“The Enemy of My Enemy…” China, the USA, and Europe in Late 2020.

                             by David Parmer / Tokyo

Introduction:

The often-repeated phrase in its entirety is: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

But in late 2020, when it comes to China-VS-USA and Europe in the middle, it seems that there are no friends to be found for any of the participants. Whatever way you draw the triangle, “friendship” is not one of the components.

In this article we will take a look at the relationship among the three countries and see how the dynamics as they now stand spell only disengagement in the short term and even conflict in the long term despite historical and long-standing mutual interests.

Finally, how is China losing the battle for mind-share, not only worldwide, but particularly in Europe?

 Europe Puts European Interests Over American Interests and Goes Its Own Way

  1. Huawei Situation

Background: Huawei, one of the top 3 mobile phone manufacturers has, since May 2019 been the subject of crippling US sanctions which have significantly impacted its business. More than just a sideshow to the ongoing US-China trade war, the US sanctions have impacted global procurement not only in consumer products but also negatively affected IT networking. The US complaint about Huawei focused on three issues:

  • Cyber security
  • Links to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)
  • State sponsorship of Huawei

After a series of extensions the Huawei ban has come into full effect in 2020. The company has admitted that the sanctions are taking a major bite out of its business, but at the same time has found some temporary work-arounds in its mobile phone business. Huawei uses the Android system, but Google is now prohibited from working with Huawei. Huawei ships Android phones without the Google applications, which makes the phones potentially less attractive. Huawei is trying to court developers to its platform in hopes of increasing its appeal to consumers. Recently the company has come out with the Harmony OS which it will start using with certain devices, but still use Android for phones. Some say it is all a matter of time before Huawei Harmony becomes their default OS for all devices. (2021?)

As for the business-to-business side (B to B) of Huawei, the company operates in 170 countries worldwide. As the rollout of 5G technology takes place worldwide, Huawei is at stage-center in the US-China trade disagreement and sanctions. And the US has/is putting enormous pressure on the Europeans to exclude Huawei from their 5G upgrades. So far, the UK has decided to exclude Huawei.

There has been no stampede among the Europeans to get behind the US and the UK on this issue. However, Sweden, Spain, Austria, and Hungary have not excluded Huawei. France has ruled out a total ban on Huawei and Germany is sitting on the fence. For many countries, excluding Huawei is not only a political issue, but a technical one as well: many countries have legacy Huawei equipment, and switching suppliers to non-Chinese suppliers or local suppliers is a real headache. German’s decision, when it does come, will probably clarify the issue for many Europeans. Which countries will finally line up with the US, UK and Australia on the Huawei ban remains to be seen, but many countries are certainly feeling the heat generated by the US-China rivalry.

  1. The JCPOA or “Iran Deal”

 The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) was an agreement between Iran and six other countries including China, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom as well as Germany and the European Union. The agreement called for Iran to curtail enrichment of uranium and permit on-site inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. In exchange for this Iran would have sanctions by the European Union, United Nations and the United States lifted. There was also the matter of some Iranian Ian funds being released.

The agreement went into effect in January 2016 and Iran was found to be in compliance with the agreement as a result of several subsequent on-site inspections. In May 2018 US President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the JCPOA citing hidden Iranian nuclear programs that were not reported in the past.

While the US withdrawal was not a fatal blow to the JCPOA, it did create serious problems. If the Trump administration assumed that the parties to the agreement would simply walk away, they were mistaken. The Europeans and the Chinese and the Russians did not walk away from the deal, but rather tried to keep it alive by all means possible.

The Europeans even came up with a barter scheme whereby Iran could exchange its oil for goods as well as other ways to assist Iran in the face of American sanctions. The Europeans have tried to keep the JCPOA on “life support” and keep the agreement intact, much to the annoyance of the Trump administration and the Netanyahu administration in Israel.

On September 21, 2020 Secretary Pompeo announced that the US was re-imposing sanctions on Iran under the “snapback” provisions of the JCPOA. Earlier in the summer, President Donald Trump had announced this action to the consternation of the remaining JCPOA participants including Iran. Since the US was no longer a member of the agreement, it could not possibly call for “snapback.” But that is what the Trump administration did. And proceeded to re-impose sanctions. However the parties to the agreement, particularly the Europeans soundly rejected the legality of the move and refused to support the re-imposed sanctions. China and Russia went along with the Europeans and Iran.

