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The Dragon threatens…

The pretty orange and red coloured dragon weaves through the crowds of people in Liverpool’s Chinatown chasing a pearl during Chinese New Year celebrations.

“Painted the horror” in academia and in the Western media regarding China's “threat”!

Only in recent months have there been a proliferation of, reflections, News, debates, in various academic and international media outlets warning of the urgent need for the West to counteract the emergence of the “Chinese dragon”. The latest edition of Foreign Affairs and the “Project Syndicate” website, among other vehicles, are full of analyzes in this sense.

Many of them seem to accept what seems inevitable to them: the decline of American hegemony, and the West. Cito, in this regard, excerpt from the article “Present at the Re-creation?” da ex-Presidente do “Carnegie Endowment for International Peace”, Jessica Matheus, in the most recent issue of “Foreign Affairs”, where she states that “a return to the pre-Trump status quo is not possible. The world — and the United States — has changed so much. And although we welcome the return of American hegemony (with Biden's election – my emphasis) may seem reassuring to Americans, this reveals, as a matter of fact, the degree of tone deafness this sounds to the rest of the world… When people elsewhere look at Washington's record over the past two decades, they don't see credible leadership. What do they see, instead, is a series of disasters authored by Washington, including the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent destabilization of much of the Middle East, and the global financial crisis of 2008. During these decades, Washington also continued an ineffective war in Afghanistan, an incoherent policy in Syria, and ill-founded humanitarian interventions, most notably in Libya”…

Moving on, Professor Matheus points out that among the main challenges of Joe Biden's foreign policy “is the need for a balanced and non-ideological approach towards China. Beijing's growing military power, its provocative maneuvers in the South China Sea, its increasingly repressive policies (including egregious human rights abuses against Uighurs in Xinjiang and a crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong), and the subtraction of critically important information about the emergence of the new coronavirus, constitute a threatening scenario. The United States, However, have no choice but to develop a strategy to coexist with this constantly rising economic and military power; even though “the number of Americans with an unfavorable view of China has increased 47% at the beginning of Trump's presidency to 73% last fall, according to the Pew Research Center”.

Michael Green, professor da “Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service”, and Evan Medeiros, professor of Asian Studies at the “Asia Group”, stated in the matter “Can America Restore Its Credibility in Asia?” on Project Syndicate that “President Joe Biden entered the White House determined to restore the world’s trust in the United States. This task is particularly important in the Indo-Pacific region, which has become as central to geopolitics as Europe was during the Cold War. The presence, United States influence and credibility in the region are weakened, and restoring them will require Biden to emerge from a deep hole.”.

According to the two analysts, the time has come for the United States and its allied European partners to build a shared strategy to face this scenario. For so much, count on Europe's increasingly negative perception of China; she “hardened” in recent years, with the EU calling China “systemic rival”; and great actors, like France and Germany, adopted strategies following their own visions. According to both “scholars”, the United States and Europe broadly share the same concerns about Chinese approaches to the economy, human rights and climate change, for example. In this scenario, joint initiatives on topics such as 5G technology or data privacy rules would signal to Beijing that the United States and European powers are united around free market principles, democratic governance and peaceful resolution of disputes. However, for them, “Maintaining these coalitions will require a statesmanlike stance from Biden and mutual support in the face of imaginable Chinese economic pressure. Like this, the more effective these efforts are, the United States and its allies must be prepared for Beijing's reaction, both rhetorical and economic. On the other hand, it is necessary to take into account the interests of Western companies in the immense Chinese market. E, in addition, Washington cannot ignore its unique role as a central guarantor of regional security — a role the Biden administration must redouble to highlight the U.S. capability to act on the increasingly sensitive issue of territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

In this regard, for Green and Medeiros, with regard to economic competition, Washington can no longer count on the size and gravitational pull of its economy or the strength of its private sector to persuade countries to act according to the international rules and systems it defends., as China is rapidly replacing the United States as the main source of investment and final demand for Asian exports. With this, is becoming the economic reference point for governments in the region. For example: from 2020, Southeast Asia, instead of the United States or Europe, became China's largest trading partner. It is worth remembering that in recent years, the region concluded two broad trade agreements — the “Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership” (CPTPP) it's at “Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership” (RCEP) — none of which include the United States; This is even though many Chinese practices conflict with – and commit – the interests of the Indo-Pacific economies.

