Top diplomats disagreed over the global relevance of the west at the Munich security conference

The chosen theme of the Munich security conference – once a party for Nato and now a Davos for the world’s diplomats – was “westlessness”. The organisers wanted to capture the fear that the west is now so divided and challenged by the rise of China its whole existence has become imperilled.

It was not a concept that won universal acclaim. Margrethe Vestager, the EU vice-president, hit back in one session: “I never thought about ’westlessness’ before. Are we here discussing our own depression and asking the rest of the world to join in as a sort of collective mindfulness exercise? I don’t really don’t get this.” European values – the rule of law and the integrity of the individual – had spread across the world, she insisted.

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