The lack of solidarity with the US on the JCPOA is another case where the Europeans have acted in their own way and their own interests in dealing with a traditional and long time ally. These days, many aspects of the “special relationship” seem to be water under the bridge in light of the nationalistic, “America First” policies of the Trump administration.

  1. Europe and NATO’s Article 5

In 1945 Nazi fascism has just been defeated and most of Europe was in ashes. No sooner had one threat been removed than another one sprang up. The Soviet Union and America faced off in what was to become known as the Cold War. Russia had imposed its own brand of communism on Eastern Europe and this block of states stood behind what Winston Churchill called an “iron curtain.”

To counter the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe and the threat of further Soviet expansion, 12 countries banded together in 1949 to form the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The purpose for their association was collective defense as outlined in Article 5 of the treaty signed in Washington. Simply put an attack on one country or its representatives or interests would be considered an attack on all, and all would have to respond. The Soviets came up with their own version of NATO six years later when they established the Warsaw Pact in 1955. Collective defense as outlined in Article 5 was not invoked until 2001 when the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked by Saudi terrorists using hijacked airliners.

For more than 70 years the alliance has held firm. What is distressing is a shift in attitudes across Europe. A 2020 Pew Research Center found that 50% said that their country should not honor Article 5 if another member country were attacked by Russia. Only 38% said that their country should abide by their Article 5 commitment. Despite this, the report found that Europeans generally had a positive impression of NATO.

There has been talk of a European Army to replace NATO. Harsh criticism was leveled against NATO by French President Emmanuel Macron who, in 2019, called the organization “brain dead.”

Other leaders like Angela Merkel who stated that there is still value for the Europeans in NATO participation. This comes on the back of constant harping by US President Donald Trump for European allies to increase their defense spending.

After 70 years, Europeans have mixed feelings about the function and existence of NATO and about honoring their Article 5 obligations. How things would change in the face of some unambiguous Russian aggression in the near future remains to be seen.

Europe Sees Its Own Self Interest in Supporting America and its Allies.

 In at least two major ways areas, i.e. participation in in NATO and participation in the Indo-Pacific strategy, Europe has taken the pro-US, pro West strategy that would be expected of it.

Europe and NATO

The evaluation by NATO of its own performance over 70 years differs from the Pew Research Report in that NATO not only sees itself in favorable light, but also sees itself as having achievements of note during its first 70 years.

Seventy years ago, NATO’s founding treaty was signed in Washington D.C. Today, our Alliance is the strongest in history, guaranteeing the freedom of our almost one billion citizens, the security of our territory, and the protection of our values, including democracy, individual liberty, human rights, and the rule of law. We reaffirm the enduring transatlantic bond between Europe and North America, our adherence to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and our bedrock commitment enshrined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty that an attack against one Ally should be considered an attack against us all. We are determined to improve the balance of sharing the costs and responsibilities of our indivisible security. 
(NATO Statement on the occasion of NATO’s 70th Anniversary).

The threat of Russian aggression for many NATO members is as real as it was in 1949. This has brought new members and new associations recently, particularly with the Nordic nations that live under the shadow of the Russian bear. The same goes for the Baltic republics of Latvia Lithuania and Estonia. Among themselves Nordic nations have banded together for military cooperation in logistics and procurement and inter-operability.

As noted in the last line of the NATO statement the countries involved are aware of their cost-sharing obligations even without the constant reminders, bordering on harassment, made by US President Donald Trump.

  1. Europeans and the Indo Pacific

As late there has been a pivot toward the US Indo-Pacific strategy by the Europeans and a distancing themselves from China. Both France and Germany have begun see their interests lying not just in their local area, but half a world away in the vast Indo-Pacific region.

In particular, Germany sets the example and aligns with the US and regional nations including Japan and Korea in calling for an open and free Indo-Pacific.

 Europe Sides With China

Europe has many common interests with China and has acted accordingly. Europeans and Chinese access each other’s markets, and Germany, for example, has had a long and profitable economic relationship with the PRC, particularly in the area of automobile manufacturing. Europe also stands to benefit by both the overland and maritime branches of China’s Belt and Road scheme.

