In the US-China war trap which has deepened in recent years, with Joe Biden’s arrival in the White House and his strategy of rallying a camp of “allies” around America in order to “contain” Chinese power, Europeans may be tempted to believe that the Western camp will eventually win.
This feeling is reinforced by the smoke screen that an American-centric information system creates between us Westerners and not only China, but the rest of the world altogether. Looking more objectively at what is happening in the other-world, there are many reasons to doubt the chances of winning the war (commercial, ideological, technological, or even military) that America is waging to China as a response to its (for the moment still) peaceful project of co-development.
Remember that the American strategic tutelage of Europe is the result of our errors at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, Europe is in a relatively strong position and is able to negotiate its strategic autonomy by playing skilfully on the duality of the current world power. It would be distressing if, instead, we were to find ourselves having to choose sides, leading us into further misguidance ending up in weakening our position, this time to China’s benefit…
To support this warning, this article argues that America will find it very difficult to win this war against China that it is proposing to its allies.
Unplugging America from China
Over the past 30 years, the US has become “addicted” to China without side effects. But in the last 10 years, the effects of the addiction have started to become visible and problematic. Why? Simply because China, having worked hard as Deng Xiaoping demanded, intends to build a modern society and see all its efforts paid back.
This new stage of Chinese strategy is a problem for the United States, which is finally realising how much its comfort was linked to Chinese efforts. Faced with the prospect of Chinese production turning towards its domestic market, with the rise in the range and price of this production, with the increase in the cost of Chinese labour, with the diversion of a significant part of the energy to the benefit of its emerging middle classes… the purchasing power of an America that is infinitely poorer than it believed itself to be might not hold out.
This reality has been known for the last fifteen years or so, giving rise to strategies on both sides of the Pacific:
. China is proposing a smooth transition to other parts of the world thus invited to follow the same strategy (‘development at all costs’). But by investing in the infrastructure for modern development in Africa and Asia, China happens to step on the toes of Western power, increasing systemic tension;
. Meanwhile, America is hesitating between three strategies: re-route its import flows (Obama), rebuild its self-sufficiency (Trump), block the emergence of China (Biden). In this waltz of hesitation, it is losing precious time.
America-China: an overview of the balance of power
Let’s take a closer look at how China and the US compare, with the help of this graphic from the excellent VisualCapitalist website.
Figure 1 – A comparison of the two economies, American and Chinese. Source: Visual Capitalist.
The economic pain of a US – China divorce
America is losing precious time and dragging its “allies” into painful strategic chaos. As far as the EU is concerned, the NATO-Russia crisis of 2014 caused heavy losses to the European economy. But what about sanctions against Chinese strategic enterprises? As we have seen, Europe:
. is facing a shortage of semiconductors as it launches its digitalisation project
. risks seeing its Parliament reject the EU-China global agreement on investments that it negotiated from a position of strength, obtaining all the guarantees it wanted from a China anxious not to get angry with Europe on the eve of the American Democratic changeover (this agreement is designed, in particular, to facilitate the access of European investors to China and to balance the EU-China investment balance)
. could see technology transfers come to a halt due to nationalist tensions
. may see its renewable energy program slow down if it can no longer get its hands on Chinese solar panels, rare earths and electronic components for wind turbines
. and so on…
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