Viktor Orbán: China Prophet The thing Prime Minister Orbán did not say, but easily could have, is that the West is quite decadent, and in civilizational decline by almost any measure.
Not that you asked, but Viktor Orbán is the most intelligent major politician I've ever seen, and it's not even close.

You might think: Well, of course Dreher would say that; he lives in Hungary and works for a think tank that is indirectly funded by the Hungarian government. Nope, that's not it. I chose to move to Hungary to work in part because I regard Orbán and his kind of conservatism as the only real political shot we on the Right have to save Western civilization. He's the only Western politician at his level who thinks like a visionary.

Very few people in the United States or Western Europe know this, because the media trashes him incessantly, and he has little way to make his voice heard in languages other than Hungarian. (He speaks much better English than he thinks he does, but is not comfortable in the language.) When you meet the Hungarian prime minister face to face, and hear him discourse at length on geopolitics (in English), you realize that you are not dealing with an ordinary politician.

The first time I met him was four years ago, when I came to Budapest to talk at a conference on religious liberty. All the speakers were invited afterward to meet the prime minister at his office. I thought it was going to be a short meet-and-greet, take an official photo, then say goodbye. Nope. He spent an hour and a half with us, taking our questions, and answering them all with remarkable candor and intelligence. I could scarcely believe that this was the authoritarian ogre that the U.S. media assured me had Hungary under his jackboot.

Comment: Footage of Orban's speech:

After returning to Hungary for a four-month fellowship in the spring of 2021, I learned a lot more about Orbán and his political vision. I've told every conservative journalist and academic I know to find a way to get to Hungary and see for themselves what's happening here. The future of conservatism in the West does not lie with the exhausted Tories or the dull conventionalists of the GOP in America, or the establishment parties of continental Europe. It's being worked out in Budapest, under Orbán's leadership.

Indeed, I've been present two or three times in the past couple of years when Western journalists and intellectuals have been brought in to meet with the prime minister. I have watched the scales fall off their eyes as they see that whatever else he is, Viktor Orbán is not in any sense what their media and academics back home have said. Like him or not, he possesses a formidable intellect, strong analytical skills, and the courage to go against the consensus.

Naturally, the liberal and conservative establishments hate him. One thing they despise about the man is that he tells inconvenient truths. He was right about the 2015 migration crisis, and continues to be correct about the No. 1 issue facing Europe. He's right too about the Russia-Ukraine war, which is a grinding disaster for Europe and the NATO alliance. Reflecting on how Orbán understands the world better than any other Western leader is fairly depressing in light of his speech last weekend at Tusványos, the annual gathering of students and the Fidesz faithful in Transylvania. Here's a link to the English transcript of his speech.

Orbán began by mentioning that the Romanian government had given him a diplomatic document telling him what he should not talk about. He cheekily revealed its contents. Excerpt:
Then they say what things we can talk about — but only if we do not present them in a bad light. For example, Western values. If one is involved in European politics, as I am, then today "Western values" mean three things: migration, LGBTQ, and war.
My Dear Romanian Friends, these do not need to be presented in a bad light, as they already present themselves in a bad light.
He's right: "Western values," in today's context, do not mean Christianity, free speech, democracy, or any of those things. It's all about opening the borders to Third World people who don't care about these things, about wrecking traditional marriage and colonizing the minds and bodies of children with a poisonous ideology, and sustaining the endless meat grinder of a war between Ukraine and Russia.

See, this is the kind of straight talk that one almost never hears from conventional Western politicians. Love him or hate him, you always know where Viktor Orbán stands.