As noted above, France, Germany, the UK, and the EU have stood firm with China and Russia regarding the JCPOA, or Iran nuclear deal. This has been even in the face of strong pressure from the Trump administration which unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018.

On August 14, 2020, the UN Security Council failed to support the US move to extend the arms embargo against Iran. US traditional allies (the E3) Germany, France and the UK abstained. This was a stunning defeat for the US and its policy of maximum pressure against Iran. The Trump administration pursues a policy of “America First” and distains globalization and the value of international organizations.

As noted earlier, President Trump himself harasses the Europeans publicly about their financial obligations to NATO in addition to his expressed distain for diplomacy and international cooperation. So it should be no wonder that when the US wants the E3 to fall in line with its Iran policy at the United Nations that the Europeans sit on their hands. 

In fact, it might be in the best interest of the region and the world if the Iran arms embargo were continued, but a bullying form of leadership (that threatens sanctions even on its own allies) can only result in quiet resentment that shows itself in a lack of support and solidarity when support support and solidarity are called for.

Europe and China have acknowledged interests in both the global economy and in dealing with climate change. These common interests continue despite the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and its strident America First campaign. These common interests can be leveraged by China to maintain some of its “soft power appeal” seriously damaged by the Hong Kong and human rights issues.

Where Europe Does Not Side With China

Europe going its own way with regard to China is pretty much the top story of mid-to-late 2020. It seems that the romance with China, if there ever was one, is rapidly fading for the Europeans.

Many of the complaints that the Europeans have about China are the same complaints that the Americans have. However, as we have seen, this does not immediately make them allied in a common opposition to China.

Europe’s complaints with China leading to a disillusion with the PRC focus on human rights and China’s adoption of the national security law in Hong Kong and the situation with China’s Uyghur minority in Xinjiang. China has not made its case on the international stage to support its actions in Hong Kong, and has been branded as destroying or not living up to the promises it made regarding One Country Two Systems when Hong Kong returned to Chinese control in 1997.

China’s Massive Failure to Communicate

China has not responded to criticism of its actions to restore and maintain order in Hong Kong. China had a strong case for law and order and its experience with the Cultural Revolution to point to when it decided to crack down on protest in the former colony. China could have made a case for an end to anarchy, property damage, and injury of innocent citizens.

It could have emphasized that it relied on the government of the Hong Kong SAR to handle the crisis and did not send in the People’s Liberation Army. Instead it chose to focus on its opposition to any kind of independence or secession which was seen as the real threat by Beijing.

This lack of defense of its own position lead the PRC to be seen and labeled as an oppressor of Hong Kong democracy, and a destroyer of the 1997 agreement. The fact is that the Hong Kong government acted with patience and restraint in dealing with most radical elements of the Hong Kong protest movement and this was not reported.

The fact that local council elections were held at the time of the protests and that anti-Beijing candidates swept the election, and the election was let stand by the government has not been fully reported as an example of Hong Kong style democracy at work.

 This lack of a positive and affirmative explanation for its actions created a strong narrative worldwide and certainly contributed to the European’s decision to distance themselves from China.

Coupled with this is China’s handling of its Uyghur minority in Xinjiang. China has never really explained clearly what the situation is in Xinjiang and what course of action it is pursuing with this minority

People around the world have seen the horrible consequences of radical Islamic terrorism from the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York in 2001 to the cruelty and barbarity of the so- called Islamic State known as DAESH or ISIS.

However, China has not made any case for preventing the formation of such a radical Islamic movement within its borders or explained what exactly it is doing in regard to the Uyghur minority.

By treating both Hong Kong and the Uyghur situation as internal affairs it has let itself be portrayed as an oppressor and human rights violator worldwide. The narrative in the world press is that China IS a violator of human rights, and that China has gone back on the One Country-Two Systems scheme in Hong Kong by enacting the National Security Law. China’s lack of an effective and believable explanation has led these perceptions to be seen as indisputable fact.

This massive failure by the PRC to communicate its side of the story has surely been a contributing factor in European disillusionment with China after a long period of productive engagement.

A Lack of Level Playing Field and the Indo-Pacific

The second major point of contention with China among Europeans is the concept of the “level playing field.” The perception is that European companies have a tougher time competing with Chinese entities because of government support which gives the Chinese side an unfair advantage. Add to this the accusation of forced technology transfer and you have some disgruntled trading partners and investors.

