President Biden’s European sojourn has been a signal effort to restructure the global disorder to reinforce U.S. hegemony and to contain and manage China’s rise. Not limited to NATO’s new 2030 doctrine which reinforces U.S. Indo-Pacific military dominance with European forces, Biden and his associates are working to turn Europe’s economic, technological, diplomatic and cultural resources against China. At a time when the collaboration of the world’s nations and resources are urgently needed to reverse the climate emergency, win nuclear disarmament and stanch today’s and future pandemics, the U.S. and its allies are leading humanity on a forced march to tragedy that must be averted.
Analysis by Joseph Gerson
Joe Biden’s and Donald Trump’s differences about how to approach NATO and other alliances are those of night and day. However, they have been totally consistent in their arrogant and dangerous commitments to contain China and manage its rise. Donald Trump believed that the U.S. could contain China with unilateral economic and military policies. Biden is working to cobble together a coalition of the willing to confront China and force it to remember its place in the U.S. dominated rules-based order. First, Biden welcomed Japan’s Prime Minister Suga and South Korea’s President Moon as the first heads of state to be feted by his administration in Washington. This week he moved to more radically restructure the global order.
Not mentioning NATO’s endorsement of its new 2030 Doctrine which makes containing China a priority, the New York Times nonetheless reported that “China’s rising military ambitions are presenting NATO with challenges that must be addressed , the 30-nation Western alliance said Monday.” The summit marked a “fundamental shift in the attentions of an institution devoted to protecting Europe and North America – not Asia.”
In fact, as NATO’s first General Secretary noted, NATO was created to keep Russia out, Germany down, and the U.S. in. Instead of being retired with the end of the Cold War, NATO has been transformed into a global alliance, now extending across Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific, and designed to contain China.
The U.S. led campaign to contain China is not limited to the two powers’ military competition. By bringing the G-7 heads and the European Union into greater collaboration and unity to challenge Beijing, Biden and his lieutenants ratcheted up efforts to contain China not only militarily, but economically, diplomatically, and culturally.
Among the collateral damage of Biden’s European sojourn was the prospect of meaningful and essential collaboration to address the climate emergency and future pandemics.
Given the importance of their trade with and investments in China, and their uncertainty over the United States political future Europe’s elites have been reluctant to fully sign up for a new Cold War with China. However, China’s campaign to militarily enforce its contested territorial claims in the South China/West Philippine and East China Seas, its increasingly authoritarian rule and human rights repression, and its growing influence in Europe have inclined European leaders to be increasingly willing to challenge the Middle Kingdom. Pressed by the United States, the G-7’s final communique was a reflection, according to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, of seven of the world’s richest and most powerful nations “converging around a common strategy.” Biden’s meeting with the European Union’s leadership before leaving for Geneva and his summit with Vladimir Putin, reconfirmed this commitment, with agreements for greater collaboration in trade and technology.
While not explicitly condemning China, the G-7 joint communique reflected consolidation of Western and Japanese determination to bring China to heel. It urged China to “respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially in relation to Xinjiang and those rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong” as per the Sino-British Joint Declaration that defined the terms of the former colony’s reunification with China. The joint statement expressed concern about the growing tensions in the South and East China Seas, and with dangerously provocative military actions in and around Taiwan for the first time the G-7 stressed the “importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” and “the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.
The G-7 focused not only on changes demanded of China. From their soft-power commitment to increasing the world’s supply of Covid-19 vaccines, to adapting trade policies to reduce complicity in alleged Chinese forced labor practices, seven of the world’s richest nations are seeking to transform the ground on which the increasingly (and unnecessary) zero-sum competition with China is being played out. The G-7’s combined economic and institutional strengths are being redirected to enforce continued dominance by the United States and its most privileged allies. And, among the changes to watch for will be Italy’s reassessment of its collaboration with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Not surprisingly the NATO summit’s final statement was more bellicose, warning that “China’s stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to alliance security.” NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg named the realms in which NATO will be more confrontational in insisting that China conform to the Western and Japanese rules of the road: “space, cyber and maritime.” It would have been helpful for NATO to have acknowledged that China was an impoverished and marginalized nation when “rules-based order” was imposed by the United States and it allies, and that China’s need and desire to modify those rules today are as natural as the rising of the sun.
Signaling NATO’s new China containment commitment, in the months leading up to the summit, French and Japanese warships joined the U.S. in provocative and misnamed “freedom of navigation” exercises in the South/West Philippine Sea, and Boris Johnson more recent dispatch of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier to join in demonstrating U.S./Western hegemony in those same seas.
With the end of the Cold War, NATO should have been retired. Instead, it has been on the path to becoming a global alliance to enforce the U.S. and western imposed “rules-based order.” Contrary to the GHW Bush -Gorbachev agreement not to expand the alliance a centimeter closer to Moscow in exchange for German reunification on West German terms, it expanded across eastern Europe to Russia’s borders, ensuring something akin to a new Cold War. NATO joined the United States invasion of Afghanistan. Its 2010 Lisbon Summit adopted its “out of area doctrine. The Alliance’s privileged “global partners”, with more soon to be added, currently include Afghanistan, Australia, Colombia, Iraq, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand and Pakistan.
Now NATO will be pushing back increasingly against what Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau described as increased NATO Chinese tensions in Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Arctic”, as well as the newly designated “Indo-Pacific” region, cyberspace and in the competition for technological dominance.
A new and global Cold War with China is among the last things that humanity needs. Even as we reaffirm and press for respect for human dignity and human rights on both sides of the Pacific, the U.S., NATO, and Chinese military e ratcheting up of confrontational tensions deflects our attention and diverts commitment of resources from addressing the truly existential dangers of the climate emergency, nuclear weapons, and pandemics. The new Cold War not only impoverishes our societies, but an accident or miscalculation as U.S., NATO, and Chinese military forces confront one another can all too easily escalate to a nuclear conflagration.
It is past time to be demanding that our national leaders pursue the mutually beneficial diplomacy of common Security.