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Washington forced to adjust its strategy as countries reject punishing decoupling: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-05-28 18:28

A woman walks past a "G7 Hiroshima" flower installation near the Peace Memorial Museum, ahead of the G7 summit, in Hiroshima, Japan, May 17, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

From Washington's perspective, the ideal approach to what it defines as a major-power rivalry with a rising China is formulating a united front composed of as many of its allies and partners as possible. The more it enlists, the greater the chance it will emerge victorious.

But drawing clear geopolitical lines amid today's convoluted international interdependencies, however, won't be as easy as it appears on Washington's drawing board.

French President Emmanuel Macron's recent remarks about European autonomy were a reminder how differently the United States' allies across the Atlantic view Washington's geopolitical priority.

That is why Washington has adopted the term "de-risking", which found its way into the joint communique of the Hiroshima G7 summit, which is used by the US' EU allies as a substitute for "decoupling". Rather than cut off economic and trade ties, they claim that "de-risking" seeks to only reduce "excessive dependencies" in critical supply chains.

Yet, considering what Washington is actually doing, that certainly doesn't suffice to alleviate concerns. Which is why multiple US officials at a webinar last Friday hosted by the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, did their best to assure their Australian audience that Washington was not presenting an us-or-them choice.

Mira Rapp-Hooper, the National Security Council director for "Indo-Pacific" strategy, admitted allies and partners, within the region and across the world, "don't want to feel like they're being forced to choose between two competing great powers … They don't want to feel like they're being trampled by a headlong clash".

That is exactly what countries, especially those in the Asia-Pacific region, are worrying about.

"It's hard to see how de-risking, at its current ambition and scale, can be strictly confined to just a few strategic areas without affecting broader economic interactions", Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong told the annual Nikkei forum "Future of Asia" last Thursday in Japan. "If de-risking is taken too far … we will end up with a more fragmented and decoupled global economy."

Warning of a gloomy prospect of every country ending up getting worse off in a world of competing blocs, the Singaporean official also appealed for reviving the World Trade Organization: "Otherwise, if every country takes the view that it will be its own judge of when national security considerations override multilateral rules, then we will end up with a system where might is right and the law of the jungle prevails."

A number of other leading officials from the region aired concerns about escalating China-US rivalry at the event, indicating a prevailing reluctance to take sides between the world's two largest economies.

"We're confident in our own views, non-alignment 2.0, and we want to create our own space and try to go out and get along with everyone," said Dino Patti Djalal, former Indonesian ambassador to the US.

Since major-country rivalry poses an outstanding threat to broad-based growth, it is impossible for Washington to isolate China as it hopes.

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