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US President Joe Biden walks away after holding a press conference on the final day of the G7 summit at Cornwall Airport Newquay, near Newquay, Cornwall on June 13, 2021. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Biden in Europe: To Contain China, Restructuring the Global Disorder

A new and global Cold War with China is among the last things that humanity needs.

Joseph Gerson

President Biden's European sojourn was a signal effort to restructure the global disorder to reinforce U.S. global dominance and to contain and manage China's rise. Not limited to NATO's new 2030 doctrine, adopted to reinforce U.S. military power across the newly designated Indo-Pacific region with European forces, Biden and his associates are working to turn Europe's economic, technological, diplomatic, and cultural resources to "overmatch" 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 the current and future pandemics, Biden and his allies are accelerating humanity's march to tragedy that must be averted. 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.

It is past time to be demanding that our national leaders pursue the mutually beneficial diplomacy of common security.

Joe Biden's and Donald Trump's differences about how to approach NATO and other alliances are those of night and day. The two men have, however, been dangerously arrogant in their 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 seeks to cobble together a coalition of the willing to confront China and force it to accept a secondary position in the U.S. dominated rules-based order. To reinforce the United States hub and spokes Asia-Pacific alliance structure, Japan's Prime Minister Suga and South Korea's President Moon were given the honor of being the first heads of state invited to Washington by the Biden administration. This past week President Biden sought to more sharply restructure U.S. alliances and the global order by more deeply integrating the G-7, NATO, and the European Union into Washington's containment of China campaign.

While failing to mention NATO's new 2030 Doctrine that makes containing China an alliance priority, the New York Times reported that NATO had agreed that "China's rising military ambitions are presenting NATO with challenges that must be addressed". The summit, it continued, marked a "fundamental shift in the attentions of an institution devoted to protecting Europe and North America – not Asia."

Biden's containment campaign is not limited to the two powers' military competition.  By bringing the G-7 heads of state and the European Union into greater collaboration and unity to challenge Beijing, Biden and his advisors ratcheted up efforts to contain China not only militarily, but economically, technologically, diplomatically, and culturally.

Given the importance of European 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 concerned by what Britain's Prime Minister Johnson termed the "challenge" posed by 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. This was 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 committed 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, 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 despite his declaration that China doesn't want a new Cold War, Boris Johnson recently dispatch of Britain's Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier to join the U.S. 7th Fleet in asserting U.S./Western hegemony in those 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.  Anticipating its 2010 "out of area doctrine, NATO nations joined the U.S. in its invasion and 19-year war in Afghanistan. Reflecting its evolution as a global alliance, its "global partners", now include Afghanistan, Australia, Colombia, Iraq, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand, and Pakistan, with more soon to be added.

Now NATO  will be pushing back increasingly against what Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau described as increased 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 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.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Joseph Gerson

Joseph Gerson

Joseph Gerson is President of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security, Co-founder of the Committee for a SANE U.S. China Policy and Vice President of the International Peace Bureau. His books include Empire and the Bomb, and With Hiroshima Eyes.

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