An interesting story on the internet New York time reported that – in the face of disappointment with China and distrust of the United States – countries of moderate size, led by Australia, “are trying to revive the old norms of multilateralism that can be done.”
The spark for a new type of transnational coalition – the third way to avoid the dominance of the current superpowers – stems from the COVID-19 crisis, which has strengthened China’s widely spread views of Xi Jingping China as an authoritarian disruptor and Donald Trump as an empty suit, both with his own way, unable to lead globally.
Impatience with Xi hardened when Australian officials proposed an independent investigation into the origins of the corona virus – and, in response, the Chinese ambassador threatened to boycott his agricultural products if demand for an investigation continued. Normally, Australia will join the United States in filing such demands – especially since Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo also called for an inquiry – but Trump is so cold towards the American alliance that there is no chance or desire for joint action. . In fact, Australian officials denied Pompeo’s claim that they had joined the U.S. push. Them too express anger when Pompeo claims that the virus might have originated from China’s bioweapon laboratory – contrary to intelligence, which is owned by the US and Australia, shows that the virus is not man-made.
This is insolent when a country like Australia openly criticizes China (a leading trading partner) and the United States (guarantor of its security). It is still more remarkable that, as the Times said, “a liquid working group has emerged” between Australia and other countries with equally modest global positions – Denmark, Greece, Israel, Singapore and New Zealand – all are brave by the clear fact that they have handled the COVID-19 crisis more transparently and effectively than the larger powers, especially the US and China.
The question is whether these middle countries can expand their consortium to other problems.
At some level, this has already happened. When Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership at the beginning of his presidency, Australia and Japan worked together to attract several other signatories – New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei and Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru – to form their trade alliance itself, without the United States, known as TPP-11. Overall, they were quite successful. David Livingston, an analyst at the Eurasia Group, told me, “The economic slowdown from the corona virus crisis is likely to accelerate the urgency for Thailand to join” immediately.
Daniel Sneider, a lecturer at Stanford University who often writes from the Asian capital, said that Japanese diplomats felt an impulse of confidence and empowerment from the experience of drawing up this new agreement. “They have never started negotiations like this before,” Sneider said. “They are always passive, accepting the end of the conversation, making the most of minor adjustments to instructions from Washington. This has given them an entirely new perspective on what they can do.”
As Livingston said, “The vacuum created by the lack of US-China leadership and credibility, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, created a large enough sandbox for other ‘middle tier’ players to experiment with.”
However, the sand box has its limits. This is especially true in terms of security. No country other than the United States has the military power to prevent or prevent aggression from China or Russia. Members of the European Union discussed creating their own defense alliance from the start in Trump’s presidency after him advised him not to come help them in the case of invasion – apart from Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which promised each member to treat an attack on one as an attack on all. But they soon realized that US-led NATO was needed. First, military and intelligence companies from all NATO countries are closely tied to their American counterparts. Second, even if they somehow break away from the networks, none of these countries, either individually or together, have the resources or logistical skills to build effective defenses without a giant eagle crossing the Atlantic .
On the economic side, too, the gravitational pull of the dollar is an almost inevitable force in global finance. This was revealed when Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, re-imposed sanctions on Iran, and threatened to impose “secondary sanctions” on countries that continue to do business with Iran – despite the nuclear agreement, which has been codified as UN Security. Council Resolution, binding the signatories to normalize economic relations with Iran. The European Union is trying to arrange alternative banking arrangements for buying and selling goods in euros or other currencies, but the threat of being issued from all dollar transactions is too scary to ignore.
In the East, challenges are being faced by China, but again they can only go so far. Xi has formed the Belt and Road Initiative, a large network of infrastructure projects supported by Beijing, in more than 60 countries, covering two-thirds of the world’s population, with an investment of $ 200 billion (up to more than $ 1 trillion in the next few years). Some countries strongly reject the political conditions associated with the money, but they have nowhere else to go – especially because Trump, unlike the previous president, did not offer them real alternatives.
Even Australia, despite its diplomatic squabbles, has reduced its trade with China only slightly since the pandemic began, and the reduction was caused more by a slowdown in Chinese production than by some deliberate rebel policies.
Xi sees Belt and Road as a foundation for the Beijing-controlled global trade system, possibly surpassing Western domination since the end of World War II. Unless the US improves its game, it might succeed. The main question asked by leaders around the world, especially in Europe and Asia, is: Will the United States be a leader again? Meanwhile, some of them formed coalitions among themselves. But this is a temporary arrangement, with very interesting but ultimately limited effects. The United States is the only force that can hold China while also hanging interesting incentives to keep Beijing in the international system. There are many issues at stake in the coming election, and this is far from the most pressing, but it may have the most lasting consequences globally.
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