This stance in a way “resigned” in view of what part of academia and public opinion understands to be the future of relations between world hegemons, finds, However, the resistance of some analysts. Robert Kagan, member of “Stephen and Barbara Friedman Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution”, states that “Americans’ capacity for global power exceeds their perception of their place and role in the world. Even though they faced the challenges of Nazism and Japanese imperialism,, of Soviet communism and radical Islamic terrorism, they never considered this global activism as normal. Even in the age of the Internet, long-range missiles and an interdependent global economy, many Americans maintain the psychology of “people living isolated on a vast continent, untouched by world turmoil”. However, “Americans have never been isolationists”, Affirmed Kagan. “In times of emergency, they have been persuaded to support extraordinary efforts in distant places. But they regard these as exceptional responses to exceptional circumstances. They do not see themselves as the main defender of a certain type of world order; they never embraced that role “indispensable”.

“This always repeated approach, confused and deceived allies and adversaries, often to the point of stimulating conflicts that could have been avoided by the “enforcement” clear and constant view of American power and influence in the service of a peaceful world order, stable and liberal. The wealth and relative invulnerability that made the United States capable of fighting major wars and imposing peace in Europe, Asia and Middle East, simultaneously made them question the need, the desirability and even the morality of doing so. With the United States fundamentally secure and self-reliant, why did they need to get involved in conflicts thousands of kilometers from their shores? And what right did they have??”, asks the professor. Kogan.

For him “the question is not whether the United States is still capable of prevailing in a global confrontation, “warm” or “cold” (in reference to the Cold War, my emphasis), with China or any other power “revisionist”. The real question is whether the worst types of hostilities can be avoided, whether China and other powers can be encouraged to pursue their goals peacefully, limit global competition to the economic and political universes and, like this, spare yourself and the world the horrors of the next great war or even the still frightening confrontations of another cold war”… “Maybe the Chinese, careful students of history who are, will not make the mistake others have made in misjudging the United States. Realistic, liberal internationalists, Conservative and progressive nationalists seem to imagine that without Washington playing the role it has played in recent 75 years, the world will be fine, and US interests will be just as well protected. But neither recent history nor present circumstances justify such idealism.. The alternative to the American world order will not be a world of international law and institutions or the triumph of ?Enlightenment ideals or the end of history. It will be a world of power vacuums, chaos, conflict and miscalculation—a poor place, in fact.” (sic)

It will be?

We will be facing a split of worlds, and finally arriving at the West/East bipolarity, that we, that we live in the traumatic times of the Cold War, We remember with so much trepidation?… I was in Park Rapids, USA, how “exchange student”, in 1962, and I experienced the absurd tensions of Bahia dos Porcos. A threat of universal catastrophe scares. Of course this is not the case, but the paranoia, if taken to extreme, can cause severe strain on international relations.

One thing is right. Reality presents itself as it is, the question is to adapt it to our reality, Brazilian. “Tupinically” talking, our paranoia “made in Brazil” do “virus commune” the rhetoric of “the West” makes sense in an increasingly plural and globalized world “China bashing” can only cause us harm. The fight is “big dog”…Perhaps the smartest thing would be to take advantage of the opportunities it opens up for us to also open up our spaces, where they perform: it's the same as “responsible pragmatism” from Silveirinha, our biggest – and longing – Chancellor. Let the people say 66% of our trade surplus with China!

Below is the EstadĂŁo article about our trade relations with China. I suggest to friends to read:

The rise of trade with China – Opinion – EstadĂŁo,a-ascensao-do-comercio-com-a-china,70003625733

Fausto Godoy
Doctor of Public International Law in Paris. He entered the diplomatic career in 1976, served in Brussels embassies, Buenos Aires, New Delhi, Washington, Beijing, Tokyo, Islamabade (where he was Ambassador of Brazil, in 2004). He also completed transitional missions in Vietnam and Taiwan. Lived 15 years in Asia, where he guided his career, considering that the continent would be the most important of the century 21 - forecast that, now, sees closer and closer to reality.