The world is on the cusp of another cold war – there is absolutely no doubt about that – with the United States and China being the key protagonists. Everything is at stake: military hegemony, economic influence, competition over technology.
Washington will keep spending more and more strategic capital in Asia and trying to disengage itself from more traditional commitments like those in the Middle East. This is the only way for it to go because its resources are finite.
In an unpolished and primitive way, President Donald Trump had expressed the America establishment’s intention to up the competition with China at every level. He may not have made any headway, but many useful conclusions were reached that will be reflected in specific policies by Joe Biden’s administration. The Americans have realized, for example, that they cannot stay in the game by relying only on the laws of the market.
China has the ability to set goals with a horizon of five to 10 years when reaching for the top in crucial sectors like artificial technology. Its companies and universities do what they need to do with discipline, and do not expect dividends. This is also the case when it comes to crucial infrastructure or materials that are fundamental to American autonomy.
It is completely ridiculous, for example, to demand that your allies do not choose the Chinese 5G system when no American company is able to offer a similar comprehensive package. Capitalism can work wonders, but it has its limits too. And never before did it have to compete with such a formidable mix of an almighty, monolithic state and flexible capitalism.
American decision-makers have realized that they need new tools if the country hopes to prevail in this new cold war. Crucially, though, it will need to deal with its internal problems and challenges first.
As far as America’s allies are concerned, they will continue to face tough dilemmas under the Biden administration just as they did under Trump. On every front, from technological platforms to trade deals, the dilemma will be: “Are you with us, or with them?”
Europe is somewhere in the middle. After the Trump scare, it does not want to rely on the US as much anymore, but it is too small to find a balance with China on its own. As for Greece, it has to weigh its national interests, assess where the EU is headed and make its own decisions.
It will not be an easy balancing act. The world is changing and our tools are becoming obsolete as we try to navigate uncharted waters.