enforce his rule by all means necessary rather than risk a resistance that mirrors that of Tiananmen Square in the days of Mao Zedong’s China.
While communist China enforced isolation early on and has maintained a minimal amount of isolation due to its human rights abuses and rejection of free speech, Venezuela has recently begun to silence its citizens in an attempt to maintain established power. In addition to horrific extrajudicial executions during a two-year span that took 8,200 lives, the Venezuelan government has completely eliminated freedom of speech and religion, and has left its people without basic necessities such as medical care, food, and water. As Venezuelans continue to struggle to sustain themselves, President Nicolas Maduro continues to thrive in office. His ability to keep the military loyal to the regime has contributed to his ability to maintain power in a country ripe for revolution. Maduro has been able to do this in a few ways. As Mercury News reports, “He has ensured their loyalty by offering promotions and allowing them to enrich themselves through state businesses or criminal activities.” Further, he’s used blackmail and harmful threats to keep even the most skeptical of officers from crossing him. Solidifying borders and maintaining power are Maduro’s greatest objectives, all of which will become more crucial as western powers begin to find ways to strip his power.
It is not only countries with radical governments who sense the need for domestic security, but liberal democracies as well. President Trump’s push for a stable border wall between the United States and Mexico is a prime example. During Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, one of his campaign platforms was greater security on the southern border between the U.S. and Mexico. He argued that “every day, above and beyond our existing lawful admission programs, roughly 1,500 to 2,000 people try crossing our borders illegally.” He stated that of those who cross illegally, many do so with intentions to rape, murder, and bring in drugs. While his statement angered many, it brought immigration back to the forefront of American debate and posed the question: In world of violent crime, should the United States secure its borders while it has the ability to, even at the cost of billions of tax dollars? As this debate continues, the president has called for a national emergency to get funds needed to build his border wall, demonstrating the complex reality that domestic security is a concern for even the most advanced nations.
There aren’t many values that the world can conceptually agree on. While the West may argue that climate change, economic growth, or the spread of democracy are high on its priority list, other countries are struggling to maintain stability. All world leaders, however, can agree that the increasing pressure of outside influences and spread of information can be a cause of threat for even the most solidified regimes. Domestic security has thus become a global goal, regardless of whether it’s on the public agenda. The use of tactics such as border walls, human rights violations, and militaristic violence has created outrage among freedom advocates. As situations become more dire for nation-states’ maintenance of power, there will be no shortage of outrage for the next decades to come.
Melanie Mercado is a graduate student at New York University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) and a managing editor at JPI. She is currently finishing her last semester of GSAS’s International Relations program, where she focuses on Middle East Politics. In 2017, she graduated from the University of South Florida in Saint Petersburg, Florida, with a B.A. in History and a minor in Political Science.