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Outlook: Actively Respond to the New Union of Western Countries

[Editor’s Note: Outlook published an article discussing how the U.S. has shifted its strategy from focusing only on the Asia Pacific area to establishing stronger ties with the European countries in order to counter the rise of the emerging powers such as the BRICS countries. This "new union" of Western countries will inevitably have an impact, whether visible or hidden, on China. The author is Chen Xiangyang from the Institute of World Political Studies, China Institute of Contemporary International Relations. A translation of the article follows.] [1]

This year’s G8 Summit was held in Belfast, the capital city of Northern Ireland, on June 17 and 18, 2013. Though the importance of the G8 summit has been declining since the beginning of the global financial crisis, this year’s summit still covered two key points worth observing: The first one is that the U.S. and Europe negotiated on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The TTIP is their effort to create the largest free-trade zone in the world in order to give their everlasting debt crisis a booster shot. The second is the summit of the Presidents of the U.S. and Russia (the Obama-Putin Summit). The two parties will continue their fight over the Syria crisis.

More importantly, this G8 (especially the G7) Summit is at a historic moment. Facing the rise of the emerging powers and of the “new East,” the Western countries are trying to re-ignite the G8, and especially the G7. They want to create a new union in the economic, political, and security arenas and build a “Big West,” so that they can continue to maintain their dominance over international affairs.

I. Why the Western Countries Want to Speed up Their New Union

Since Obama began his second term as president, the U.S. has switched to a new, two-ocean strategy: promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and TTIP to cover both the Pacific and the Atlantic. After John Kerry became Secretary of State, Europe was the first place he chose to visit, dramatically different from his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, who had been ardent about the Pacific. Vice President Biden was prominent in his attendance at the Munich Security Conference early this year. He spoke highly of the TTIP. The major Western countries have started new joint efforts in the domains of the economy, political positioning, and security.

There are four strategic reasons for them to join together:

A. The first reason is that the U.S. is adjusting its grand strategy to maintain its world hegemony. Brzezinski, a senior strategist with a unique sense, has suggested constructing an “expanding West” to counter the “emerging East.” The global financial and debt crisis in 2008 plunged all the developed countries into a historic and systemic crisis. They faced many problems, including the intensification of their internal political and social crises and increasing fights between political parties. The crisis forced the West, especially the U.S., the leader of the Western countries, to explore changes. The U.S. wants to use the joining of the Western countries to revive itself and continue the West’s dominance over world affairs. As the world hegemon, the U.S. has its own private agenda: to push “economic diplomacy” so that it can increase its domestic employment by expanding the external market and, as a result, strengthen its hegemonic foundation.

B. The second reason is the need of the Western countries to deal with the change in the global structure and with international relationships in the post-crisis era. The emerging powers are not only rising much faster than the Western countries, but they also use the BRICS and other mechanisms to support and collaborate between themselves and jointly oppose the Western countries in the global economy, the environment, Internet management, and geo-strategies, thus challenging the West’s leadership position. The Western countries, as a whole, are concerned about their future. Thus, the U.S., Europe, and Japan have strengthened their joint efforts on the economy, political positions, and security. They want to use the TPP and TTIP to regroup and compete for a bigger slice of the pie in the global market, to control the setting of new global trade rules and new industry standards, and thus to limit the space in which the emerging powers can develop.

To further expand on this point, there are three threads in the country relationships in the post-global crisis era: the West-West relationship (between the Western countries), the new-new relationship (between the new economies), and the West-new relationship (between the Western countries and the new economies). For the international relationship, the West-new relationship has gradually become the main thread. To the Western countries, the West-West relationship is their lifeline. Its strategic value has not only remained undiminished, but, rather, has increased. Its “lifeline” value has become prominent to them. The joint efforts between the Western countries include the full-scale of coordination on economic, political, and security arenas between the U.S. and Europe, the tight bundling of the U.S. and Japan on the economy and security, the dialog between Europe and Japan on economic cooperation and security, the joint efforts between NATO and Japan on developing a new fighter jet, and Japan and the U.K.’s increased cooperation on intelligence exchanges. The Western countries bi- or tri-lateral cooperation is their effort to respond to the historic challenge from the emerging powers.

C. The third reason has to do with the change in the U.S. foreign diplomacy team. On the key personnel assignments, not only is the new Secretary of State more focused on Europe and the Middle East, but the new National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, also pays more attention to that area than her predecessor, Thomas Donilon. The personnel change is inevitably reflected in the adjustment of strategic focus. The U.S. has changed from Clinton’s full-scale “return to the Asia-Pacific” and solely focusing on the Asia-Pacific to Kerry’s “return to Europe” and “adjusting the Asia-Pacific” (slowing down in the Asia-Pacific to a certain extent). The U.S. is increasing its strategic investment in its Atlantic allies, paying more attention to Europe and the Middle East and focusing more on balancing its global geo-strategic position. On the contrary, its recent talks with Asia-Pacific countries are more like lip service.

