The events in Washington and Beijing gave rise to the disturbing specter of the global passage of the torch from the United States to China, one with catastrophic implications for freedom and democracy.
At first, President Donald Trump seemed to applaud from afar as China’s leaders consolidate their power over a more authoritarian government at home, while the regime promotes its model of governance in increasingly aggressive terms abroad. Second, Trump announced he would impose heavy tariffs on steel and aluminum and welcomes a trade war that fears much of the world and his own Republican Party.
These events may seem unrelated, but they are actually sides of the same coin, as they both signify America’s retreat from defending free-market capitalism and the Western liberal order of democratic government that it has created in the world for decades. So much has been done to nurture. War II.
Let’s take them one at a time.
In Beijing, the Communist Party is amending China’s constitution to eliminate the presidential term limit, allowing Xi Jinping to remain party chief and Chinese president as long as he wishes, and thus, China’s most powerful leader since Mao. became.
In turn, the Communist Party is exerting greater control over basic areas of Chinese society, including the government, the military, and the private sector. Due to the division of the West, Chinese officials are promoting their country’s governing model – the “China Solution” – as an alternative to the wider world.
That option offers fewer opportunities for free expression. Beijing, which has long put in place a Great Firewall to restrict what the Chinese can watch online, is expanding its efforts. At home, it is monitoring social media tools like WhatsApp and retaliated against those who use them to criticize the government.
political cartoon on economy
Abroad, it is pressuring companies like Google and Facebook – both of which are blocked in China – to remove content accessible to the Chinese expatriate and others outside its borders, which Beijing considers offensive. This is similarly putting pressure on foreign companies that sell their products in China; German carmaker Daimler last month apologized after its Mercedes-Benz brand used Instagram to quote the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing considers a threat to the promotion of Tibet’s independence.
At a closed door in Florida over the weekend, Trump spoke of China’s developments, praising Xi’s power grab. “He is now president for life,” he said. “President for life. No, he’s great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give it a shot someday.”
Kidding everyone, Trump announced steel and aluminum tariffs of 25 and 10 percent respectively late last week while Xi’s top economic adviser, Liu He, at the White House to ease US-China trade tensions Were meeting with Trump’s economic team. Trump’s tariffs would clearly undermine those efforts.
But while China is the world’s largest steel producer, it provides only 2 percent of US steel imports, and Beijing criticized Trump’s move only in a muted tone. Far more striking was the outrage expressed by Canada (America’s largest foreign supplier of steel and aluminum) and America’s allies in Europe, who promised retaliation. Administration officials have since clarified that the tariffs will apply to all countries, although they raised the possibility that companies may seek exemptions for some products.
In response, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker promised that Europe would impose tariffs “on Harley-Davidsons, bourbon and blue jeans – Levi’s”, while a leading Canadian trade expert suggested that his country target the wine. Is. However, more sinister than the tit-for-tat description, has wider implications.
“With this,” said Bernd Lang, a German Social Democrat who runs the European Parliament’s trade committee, “there has come a declaration of war. They [the United States] There’s a business business model that dates back 200 years.”
Trump’s move shook stocks, reflecting investor concerns about the direction US policy was headed. Finally, the steel and aluminum tariffs came after Trump indicated in late January that he would begin implementing his “America First” trade policy by lowering tariffs on solar panels and washing machines, which not only affect Chinese and South Asian countries, but also China. Affects Korean manufacturers, but also those in need. Canada, Mexico and Europe.
Together, all these developments force the uneasy question of whether, as global power’s tectonic plates shift, Beijing is poised to exert more influence in its territory and at the expense of Washington, which, unlike Beijing, I don’t understand what is at stake.