N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
For the second time this year, high level diplomats from the United States and China met. Like last time, the conversation was described as ‘open and direct’. That means in ‘normal language’ that the table has been struck and the windows have trembled. The purpose of the meeting was, at least according to the Americans, not to come to an agreement but to give both sides the opportunity to clarify their positions to avoid misunderstanding.
While signals are being exchanged in the diplomatic arena, a showdown is taking place in the economic field. The stakes are high in the eyes of the Chinese rulers, they appear willing to use a firm hand to bring their successful companies back in line when they drift too much away from Beijing. The fact that billions in stock market value go up in smoke is apparently irrelevant. That indicates that much higher interests are at stake for the Chinese leaders than the profit of their top companies.
Through strategic investments in raw materials and infrastructure around the world, China is steadily building a network which will be able to profoundly disrupt the balance of power in a globalised world. The People’s Republic will use its weight to recreate the future. And it will incessantly want to expand its territorial influence, after Hong Kong comes Taiwan.
Former US President Trump saw the danger, his successor Biden as well but it seems to a lesser extent. And where is the EU? Too busy with quarrelling with its neighbours, the UK, Russia, Belarus, Turkey. And with a climate plan that will impoverish the EU but without having a serious impact on the problem on global scale.
It is five to twelve, the West cannot simply go on trading with China and turning a blind eye to its expansionism. The stakes are much too high for that.