D. The fourth reason has to do with the U.S. adjustment in its major partner diplomacy strategy. The U.S. is changing from “enjoying the new partners and discarding the old pals” (focusing on emerging powers and developing new partnerships with China, India, Indonesia, and so on) to “going back to old pals.”

II. How the West Unites to Suppress Emerging Powers

The focus of the new union of Western countries is to join forces to respond to and suppress emerging powers.

A. Western countries are re-establishing their alliances. By providing economic support to each other, the Western alliance can regain its vitality. Besides relying on NATO for security, the U.S. and Europe are also joining together through the TTIP. The U.S. and Japan not only use a military alliance and security treaty to bind themselves together; they also use TPP to link their economic interests. Therefore, the Western countries have the same political values, security positions, and economic interests. These three ropes tie the Western countries close together. They rely on and cooperate with each other. The U.S. also uses its allies to share more responsibility on international affairs.

Please note that the Western countries bet on both sides: on the one hand they strengthen their own alliances; on the other hand, they also try to make use of the emerging powers. Hence, the West’s new union is not as strong a union as it was during the Cold War.

B. The U.S. is trying a “new balance” in its global geo-strategy to cover “three major blocks.” For the U.S. hegemony, the Atlantic and the Western Hemisphere are its base. It is the “center” block. The Asia-Pacific is the “west” block and the Middle East is the “east” block. The U.S. tries to balance and cover the “center,” “east,” and “west.”

In the Asia-Pacific, the U.S. allies with Japan to block China. It strengthens the U.S.-Japan alliance and the U.S.-Philippines alliance to deter China’s rise on the ocean and its regional economic cooperation (using the TPP). It tries to kill the efforts to unite East Asia’s economy and also tries to use China to control North Korea. In the Middle East, it allies with Europe, pushes Russia out, and suppresses China to respond to the Arab world, which is showing an increasing demand for self-autonomy. The U.S., Europe, and Japan jointly participated in the dramatic changes in the Middle East and North Africa. The U.S. and Europe have increased their military involvement in Syria’s “domestic war.” Japan also announced at the G8 Summit that it will provide humanitarian aid to Syria’s rebels. The U.S. and Europe are working jointly to stop Iran’s nuclear plan. Both of them will continue their joint occupation of Afghanistan after the U.S. withdraws its troops in 2014, so they can jointly fight against the Islamic extremists and international terrorists. In the Western Hemisphere and the Atlantic, the U.S. controls Latin America and strengthens its alliance with Europe. Biden recently wrote an article to stress the rise of the American Continent, while the U.S. is re-discovering and developing the “new continent” of Latin America.

C. The US is attempting to control the key areas of the global economy or technology either by itself or jointly with its allies. The U.S. has obtained a competitive advantage over the emerging powers on 3D printing, personalized Internet, and shale gas development. China and Russia are facing severe challenges on mid to high level product manufacturing and energy industries.

D. There is a joint competition for the three “public fields” in the world. The U.S. and Japan focus on ocean cooperation. The U.S. and Europe work on space exploration. The U.S., Europe, and Japan join hands in cyberspace. They created the “China and Russia Internet threat” theory, promote a double-standard, and use the excuse of “Internet security” and “Internet freedom” to challenge emerging powers’ own rights and monitoring of their own Internet.

E. They jointly compete for “soft power.” The financial crisis caused the West to suffer a great loss in the superiority of its values. The Western countries try to protect their freedom, democratic values, and model of a free market economy in order to suppress “state capitalism” and the “authoritarian regimes” that China and Russia represent, so as to compete for the moral high ground and influence over developing countries.

F. They jointly control the discourse power over the management of international affairs and they lead the reform of the global economic system and the international monetary system. The three major economies, the U.S., Europe, and Japan, jointly adopted the monetary policy of Quantitative Easing, trying to get the new emerging powers into a state of stagflation. At the same time, they suppressed the Renminbi’s effort to become a global currency and the development of the “BRICS National Development Bank,” trying to maintain the Western country’s hegemony and their leadership in the IMF and the World Bank. On the global warming issue, they challenge the principle of “Common but Differentiated Responsibilities,” rejecting the idea of letting developed countries first take the responsibility for reducing emissions while pressing the emerging powers to sacrifice their rights of development.

1., “Actively Respond to the ‘New Union’ of the Western Countries,” June 24, 2013.