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The vague prospects of the new American diplomacy

(excerpt from the GEAB 152 / Feb 2021)

We have often anticipated that Joe Biden could be worse[1] than Donald Trump on foreign relations. Didn’t he largely contribute to a rise in China-bashing during this last year of campaign? [2] Nevertheless, we preferred to keep our convictions for ourselves on this point last month, preferring to wait a few weeks to see what the new president would really be made of. We weren’t disappointed: the rhetoric is ultra-aggressive towards China[3]  and Russia;[4] the fine declarations on multilateralism[5] and global issues have already turned into a reaffirmation of US world leadership; the word “allies” is brandished at every turn as if we were already at war; [6]

The problem is that the world has changed a lot in one year: China has completed its transformation into an inescapable global power (its population has notably finished transforming itself into an irresistible consumer market instead of the mass of low-cost workers that it was 10 years ago),[7] Europe has strongly repositioned itself,[8] the Middle East has begun its regional integration[9] (instead of sinking into the war that the “experts” promised us in the event of the withdrawal of US troops). At China’s initiative, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade zone brings together the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and a whole host of American “allies” (even the Australia of the very anti-Chinese Prime Minister Scott Morrison has signed up[10]) in the world’s largest trade cooperation zone, etc. [11]  But the most impressive dropout in the image of the US concerns public opinion[12] and articles are raining about the impossible return to the norm(al) in terms of American leadership.[13]

How does Mr. Biden intend to impose his vision on all these people? Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping[14] seem to be worried about this, warning that the stakes of reorganising the world are major and require the good will of everyone beyond the inevitable differences. They undoubtedly have good reason to be worried: the United States still has considerable nuisance power. They can continue to annoy China in its close neighborhood to the point of forcing it to react, which would allow them, as with Russia 6 years ago, to outlaw it and force everyone to stop working with it.

But there’s a big difference between cutting off from Russia six years ago and cutting off from the Chinese economic dynamics today…

For example, in the Nvidia-Arm case, we see big tech, the UK, the EU and China moving closer together because of identical interests in blocking the American takeover of the British. Why? Because no one wants the components of Arm – found in every electronic device manufactured around the world – to fall via Nvidia under US sanctions, which prohibit them from working with Chinese companies.[15] In such a context, Joe Biden’s tone is likely to drop in the coming months. After all, perhaps he will follow a reverse Donald Trump’s move: from aggressive to constructive…read the full article

[1]      It should be remembered that more than ever before we assume our general analysis of Donald Trump’s foreign policy: he is the only one since Ronald Reagan not to have presided over the outbreak of any war, he helped to break the deadlock in the Middle East, he lost interest in the fate of Europe on the assumption that we were big enough to take care of ourselves, he even came close to lifting the North Korean lock, … this is where things became more complicated for him.


[2]      « Biden has at times gone even further than the outgoing president in attacking China ». Source: Reuters, 07/11/2020

[3]      Source: Financial Review, 11/02/2021

[4]      Source: Military.com, 05/02/2021

[5]      Source: CNBC, 14/12/2020

[6]      Source: CBC, 04/02/2021

[7]      Stratégie de longue date repérée par notre équipe. Source: SouthChinaMorningPost, 12/08/2020

[8]      This kind of article would not have been possible a year ago; we warmly recommend that you read this article. Source: Der Spiegel, 04/02/2021

[9]      Source: TradeVistas, 29/10/2020

[10]     Source: Financial Review, 15/11/2020

[11]     Interesting to read this Japanese opinion on the US-China trade war. Source: JapanTimes, 18/01/2021

[12]     See the results of polls carried out in the EU (source: ECFR, 19/01/2021), in the world (source: PewResearch, 15/09/2020), in the Arab world (source: Arab Barometer, 12/01/2021), …

[13]     Sources: Reuters, 19/01/2021; USNews, 20/01/2021; The Guardian, 31/01/2021…

[14]     Sources: Euractiv, 25/01/2021 (Chine); IrishTimes, 27/01/2021

[15]     Source: The Verge, 12/02/2021


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