The True Origins of the US-Chinese Trade War
China responded to Trump’s tariffs with economic restrictions of its own, though its market has always been notoriously difficult to enter due to Beijing’s own ironically “protectionist” policies designed to safeguard its domestic producers, but the government has been easing its prior regulations in recent years in order to facilitate the country’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) global vision of New Silk Road connectivity. The developing trade war between the US and China threatens to formalize the long-running economic competition between these two Great Powers as they vie with one another over control of the world order, with Washington wanting to retain its erstwhile but fading unipolar dominance while Beijing wants to pioneer the emergence of a multipolar system marked by a diversity of theoretically equal stakeholders.
The friction between these contradictory forces is the basis of the ongoing New Cold War, though there’s a bit more of a backstory to this global struggle than just that.
The US thought that “winning back Beijing” through its late Cold War-era alliance with China against the USSR would allow Washington to do as it pleases to what its decision makers had convinced themselves was their largest proxy state to date, but the US’ betrayal of China through the failed Tiananmen Square Color Revolution attempt of 1989 forever changed how the East Asian country’s communist leaders viewed America. Nevertheless, the naïve liberal-globalists of the Clinton era thought that they could bribe China to remain “loyal” to the US-led global world order that emerged after the Cold War by relying on “win-win” investments that would enrich the American elite while helping China rapidly modernize.
Suffice to say, this presumption proved to be totally false.
The so-called “Washington Consensus” and attendant “rules of the game” are rigged in order to benefit the US and indefinitely perpetuate its global hegemony, which is why China continuously broke the rules to its advantage but was allowed to get away with it for so long because of the aforementioned relationship that it had with naïve liberal-globalist American elites who profited from this system at the expense of average Americans. The Obama Administration tried to preemptively “balance” the inevitable geopolitical consequences of this trend by proposing the so-called “Group of Two” or “Chimerica” global partnership with China, but Beijing rejected this outreach.
By 2013, China felt confident enough with its newfound strength to announce the world-changing OBOR megaproject that’s designed to bring a definitive end to America’s economic dominance and related unipolar “leadership”, but then the US and China suddenly “switched” global economic roles following Trump’s election. President Xi’s January 2017 speech at Davos saw him proclaim China as the champion of a reformed version of the globalization model that America once led, while President Trump has made no secret of his preference for the type of protectionist-nationalist policies that the People’s Republic itself embraced in the past.
The rest of the world is now compelled to choose between these competing systems.
Just like during the Old Cold War, however, the new one is seeing the reemergence of another Non-Aligned Movement (Neo-NAM) that’s attempting to strike a “middle ground” by “hybridizing” the best policies of both but in a more complicated and comprehensive way than before because of the inextricable geopolitical and economic dimensions that transcend the former dogmatic adherence to a single ideology. If there’s any “ideology” at all nowadays, then it’s the pure self-interest of Neo-Realism, and it’s here where Russia can play a pivotal role during this transitional period of global systemic change by assisting the Neo-NAM in “balancing” between both “blocs” and reaping the resultant advantages.