The human rights issue coupled with the lack of level playing field adds to the European’s disillusionment with China.

China’s claims and actions in the South China Sea adds another layer to the mix. As a result the Europeans are beginning to take an interest in the Indo-Pacific region and the US policy in the Indo- Pacific. While the Europeans are not ready to join Australia and the US in an alliance, they are pivoting to the idea that an “open and free Indo-Pacific” is in their self-interest. France began this shift and now Germany, long aligned with China at least economically, has began its own pivot.

Conclusion: Opportunities for China in an Evolving Geopolitical Order

China rising should be welcomed around the world; the Sick Man of Asia has become the Prosperous Man of Asia and is in a position to share its vision of the new world order with competitors and friends alike. Yet China’s actions, whether domestically or internationally are viewed around the world with suspicion.

The Belt and Road initiative which has the potential to bring prosperity to an incredible number of people in many regions around the world is viewed with suspicion at best, and its achievements are ignored.

China has the right to pursue Xi Jinping’s vision of a moderately prosperous society by mid-century, but it also needs to win friends and influence people along the way. Certainly, in the case of Europe, China should have trading partners willing to participate in the New Silk Road and prosper therefrom.

China needs to do a serious “self criticism” and find out what it has done and is doing to alienate so many potential allies and friends around the world. Soft power that does not make friends and create a balance among nations is not any power at all.

The United States, The People’s Republic of China, and Europe should be able to find areas of cooperation and coordination while at the same time remaining competitors and pursuing their own self-interests. Friends? Enemies? Partners? Competitors? Each bloc must decide what is best for its people and best for the greater global community of nations.

Photo: Paul Hudson via flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

Europe Between The US and China.

                      by Philippe Valdois RSA

When asked about Europe’s position regarding the US-China confrontation, more questions than answers came to my mind. Can we see a consensus emerging, and as multilateral institutions and rules are coming under attack around the world, will it be possible for European countries to tune up their violins? Another major issue concerns the fear of coercion by superpowers. It could divide, or unite European countries. And what about the fear of war? Considering how complex the nature of this confrontation was, this essay would quickly become a review of sorts calling out for the opinion of a number of experts, in economics, in finances, in AI, in IT, in security, in diplomacy or in the military. There is however one central issue rarely debated as it should be, the digital economy, that I would like to introduce first as example. If we hear Washington criticizing China under the guise of protecting national security, the trade battle is in fact more about who will control the digital economy. 

I will then leave the other issues to be sorted out by experts and examine instead from a larger perspective how fear and incertitudes are amplified on various fronts, for political or economical gains. This might help us understand better how the EU could develop strategies aimed at restoring multilateral alliances and reestablish a better relation of trust with its trade partners, in a world where economic interdependency prevails, regardless of the numerous attacks on the multilateral system I mentioned previously. There isn’t any unique solution to this set of challenges and it is difficult to be optimistic. The European Union, like the ASEAN, is promoting multilateralism and integration, but as such is now facing an existential threat. The Covid-19 has exposed divisions inside those institutions and has offered an opportunity for the US and, beyond politicians’ words and slogans, China, to erode cohesion. The US-China confrontation will make it even more difficult for the EU to maintain a semblance of neutrality. 

Fear of War

The greatest fear of all is the threat of war. I do not subscribe to the theory of the Thucydides Trap. However, looking back at the Soviet-American Cold War that took place between 1962 and 1979, there is no doubt in my mind that the confrontation between China and the U.S. now taking place shows all the attributes of a cold war. If no proxy wars are being waged and if the barbs traded between Washington and Beijing often turn into a debate on the merits of multilateralism, there is not one day when the media do not mention acts of espionage, coercitive mesures taken to ensure that allies will follow in step as economic actions are taken, or false statements used as propaganda tools. 

Willis Sparks offered on Sept. 21, 2020 an eight days timeline under the evocative title US-China: Temperature rising. He mentioned a wide range of initiatives, sanctions and warnings related to and not limited to trade, economics and security. One case even involved the Chinese Union Development Group and a project conducted in Cambodia and associated with Beijing’s Belt and Road project. 

The US administration is not shy in naming the enemy, and it is China. War games and simulations usually involve an unnamed enemy. This is no more the case. Both US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other high-profile members of the US administration have use harsh words directed at China. In fact, naming the enemy while condemning the country’s regime and its strategic ambitions might be one thing, but it is irresponsible in the context of a potential military confrontation with the second economy in the world to call for a change of regime.

