By stepping up its hubris, is Washington driving toward a dead end?
The strongest states, according to the neo-mercantilists, give life to international regimes (monetary, commercial, productive, etc.) to advance national interests, then refuse to adhere to the principles and rules when they enter into conflicts with their own interests. In this way it is possible to explain the withdrawal of the US from international agreements such as the Paris Agreement, criticisms of the safeguard clauses envisaged within the WTO, the threat to exit from this organization, and so on.
For this reason, many observers talk about the end of the liberal order because the defection of the leader is becoming a constant.
However, the world is no longer unipolar and there is less room to do what one wants, as seen in the tug of trade war with China.
The authorities in Beijing have reiterated that they would come up with countermeasures against the new round of tariff increases. Nobody emerges a winner from the trade war. This has always been Beijing’s position in favor of fair trade with the US. Initially, a year and a half ago, the launch of the new import tariffs wanted by the Trump administration was often weighed up. Observers avoided using the word “war” and the Chinese in particular were cautious. Today the authorities in Beijing are denouncing the unreliability of the US more strongly.
Almost 17 months after the trade war between the two national pillars of the world economy began, it is increasingly evident that we are in the midst of a strategic conflict provoked by the US, which is fighting it with all its means.
Sanctions on leading Chinese hightech companies, with various bans on the sale of American components; all kinds of pressures against the Chinese 5G and related bilateral agreements around the world; support and provocations on Taiwan and Hong Kong affairs, which are China’s internal affairs, where documented US interference (not today) is intolerable for China. Going forward: criticism on China’s Xinjiang’s anti-terrorism and anti-extremism measures is build up on information manipulation; attempts to widen the field to currency competition, the re-emerging ones’ accusations of currency manipulation were not valid years ago, and they are not today, with an increasingly integrated and open China. Not to mention the aforementioned declaration on the reform of the WTO. The Trump administration continues to move from an extreme position to its exact opposite, even within a few days.
China, for its part, continues to anticipate the objectives of its economic policy plans and to accelerate innovation, research and the development of its internal markets.
High savings, wage growth, support for domestic demand and restructuring of supply side are the cornerstones of the Chinese “new normal” to stabilize the economic growth, at least since 2008. The West, on the contrary, loses bits and pieces, by foreshadowing the advance of a new great crisis.
Once again, it is neoliberalism, with various neo-mercantilist nuances, that is in the dock, while China continues to experiment a sui generis model.
When a liberal and neo-mercantilist country, in alternate phases, fears its own alleged hegemony, it risks making more and more dangerous maneuvers. With China and Russia being closer than in the past, however, there is no room for military solutions. Therefore, the US relies on all the other levers, but currently with little success. The author is associate professor of Geography/international Studies (ASN), teaching at the International Institute Lorenzo de’ Medici, Florence. He is also member of CCERRI think tank, Zhengzhou, and EURISPES, Laboratorio BRICS, Rome. His latest book is
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