The military potential of the rival countries is not as important in the confrontation between the United States and China as the flexibility and dynamism of the economy.
The winner of the U.S. presidential election, newly elected U.S. leader Joe Biden should try to “make a grand bargain” with America’s democratic allies. The achievement of President Donald Trump’s administration was recognition of the authoritarian threat from China. The task of the Biden administration will be to decide what to do with this next, writes The Economist magazine.
Donald Trump believes that America should fight the “offensive of China” on its own, abandoning the support of democratic allied countries. In his strategy for China, Biden should choose another way. America will certainly need a democratic alliance with like-minded countries to join forces. Of course, there are many obstacles on the way to such a democratic union, but the benefits will be much greater.
To understand why, it is worth thinking about how the Cold War against China differs from the U.S. rivalry with the USSR.
The confrontation with the Soviet Union was focused on ideology and nuclear weapons. Today, the new battlefield is information technology, 5G mobile networks, the Internet and artificial intelligence.
The military potential of the rival countries is not as important in the new confrontation as the flexibility and dynamism of the economy.
The first cold war took place against the background of “completely separate worlds” between the two countries. The “actors” in Cold War II are interconnected. This is partly the result of China’s integration into the world economy, especially after Beijing joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
This relationship also follows from the activities of many technology companies.
The current standoff between China and the United States reflects how difficult it is for any country to master the full range of technology activities alone.
The Communist Party of China has understood that the latest technologies are the way to power. China has huge ambitions in this field. In addition, the ruling Party of China supports the efforts of Chinese companies with subsidies and “industrial espionage”. Aware of the importance, China actively “publicizes” its technology, provides international contracts, promotes itself as a digital state and conducts a campaign to establish pro-Chinese standards in global organizations.
Ironically, Trump’s contradictory response to China’s determination has been successful. He convinced some allies to stop buying 5G network equipment from Chinese Huawei.
But in the long term, this approach only plays in favor of China. If the U.S. will continue to fight against Beijing on its own, it risks growing into the ultimate loss of America’s allies. In addition, Europe is becoming more and more independent in the international arena.
European politicians have announced plans to introduce digital taxes for American technology giants and limit acquisitions of foreign companies.
However, a new approach to European-American relations may help allies turn their weaknesses into advantages.
With closer cooperation on intelligence, the alliance can be more vigilant against security threats from Chinese hackers and technology companies. By coordinating their efforts on the latest technologies, the allies could defeat China in this area.
Instead of leaving America isolated, a new alliance with democratic countries would help the U.S. continue its struggle for technological domination, benefiting from close cooperation with like-minded countries.
The new alliance will also make America more open to cross-border scientific cooperation and immigration, which is vital for a country that thrives on contributions from international students, many of whom contribute to research or technology. This openness is a strength that China lacks.
Such cooperation may require some kind of treaty or organization, such as NATO or the WTO, but it may take too long.
In any case, it will be difficult to make such a “grand bargain”. On the one hand, America would have to admit that it is not as powerful a country as it was when the U.S. established a global order after World War II. America should be ready to make concessions to its allies right now, in areas such as taxation and some details of industrial policy, for example.
In this case, America’s allies would also have to make concessions. They would have to trust the country, which under Trump’s presidency sometimes disdained the transatlantic alliance. Probably, Europe would have to give up for some time its dream to become a “superpower” independent from America and China.
Cooperation between democratic allies will help achieve success in competition with China, particularly in the field of technology. When powerful democracies unite, it can make the world a safer place, the magazine concludes.