US is running out of everything to contain China

File photo

The irony is real. The United States government cannot instigate forever a culture of fear and ratchet up tensions and distrust between its Western allies and China.

In yet another blow to President Joe Biden administration's policymakers, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that Britain will not "pitchfork away" investment from China despite ongoing differences with Beijing over the issues of human rights and Hong Kong.

Ahead of the Global Investment Summit in London, Johnson said that the world's second largest economy will continue to play a "gigantic part" in UK economic life for years to come.

To understand the situation, the U.S. is running out of everything to contain China, including allies with a "special relationship," because they are not buying its geopolitical mess and anti-China demands. It further shows how much more China has on hand to offer and how much its trade and investment partners in the West are willing to take.

This isn't to say that challenges don't exist. Johnson insisted that London would not be "naive" about allowing China access to the UK's critical national infrastructure such as nuclear power or the 5G communications network. However, Western trade with China has continued to grow and expand, including UK trade, in spite of all the difficult conversations.

Many Western governments are equally not willing to get themselves deeply involved in Washington's parochial squabbles in the South China Sea, because it escalates tensions and imperils the peace and stability of the strategic region, and with that, the much-needed Chinese trade and investment. In other words, Western governments do not want to become entangled in America's petty spats, nor do they want to antagonize China just to give cold comfort to the U.S.

The container terminal at the Lianyungang Port in Lianyungang City, east China's Jiangsu Province, January 14, 2021. (Photo: Xinhua)

Those are also cautionary reasons why the U.S. should avoid being involved in China's internal affairs. The U.S. has to learn to find the right balance between defending its own version of human rights and promoting national interests.

Given the murky and toxic politics of the Biden administration, however, it might not be an easy task to disengage in the midst of a growing naval presence in the South China Sea. It's an absurdity on its face, as the colonialist effort to do so persists.

Given the reality of a multipolar world in which many states compete for influence in global markets, this is hardly a new game. In truth, consecutive U.S. administrations have frequently stood in the way of European governments trying to expand relations with China while increasing their diplomatic and commercial activities. This is a grave and unacceptable violation of the EU's laws and procedures, and a breach of the principle of sovereignty – often advancing American interests at the expense of European ones.

We can still remember vividly how the U.S. signed AUKUS to sell nuclear-powered subs to the Australians without consulting the EU first. It underscores that the U.S. doesn't respect the EU's position and interests, nor does it accept its role as a co-equal of anyone. With brutal clarity, this is about maintaining America's global primacy, convincing its European partners that they need not aspire to a greater role, and discouraging them from challenging U.S. leadership or seeking to change the established political and economic order.

All in all, the EU's governments stand to win like the UK if they also uphold multilateralism and envision a stronger relationship with China amidst the pandemic and a large array of global crises. With the Chinese and EU economies more than ever inter-connected, Brussels stands to win if it remains committed to dialogue and understands the interests and concerns of its largest trading partner.

China sticks to its agreements and has no intention to become the EU's "systemic rival," as that doesn't benefit anyone. It only prolongs the disruption of the ratification process of the China-EU Comprehensive Agreement on Investment. And that is exactly what the beltway in Washington will hope for.

The barely veiled implication is that although the British PM has welcomed investment from China, no combination of bilateral trade and investment, even if carried out, would prove sufficient to end the global economic crisis and the pandemic – not as long as the EU continues to prioritize trade competition with China over planetary survival. Together with China, instead, the EU can defend multilateralism and respond to the challenges such as the pandemic and climate change on a planet that, these days, seems to stand every chance of going down.