Thursday, November 28, 2019

Simian battles in the era of global meltdown

NY Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman has a scary view of The World-Shaking News That You’re Missing saying that The U.S.-China divide isn’t just about trade.

I take as the essence of what he has to say in his closing paragraphs.

We need to pause and ask ourselves exactly where we are heading with this whole tech/trade war with China. And Beijing needs to do the same.

China is our economic competitor, economic partner, source of talent and capital, geopolitical rival, collaborator and serial rule-breaker. It is not our enemy or our friend.

The only effective way to manage a relationship this complex is: 1) with an all-of-government approach. You can’t have the Justice Department doing one thing, the Pentagon another, the Treasury another, the trade negotiators another, the State Department another and the president tweeting another. There has to be a tightly coordinated strategy to get the best out of this relationship and cushion the worst. And 2), we need as many Pacific and European allies as possible so it’s “The Whole World Versus China” on the right rules for trade and technology integration in the 21st century, not just Trump versus Xi over who has the biggest tariff.

Unfortunately, Trump has deployed a totally disjointed, impulsive “America First” strategy that has ended up “America Alone” — and weaker. And Xi has been no better. So a relationship that the world needs to work, to drive growth and deal with global problems like climate change, is slowly unraveling. We will miss it when it’s gone.

Or, as Kishore Mahbubani, the Singaporean academic, former diplomat and author of the forthcoming book “Has China Won?” said to me: “I wonder if one day future historians will look back at this contest between Americans and Chinese and compare them to two families of apes fighting with each other while the forest around them is burning.”

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