Behind the farce of the G-7 summit of June 8-9 in Canada, is a tragedy, less publicised, but with much more serious and real consequences. Faced with the extraordinary rise in industrial, commercial and military power in China, Westerners are unable to form a coalition.
In the contemporary history of international relations, coalitions have always served to contain the hegemonic claims of a state that becomes blinded by the exponential growth of its power. The Europeans have, for example, united against a Napoleonic France that claimed to impose its law everywhere, from Madrid to Moscow.
The highlight of the meeting in Malbaie (Quebec) was neither the inability of Donald Trump to conduct multilateral diplomacy (this we already knew), nor the lack of courtesy of the young Canadian prime minister who publicly criticized the United States after the departure of their president, nor the cold anger of the Chancellor of Germany whose formidable trade surplus may be damaged by the new US tariffs.
The highlight of this G-7 was the inability of Western leaders to reason strategically.
We are fighting over tons of steel and milk trucks, but we are unable to tackle the great geopolitical urgencies of the moment – the persistent hostility between Ukraine and Russia, Kurdish irredentism in the Middle East, Chinese naval expansionism in the South China Sea, the return of Persia to the arena of civilized nations, the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, the population explosion of black Africa, the policing of the oceans, etc ….
Drowned in their small economic quarrels, Europeans and North Americans seem unable to raise their thoughts to the great subjects of war and peace: who can still rely on them to reduce the frequency of ethno-religious conflicts across the planet?
It is as if these Westerners, children of the consumer society, had become too rich, too old, and too timid to face the really important issues. Issues that are always religious, social, cultural and ideological.
This Western discord must make Xi Jinping smile. Without the slightest murmur around him, he has been endowed with a status of new emperor of China. At the XIX Communist Party Congress (October 2017), he promised the Chinese that their country would become the leading world power, thus avenging the humiliation suffered, throughout the 19th century, at the hands of foreign powers.
It is true that, in order to sustain its progress, China has a solid ideological-cultural base – religious reverence towards the state, pre-eminence of the Han ethnic group over all others, exacerbated nationalism, Confucian philosophy, privileging the good of the community over individual rights. Since China gave up her Maoist fantasy, she knows exactly where her interests are and how to reach them.
Yesterday’s Singapore summit between Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un primarily serves Chinese interests. China has always advocated direct dialogue between the United States and North Korea. Because if the latter is allowed to reintegrate into the world trade channels, it is Chinese traders who will benefit most of all.
Alerted by an article published on August 15 2017 in the New York Times by Dennis Blair and Keith Alexander, two former eminent American intelligence staffers, Donald Trump had the merit of being the first American president to loudly denounce the theft of Western technology that has been going on in China for a quarter of a century.
This looting costs the US between $200 and $600 billion a year. The US government lodged a complaint with the WTO in March 2018, soon followed by the European Union, which was also hurt by the Chinese. But Donald Trump’s problem is that he is unable to follow a technical file until the final settlement. Unfair competition from China should have been the big topic of this G-7. Alas, it has not been!
With obvious common sense, the United States and Italy wanted to reintegrate Russia into this club. Obsessed by the Ukrainian crisis, other Europeans did not. Trump did not insist.
Why should the West be determined to throw Russia into the hands of the Chinese, who received them on June 9 as part of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation Summit? It is an inexplicable mystery.
Putin must rejoice at the public division of the West. But it is China, in the long run, that will benefit the most.
This article first appeared in Le Figaro.