USA-China. A necessary confrontation?

Commentary: It is hoped that the US will be involved in a new economic multilateralism that sees the East and West working together to lay concrete foundations for the rebirth of the planet in the post-pandemic era

State Department photo/Public Domain: https://www.flickr.com/photos/statephotos/21723827681/

In 2020 the world public opinion was rightly and understandably distracted by the tragedy of the Covid-19 pandemic.

For this reason, many events of great geopolitical relevance which, in other times would have polarized the attention of media, analysts and the public, went almost unnoticed, overshadowed as they were by the great media stir about infections and vaccines.

These somewhat 'underestimated' events include the historic political-diplomatic agreement between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Sudan, which is certainly the most significant one.

Thanks to the proactive mediation of Donald Trump at the end of his Presidency and of the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohamed Bin Salman, a wall of hostility and enmity between Israel and a significant part of the Arab-Muslim world, dating back to over seventy years ago, has been partially cracked, laying the foundations for a lasting peace in the most problematic region of the Middle East or at least for the start of more pragmatic and peaceful regional policies.

The thawing of relations between a significant part of the Arab world and what until only a few months ago was contemptuously referred to as “the Zionist entity”.

The step forward towards peace in the Middle East was evidently not deemed of particular importance by the new U.S. Administration led by President Biden. 

Far from reaffirming the somewhat pacifist and conciliatory approach shown during the election campaign against the 'tough' Donald Trump, from the outset the new U.S. President has chosen to show the world that he prefers confrontation to exchange of views and dialogue.

After making his debut on the Middle East scene with a sudden bombing raid in Iraq against allegedly pro-Iranian militia positions, Joe Biden turned his attention to China, indicated as a strategic enemy against which to call together all the forces of the democratic West.

In short, the new President seems to believe that when the world has finally overcome the health crisis, thanks to mass vaccination, instead of rebuilding the economies severely affected by the pandemic, the world powers should retrace the old steps of the Cold War to achieve a 'strategic superiority' that would reaffirm the United States’ role as the world's leading power.

With a view to giving substance to this project and sending a clear signal of enmity and hostility to China, President Biden has ordered the Pentagon to proceed with Trump’s project to install a missile network costing 27.4 billion dollars which, according to the NIKKEI ASIA agency, should be deployed in the countries that represent a strategic belt around China, namely Taiwan, Japan, Okinawa, and the Philippines - a network of short and medium-range missiles deemed suitable for making China feel the military weight of the U.S. presence in the Far East.  

President Biden's message, clearly aimed at intimidating China also militarily, was followed up with disarming superficiality by the Secretary General of NATO, the Norwegian Jens Stoltenberg who, forgetting the institutional aims of the Atlantic Alliance, declared before the Council of Foreign Relations in New York that "NATO shall deal with China, adapting its strategic approach in a closer relationship with Japan, Australia and India”.

It is a pity that, even in Italy, authoritative commentators of important newspapers and magazines have devoted themselves to pointing out the "Chinese danger" to their readers, in tones reminiscent of those used against the Warsaw Pact in the 1960s and 1970s and with an uncritical alignment to the U.S. stances which, moreover, are not reflected either in Chinese policy or in the relations between the European Union and the Chinese government.  

China, in fact, seems to be more oriented towards taking concrete measures to boost its economic recovery and making its population more 'moderately wealthy' than towards launching a new senseless arms race.  

On October 26, 2020, once the first wave of the Covid-19 epidemic had died down, the fifth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) opened in Beijing, with the ambitious aim of defining - after months of preparation and four days of closed-door debate - the strategic lines of the 14th five-year plan of the country, which - unlike the rest of the world - has emerged practically unscathed from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The plan, which is intended to cover the five-year period 2021-2025 has the meaningful title 'Vision 2035' - a title designed to underline its potential medium-term impact on China's economy and its international relations. The American economic agency Bloomberg called the plan a "Warning Shot", a "five-year warning shot to the United States".

A "warning shot" that evidently aims to challenge the United States not to a new military competition to see who threatens the most, but rather to mobilize - also with new international cooperation patterns - fresh and creative resources to lift the global economy, also trying to activate environmental recovery policies. 

It is on the basis of these objectives that President Xi Jinping has dictated the guidelines for the new five-year plan, the central focus of which is "dual circulation", a strategy that aims to simultaneously increase domestic demand and foreign investment in consumer goods and technology, with a “dual” and coordinated approach of great potential impact on the Chinese people’s living conditions and on China’s international relations. 

Clearly Europe does not yet seem willing to uncritically follow the U.S. bellicose ideas about China. 

On December 30, 2020, it was reported that China and the European Union had reached an agreement on investment.

After seven years of negotiations, during a conference call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and the President of the European Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen - joined by French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council President Charles Michel - the "Comprehensive Agreement on Investment" (CAI) was approved.

This is a historic agreement that opens a new 'Silk Road' between Europe and the huge Chinese market. 

CAI’s basic principles aim at a substantial rebalancing of trade between Europe and China, as the latter has so far not been very open towards the former.

With this agreement, China is opening up to Europe in many significant areas, particularly in manufacturing and services. 

In these areas, China undertakes to remove the regulations that have so far strongly discriminated against European companies, thus ensuring legal certainty for those who intend to produce in China and aligning European and Chinese companies from the regulatory viewpoint, as well as encouraging the establishment of joint ventures and the signing of commercial and production agreements.

With specific reference to services, China will foster European investment in cloud and financial services, as well as private healthcare, and services related to air and sea transport.

This is the first time in its history that China has opened up in this way to foreign companies and investment.

China and Europe seem to have realized that in the post-pandemic world there should be no room for "geopolitical Olympics" which determine who wins the "first superpower" medal, but rather there will be a need for a new and creative economic multilateralism that sees the East and West of the world working together to lay concrete foundations for the rebirth of the planet.

We all hope that the United States will be involved in the game, perhaps taking an example from the realism of Israel and the Arab States that seem to have understood that we all come out poorer from conflicts.

 

Professor Valori is President of the International World Group

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