Secretary of Defence Mark Esper reiterated Pompeo’s narrative in his speech at RAND Corporation’s Los Angeles office on Sept. 16, 2020. 

China, for example, is exerting its malign influence through its ‘One-Belt, One-Road’ Initiative. This campaign has left weaker nations with crushing debt, forcing them to take their economic relief at the expense of their sovereignty. Additionally, Beijing’s aggression and disregard of its commitments in the South and East China Seas – such as the sinking of a Vietnamese vessel and escorting of Chinese fishing fleets into the exclusive economic zones of Indonesia and the Philippines – are further examples of the Communist Party’s attempts to reshape and undermine the international order that has benefitted nations, large and small. 

He was even more blunt two days later when, on Sept. 18, 2020, according to USNI News he said that “the Navy needed to ensure it was investing in its people, their training and their families so they could be ready to deter or fight China.”

We are reminded of President George W. Bush’s famous words pronounced before the Congress 9 days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks: “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” The current US administration made it clear that its allies would have to choose camps. As Washington multiplies its contacts with Taiwan and tensions intensify, The conduct by France, the United Kingdom and other US allies of freedom of navigation operations, in both the Southern China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, could be construed by Beijing as strong acts of provocation. 

Fear of coercion

Coercion can take milder forms but still create serious dilemmas for the EU as it did with the Iran issue. The US expects European countries to apply its economic sanctions against China. The EU has to walk a tight rope, not exacerbating the tensions or exposing itself to retaliation from China or a mercurial US. Australia, as a geographic neighbor and major trade partner of China, is more exposed than the EU and can offer Bruxelles an example of what the EU could expect in terms of retaliations from China if it was to engage in a war of words with Beijing or align itself with Washington in criticizing China for its response to the pandemic.

Trade could suffer but we see similar issues arising in the supply chains in the IT sector. It is clear that most attacks directed at China are for domestic consumption and that branding has been a constant in Donald Trump’s arsenal. As Brett O’Donnell, a veteran debate coach, commented:

“What makes the President difficult to debate is that he does stuff through branding. He doesn’t make these long-drawn out substantive arguments. … He just sort of brands you to make a point and then hopes it will be filled in after the fact,”

This trait applies to all his dealings, including with foreign dignitaries. Regarding the IT sector, we can see Donald Trump branding Huawei among other Chinese entities as “thieves,” or “a threat to the world,” but this conflict is not about fairness but about who will control the future, and more importantly for the US President, to offer the image of China as an unfair trade partner to show potential voters that he is protecting the US against Chinese aggression. Here too, The EU is in a position of spectator since out of the seven digital technology giants, the FAAAM (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Alphabet and Microsoft), Tencent and Alibaba, none is European. The bloc’s historical defense of privacy in the form of strict rules and penalties makes it wary of any attempts by the Chinese and US governments to collect personal information, directly or indirectly, resulting, for example in the rejection of the EU-US data transfer agreement. 

I mentioned various characteristics of what could be described as a cold war. It is not difficult to conclude that public opinion is already influenced by lies, misleading informations and propaganda. In China, however, the support for the government and distrust towards the US did not need much nudging from the regime to rise in response to Washington’s virulent anti-China campaign, at least when attributing the responsibility of the propagation and even the “creation” of the new coronavirus virus to China. Part of the support from Chinese citizens was based on the perception that Beijing has done a good job in bringing the pandemic under control. The numbers made apparent to them the fact that the US administration campaign had for main objective to deflect domestic public opinion from the White House failures. A recent Pew Research pol found that 78% of Americans thought that the “Chinese government’s initial handling of the coronavirus in Wuhan is a great deal/a fair amount to blame for the global spread of the virus.” It is to be noted that the level of satisfaction of Chinese citizens for their national leaders is higher than for the local ones, which shows that if nationalist propaganda plays a great part in shaping opinion, the average citizen was able to understand where most of the blame lied.

