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US-China trade

China's role in transatlantic relations: Time for a new strategy

Published 24 August 2021

The Cold War-era mindset of good versus evil reemerging due to intensifying rivalry between the US and China is dangerous and self-fulfilling. While many concerns about China are legitimate, both the EU and US should continue to think about a long-term, multifaceted strategy to deal with China’s rise and avoid conflating different issues.

In June 2021, US President Joe Biden travelled to Europe to announce America’s return to the global stage after a period of isolationism under former President Donald Trump. The trip was praised for its skillful summitry and distinguished for sounding alarm over China’s rise. Yet it was not entirely clear that many countries in Europe were willing to embrace the coordinated approach toward Beijing advocated by Biden.

Indeed, recognizing that America’s overriding foreign policy priority is its rivalry with China, many nations — not just those in the European Union (EU) — have expressed a desire to remain “neutral” in the rapidly intensifying contest between the world’s two superpowers. In its attempt to create a new league for democracies that excludes China, the Biden administration follows Trump’s revamping of a Cold War-like narrative that divides the world into two camps: a US-led liberal sphere and a China-led authoritarian sphere.

This paper by Maria Adele Carrai, Associate Professor of Global China Studies at New York University Shanghai, notes that while many concerns about China are legitimate, the reemerging Cold War-era mindset and rhetoric has shifted tensions to an ideological level that tends to conflate different issues. It may sever natural linkages in areas for dialogue and cooperation, such as trade, science, and education. It may propel the global economy into a deeper economic crisis than the one already caused by Covid-19. In a no-holds-barred, all-out EU-US-China conflict, there are no winners.

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Maria Adele Carrai is an Assistant Professor of Global China Studies at NYU Shanghai.

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