After ribbing the Romanians, Orbán grew serious about the world situation. It's worth quoting him at length, to give readers who don't know Orbán's thinking a chance to understand how his mind works. Wherever you are reading this, imagine your own president or prime minister speaking like this. It's hard to do, isn't it?:
The second example is from the United States in the early 1970s. Back then the US decided to free China from its isolation, obviously to make it easier to deal with the Russians; and so it put that issue in the strategic timeframe. But it has turned out that in fact this issue, the liberation of China, belongs to the historical timeframe; because as a result of that liberation, the United States — and all of us — are now facing a greater force than the one we wanted to defeat.
Wrong classification, unexpected consequences. But what happened has happened, and now the fact is that there has never been such a rapid and tectonic shift in the global balance of power as the one we are living through today. Remember — or note — that the way in which China is rising is different from that in which the United States rose: the United States emerged; China was, and is. In other words, we are really talking about a return: we are talking about the return of a 5,000-year-old civilisation of 1.4 billion people. And this is a problem that needs to be solved, because it is not going to solve itself.
China has become a production powerhouse. In fact it has already overtaken the US — or is overtaking it at this very moment: car manufacturing, computers, semiconductors, pharmaceuticals, infocommunication systems; in the world today it is the strongest in all of these areas. What has happened is that China has made the roughly three-hundred-year journey from the Western industrial revolution to the global information revolution in just thirty years. As a result, it has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, and today humanity's combined prosperity and knowledge is greater than it was. But if this is the case, what is the danger?
The danger, Orbán explained, is that the United States has been on top of the world order for a long time, and believes it has the right to remain there. The problem is that China is far along the road to displacing America, economically, technologically, and militarily. More:
In other words, Asia, or China, stands before us fully attired as a great power. It has a civilisational credo: it is the centre of the universe, and this releases inner energy, pride, self-esteem and ambition. It has a long-term plan, which is expressed as "Ending the century of humiliation" — or, to paraphrase the Americans, "Make China Great Again". It has a medium-term programme: to restore in Asia the dominance that existed before the West arrived.
And it can neutralise the chief US weapon, the chief US weapon of power, which we call "universal values." The Chinese simply laugh at this, describing it as a Western myth, and noting that such talk of universal values is in fact a philosophy hostile to other, non-Western, civilizations. And, seen from over there, that view contains some truth.

Comment: Orban is putting it lightly, because Western governments, their officials, and related institutions have stated outright that they see China as a 'threat' and they intend to 'contain it'.

The bottom line, said Orbán, is that the world is headed towards war between China and the United States. History shows this is likely: in sixteen instances in which a declining hegemon met a rising one, the transfer of power only happened without war on four occasions. This is called the "Thucydides Trap" and it is why Orbán told the Tusványos crowd that "we are at the most dangerous moment in world politics today."

Orbán went on to speak of the weakness of the European Union, and the decline of Europe's economic strength, aided in part by its delusional wartime political take on Russia. To me, the most interesting part of Orbán's address was his talking about the lack of spiritual roots in contemporary Europe. By rejecting Christianity, said Orbán, Europeans "have in fact become hedonistic pagans."
This also lies at the heart of the conflicts between the European Union and Hungary. The European Union rejects Christian heritage, it is managing population replacement through migration, and it is waging an LGBTQ offensive against family-friendly European nations. Just a few days ago we saw the fall of Lithuania, which had a really fine, remarkable, great child protection law, which we used as a starting point when constructing ours. And I see that, under great pressure, the Lithuanians have withdrawn and annulled the child protection laws that they had adopted back in 2012. "I fear the Greeks, even when they bring gifts..." This is where American friendship leads, dear friends!
Orbán charged that Europe today is led by a political class "which is no longer accountable and no longer has any Christian or democratic convictions." This class is trying to take away the cultural distinctiveness of European peoples. As for the Hungarians, he said, "We shall not compromise, we shall not back down."

The United States desperately needs leaders of Orbán's caliber. In the United States, anyone who stands against the woke agenda pays a price. Last week in California, the progressive State Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a $1.5 million fine against a local school system whose leaders rejected teaching a state-provided curriculum that praise gay rights leader Harvey Milk, who had underage male sex partners. If you don't conform to the ideological agenda imposed from on high, even if it violates your strongly held traditional moral convictions, they will ruin you.

Is it really surprising that conservative Americans like me admire scrappy Hungary and its combative, courageous leader? Read Orbán's entire speech in English here.

The Prime Minister's words about China are deeply worrying, because they are correct. As he mentioned in the speech, Henry Kissinger recently went to Beijing to visit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Why would a 100-year-old man fly all the way to China, aside from the fact that the respect the Chinese have for him assured Kissinger of a meeting with Xi? Because Washington knows war is coming, and that if it is to be avoided, all peace measures must be undertaken now.

Comment: For further insight on the Kissinger meeting, see the comments here.

War is likely, but not inevitable. It is frightening to think about how the United States has been bleeding its armaments dry to support Ukraine's futile war against the Russian aggressor. Xi Jinping is surely delighted to see China's putative enemy weakening itself. It will make any attempt to seize Taiwan much easier. Besides, in recent Pentagon wargames, China has beaten America badly.

Successful or not, a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would surely wreck the global economy, and cause a worldwide depression. Perhaps China figures it's worth it to regain the renegade island. An American loss in such a face-off would be something from which the U.S. would not be able to recover. (And that is assuming that there is no atomic exchange between the two nuclear-armed superpowers.)

The thing Prime Minister Orbán did not say, but easily could have, is that the West is quite decadent, and in civilizational decline by almost any measure.