It is to be noted that if the US negative view of China appears extreme regarding China’s response to the Covid-19, most industrialized countries, including in the EU, share this criticism. However, in Negative views of both U.S. and China abound across advanced economies amid COVID-19, Laura Silver, Kat Devlin and Christine Huang analyze the results of a survey of 14 advanced countries that show a lack of confidence in both China and the US. Here are their conclusions:

  1. Most people have unfavorable views of both China and the U.S. – but more see the U.S. favorably.
  2. Most people rate China more positively than the U.S. in its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
  3. Few have confidence in either country’s president – but across much of Western Europe, more have confidence in China’s Xi Jinping.
  4. More see China as the world’s leading economic power than the U.S.

We might be led to believe that China is better positioned than the US under Trump to lead the efforts in reinforcing a multilateral world system. However, other factors are influencing European’s opinion. 

I mentioned Australia and a case of economical retaliation by Beijing in response to Canberra criticizing its policies. China’s authoritarian regime is more and more denounced for its heavy-handed initiatives. In Europe and the New Sino-American Cold War Nicolas Regaud reminds us that the EU has designated in 2019 China as a “rival systémique,” ou systemic rival. Additionally, if the EU is not willing to budge on human rights issues, Nicolas Regaud explains that:

Brussels considers that deep disagreements with Beijing should not prevent it from cooperating with China on global issues such as climate change, refusing the zero-sum game that seems to prevail in Washington. 

However, and here we go back to the question of cohesion among the EU members, Axios revealed on October 6, 2020, that “A high-ranking German official suppressed a sensitive intelligence report in 2018 on China’s growing influence in Germany out of fear it would damage business ties with China.” Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, the writer and expert on China concludes that “German business interests, as well as the country’s top economics official Peter Altmaier, have thus tended to downplay China’s growing human rights violations and security challenges.” This goes against the official position of the EU regarding human rights and shows that, like with the decisions made by individual states regarding the Covid-19, we can expect a lack of cohesion in the bloc. 

Conclusion

We have seen that the confrontation between the US and China is susceptible to generate much damage. Europe cannot align with one of the two superpowers without attracting retaliation by the other. It cannot ignore its own system of values to give way to pragmatism, given a rising authoritarianism and intensifying repression not seen in China since Mao Tzsetung. I suggested that Europe was in a similar situation as the ASEAN with dangerous and exigent neighbors. In answer to the simple question: what can Europe do? I would offer the following perspective.

It is on purpose that I chose to focus this essay on the idea of fear, recognizing that world leaders might be as much in the dark as any average citizen about the future. The growing rejection of “professional” politicians in Europe and elsewhere by the average citizens can be seen in part as the understanding that our leaders don’t know what they are doing. Being on a rudder-less boat on a rough sea with a blind captain can be frightening and the fear of the unknown might be what characterizes the best today’szeitgeist. Leaders might actually be the ones most afraid of the unknown and this again would explain the rise of authoritarianism and ultra-conservatism both in China and the US. Europe, thanks to its diversity is in a unique position to embrace the unknown as described by Frederick Kempe in U.S.-China confrontation is like nothing we’ve seen before. He says about the “epochal enormity” of what’s unfolding:

…It is also new because the U.S. and China, after four decades of wishful collaboration, are now locked in a contest that could define our times. It isn’t a struggle, as the hyperbole would have it, over “world domination,” which no country has ever achieved. But it could have significant impact on “world determination,” influencing whether democracy or autocracy, market capitalism or state capitalism, are the flavors of the future.

It is a unique period as well in that this unfolding contest coincides with the Fourth Industrial Revolution and an era of unprecedented technological change driven by big data, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, bioengineering and so much more.

The European Union will have to adapt to this rapidly evolving reality and be proactive in encouraging reforms in international organizations such as the WTO and the WHO. Facing the rapid evolution of technology, it is vital that codes of conduct and rules be decided if only to alleviate the malaise of the population. There is no better way to encourage cooperation and promote a consensus on global issues such as health and climate change among countries than to promote education and restore the trust in science. I would mention as example space exploration and the Artemis Accords.

What about the November US presidential election? I am also pessimistic. If Joe Biden is elected, he will have to deal with two different agendas, implementing expected reforms in a context of pandemics while dealing with trade and security issues, including those involving China, and repairing the damage done during Trump’s mandate, by restoring trust with US allies, etc. Compromises might help him alleviate criticism from the other side, and this would include maintaining sanctions and adopting a tough position towards Beijing.

Photo: Thijs ter Haar via flickr