Wary of losing its economic predominance to China, the US Government has been on the offensive to challenge China on trade, future technologies, and investment.
The assault could intensify if politicians in Washington see weakness in China’s resolve to fight back.
Recognising the true intentions of US politicians, which are to prevent China’s economy from catching up with and outpacing that of the US, the world’s second-largest economy is seeking genuine and faithful partners in Eurasia, Africa, and South America.
In the coming months and years, Beijing will open its arms to European economies, Russia, Japan, and less-developed countries around the world through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to integrate with them economically.
By constantly investing in basic infrastructure, manufacturing and high-tech projects in countries along BRI route, China could extend trade and investment transactions, and its partner economies will see a marked improvement in transportation, power supply, utilities, 4G and 5G facilities, as well as more jobs and higher incomes.
When that time arrives, China could tilt more toward its BRI partners and move away from North America, which is trying to push China away.
As a benign economic and technological powerhouse, China is seen as a genuine business partner by BRI countries because China’s investments do not come with any political conditions attached.
In recent years, more countries have awakened to find China is neither a strategic competitor nor a rival, but a business partner that brings jobs, revenue streams, and economic miracles.
But politicians in North America are loath to see China’s meteoric rise in economic strength, even though without China’s massive growth, their economies might remain in the doldrums.
China’s exponential economic growth has been a major driver of global growth since 2000 and has contributed proportionately to the US economy over the years.
In fact, China’s massive stimulus spending propped up the US and significantly helped it leave the dreadful 2008-09 financial crisis behind, which Wall Street caused in the first place.
However, Washington has not reciprocated Beijing’s contributions. On the contrary, it has even traded China’s generosity with stinginess, and its kindness with animosity.
By trumpeting “America First,” the US government is seeking self-interest and sacrificing others, including some of its traditional allies.
The US has reneged on its past global commitments and abandoned a slew of international treaties and global organisations. Among them, the scrapping of the Paris Climate Agreement and the six-nation nuclear deal with Iran have had the most destructive impact on global peace and sustainable development.
Many observers say the current US government treats traditional European powers as vassals, and time and again Washington has shown its teeth and claws.
In mid-February at the Munich security conference, US Vice President Mike Pence went too far by ordering European countries to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal and to stop “undermining” US sanctions on Tehran. If they disobeyed, EU companies would be penalised by Washington.
The Trump administration has also been on the offensive in thwarting economic cooperation and integration of China and the EU, two of the world’s heavyweight economies.
The recent decision by Italy to join the BRI has irked American politicians. Nevertheless, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s cabinet was quick to hit back. Asked by American reporters why Italy decided to participate in the BRI, Luigi di Maio, Italian minister of economic development, said bluntly:
“Like someone in the United States said ‘America first,’ I continue to repeat: ‘Italy first’ in commercial relations”
From the angle of China’s promised investment to upgrade Italian ports, those rundown ports, once modernised, will revive Italy’s traditional role as a key maritime link in trade between the East and the West.
Most annoying for European government leaders are the intermittent warnings from US officials against choosing Chinese ICT (information and communication technology) giant Huawei to help roll out fifth-generation (5G) superfast wireless networks.
The US isn’t even home to any ICT equipment vendors, so it is apparent that Washington’s assault against Huawei aims at diminishing China’s technological competitiveness.
But not every European country seems truly willing to cave to Washington’s pressure and sacrifice the benefits to their own people, because Europeans, just like the Chinese, are entitled to enjoy the most advanced mobile technology and services that Huawei’s gear will bring.