The row over Huawei is just the beginning. And neither Britain nor Europe has a strategy yetby Simon Fraser / January 28, 2020 / Leave a comment
After three decades of American dominance, we are on the brink of a return of two-power geopolitics—a competition between an America led by the simplistic populist nationalism of Donald Trump and a China that has become steadily more assertive as its economic and political power has grown. Confrontation over markets, power, ideas and systems is inevitable; the challenge will be whether conflict can be avoided, and a form of steady equilibrium achieved.
Don’t look to the Cold War for a model. This is a different rivalry, involving greater strategic interdependence; China is a serious economic competitor for America and a major stakeholder in the status quo. Neither side has an ideological commitment to eliminating the other. Territory and military power will matter, but the competition lies as much in the boardrooms of Alibaba, Huawei, Dell, Google or Lenovo as in the South China Sea, Tehran or Pyongyang. It is a contest for primacy in innovation, regulation and the market for future technologies.
All this should worry Europeans, who have grown used to having a seat at the top table. China and shale gas have brought a fundamental shift in America’s strategic priorities. The solidarity of Western allies is no longer taken as read: Trump’s America is unsentimental, transactional and commercial. If he is reelected this will continue. If he is not, the tone towards allies may change, but the underlying strategic shift of interests will persist.
A plan for Europe
As the two heavyweights square up, Europeans need to find national and shared strategies to adapt to the new conditions and influence them for the good and in our interest. Divided and introspective, we are far from reaching an answer, but here are four guiding principles.
The first goal of European policy should be to avoid being forced into a binary choice between China and the US. The division of the world into two competing and potentially hostile economic, regulatory and security zones of influence would be an enormous reverse for mankind. Our relationship with America remains indispensable, but while we are right to be cautious with a more authoritarian China, we should not withdraw from engagement.
The European Union can and should aspire to position itself as a third global…