In his 1948 classic work of historical sociology Family And Civilization, Harvard scholar Carle Zimmerman said that both the Greek and Roman empires, before their collapse, suffered from relatively high levels of divorce, a collapse of birth rates, the dissolution of the traditional family, and the normalization of sexually transgressive behavior. It is jarring to look back on Zimmerman's fear that the West was traveling the same path, writing as he was at what we today consider a golden age of family values.

Leave those factors behind, though. One way to measure decadence is the willingness of a people to put their lives on the line to defend their civilization. By that standard, Europe is lost. In 2015, a survey taken in most European countries found only minorities — sometimes shockingly low — willing to fight for their country. Though these data are outdated, it is rather doubtful that those numbers have improved over the last eight years.

We have more recent numbers for the United States, the hegemon and guarantor of Europe's security. In the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Quinnipiac University polled Americans to see if they would fight or flee if the United States were invaded. It might be good news that 55 percent overall said they would fight, though a majority of Democrats said they would run away. Crucially, of the generation that would bear arms in defense of the country — those aged 18 to 34 — 48 percent said they would flee the country, 45 percent said they would fight, and six percent said they didn't know.

This is shocking stuff. It is understandable that young Americans would be wary of signing up for military service today, in light of the appalling way America's civilian leadership has used and abused the military in the failed wars of this century. The U.S. military is having a serious recruitment crisis, and its embrace of militant wokeness, which includes demonizing white males (that is, the demographic class most likely to provide soldiers), is discouraging.

Yet fighting for an America that has been invaded is very far from fighting for American imperial adventures overseas. That almost half of America's combat-age citizens would refuse to take up arms to defend against enemy invasion is a staggering sign of decay.

It gets worse. This past June, Gallup released results of a poll showing that Americans are more pessimistic than ever about the state of moral values in the country. For the first time, a majority of Americans describe the moral health of the US as "poor," with only 11 percent calling it favorable. And most Americans polled think it's getting worse.

Along those lines, a 2022 Gallup poll asking Americans whether or not they felt pride in the country discovered record low numbers. Though it is a historic low, 65 percent of US adults do express pride in America. But here again, among the 18-to-34-year-olds, those who felt proud of America were in the minority.

Why should any of this surprise us? They belong to a generation who have been taught in schools and by popular culture that their country, and Western civilization, is little more than a cesspool of racism, sexism, and bigotry. Why should they be willing to kill and die for a country and a civilization that is a blight on humanity, according to the narrative that has taken hold in academia, in media, and in entertainment?

Anecdotally, I hear often from American conservatives who are either currently serving in the US military, or who once served, and who say that they are discouraging their children from military service. Why? It's partly the military's wokeness; you should not be surprised that veterans who see that the US Navy has an official drag queen would have doubts about the Navy's ability to defeat the Chinese in battle. In this case, the drag queen is a symbol of the Navy leadership losing focus on proper priorities.

And it's partly because they do not want their children to fight for an emerging order hostile to the Christian faith, the traditional family, and bedrock American liberties like free speech and equal treatment under law. With each passing month, it seems, Americans are watching their institutions, which have been captured by radical ideologues, treat non-radical Americans as deplorable people who must be sidelined at best, and ruined at worst, all for the sake of progress.

America's elites have decided that the "God and country" people are déclassé. At the moment, the U.S. media are freaking out over the popularity of "Try That In A Small Town," an admittedly simplistic country music song declaring that if rioters and criminals bring violence to a village, they will be met with violence. This is a very common (and common-sense) view among rural and small-town Americans, but elites — the same ones who celebrate extremely violent and extremely sexualized hip hop songs — hear in it twangy echoes of "The Horst Wessel Lied". It's madness, but that's where America is today.

God forbid that war should come between China and the United States. That said, wishes aren't the same thing as facts. Viktor Orbán's warning about the prospects of armed conflict cannot be ignored. Nor can it be ignored that in facing off with China, the West, which is wealthy and well-armed, is at a disadvantage on civilizational strength and morale. The globalist ruling class in all political parties, and across institutions, has hollowed us out, and formed one or more generations who aren't willing to fight for its civilization because it sees little or nothing worth defending.

If there is war with China, and if the United States (and the West more broadly) loses that war, the defeat will have been partially self-inflicted. There may be time to reverse the West's decadent course. Alas, there is only one Viktor Orbán, and besides, it cannot be done by politics alone. We are not going to vote our way out of this civilizational crisis. If only it were that easy!
Rod Dreher is an American journalist who writes about politics, culture, religion, and foreign affairs. He is author of a number of books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Benedict Option (2017) and Live Not By Lies (2020), both of which have been translated into over ten languages. He is director of the Network Project of the Danube Institute in Budapest, where he lives. Email him at dreher@europeanconservative.com.