Despite the defeat of Trump at the 2020 presidential election, Trump's call to make America great again highlights a major problem facing the international economy - how the US commitment to liberal economic and political aspirations since the Second World War will be complicated by the rise of an authoritarian nation (China) in both economic and political terms.
While Trump's economic response was driven by an understanding that the US is finding it increasingly harder to maintain large trade deficits, a reality only maintained by a reliance upon much greater debt to fuel international economic activity, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has exploited the situation to increase China's wealth and influence around the world through its growing economic prowess and substantial military spending.
Quite simply, given the importance of the balance of power dimension within international relations, in a world where a commitment to certain political ideas should indeed matter, no powerful liberal democracy can allow the rise of authoritarian China at its own expense, whether other liberal democracies like it not.
While the western world accepts the inevitability of China becoming the world's largest economy, and observes how the Chinese economy was one of the few in the world that still grew in 2020 during the international covid-19 crisis, the central concern remains about how the CCP uses its growing economic might to influence trading nations and various international institutions.
We see the CCP's lack of democratic tolerance to Hong Kong, its threats to absorb Taiwan back into China through force, and its concerted effort to create markets abroad for Chinese goods and materials to help offset lower rates of domestic economic growth.
We know how the Belt and Road Initiative increases the public debt burden of some recipient countries with an International Monetary Fund study showing that China's contribution to the public debt of heavily indebted poor countries doubled from 6.2% to 11.6% from 2013 to 2016 with China obtaining some strategic assets and political influence within many recipient nations.
We are aware of the CCP violent repression of the ethnic Uighur minority, and the CCP's total disregard for freedom of speech at odds with its own messaging. A 2020 Safeguard Defenders report titled "Rampant Repression" alleges that up to 30,000 people have disappeared in China's 'Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location' system since 2013 with an estimated 20 people disappearing per day during 2020.
We observe the CCP's recent disregard for international borders that go beyond the South China Sea. During June 2020, a clash on the Himalayan border between Chinese and Indian troops occurred after China seized control of about 23 square miles of Indian territory during the previous two months, thus leading to greater Indian sentiment to become a democratic, economic and military counterbalance to China after a decade of the CCP courting India's neighbours (Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka).
And we recognise how the CCP increasingly threatens liberal democracies with economic retaliation, as observed by Australia losing valuable export markets to China during 2020 on a range of products because of the Australian government's tougher response to CCP influence and strong alliance with the US as a like-minded supporter of liberalism.
But it remains to be seen to what extent each liberal democracy will act to counter the CCP, despite the Western liberal democracies still collectively holding the balance of power in terms of economic resources and cultural appeal, and the Biden camp indicating in January 2021 that the US would consult its allies with regard to applying multilateral pressure upon China given the CCP's strategy of offering individual countries preferential access to its vast market.
While some liberal democracies will express a greater degree of commitment to political and economic liberalism, others may prove more willing to consider any economic option to create short-term wealth or reduces the burden of debt through China's economic opportunities at a time when government debt for the advanced economies is projected to reach 124% of GDP in 2020 (around 30% during early 1970s).
Of course, US leadership will prove crucial to any attempt to curtail the influence of the CCP, but even the US needs to address its own national interest, a reality made evident by ongoing support for Trump's nationalist agenda.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.
23 posts so far.