It was known that China is the real target behind U.S. President Donald Trump bringing additional tariffs to steel and aluminum products. That is exactly what happened; China was stuck with the bill. The additional tax and investment restrictions on Chinese products total $60 billion. As for China, it responded to this move with a $3-billion move. This move brings additional customs tax of 15-to-25 percent to U.S. products – mostly food products – in 128 categories. Pork tops the list of products. Last year, the U.S. had exported $1 billion worth of pork to China. The U.S. is also China’s supplier of apples, cherries, walnuts and almonds. China’s retaliation may be considered small compared to the U.S., but it is a strategically well-thought move. The U.S. elections to be held in the fall is of critical importance for Trump. The China move may impact American farmers’ choice.
These moves are only the beginning of the “geo-economic war.” The U.S. is going to resort to other areas of competition to slow down China’s economic rise, and China is going to take new steps to rise to the challenge. Another cut-throat competition awaiting both China and the U.S. is in the area of new technology products. While China wants to deactivate the sea trade routes – in which the U.S. has the upper hand – with its “New Silk Road” project, the U.S. may create “problems” in the ground corridor between China and Europe. It would probably be correct to attribute the deepening diplomatic tensions between Russia and Western countries, primarily the U.K., to the new trade wars.
Meanwhile, keep in mind that the some 20 countries within the area of responsibility of the U.S. Central Command, also known as CENTCOM, intersect the corridor between China and Europe from south to north. The “CENTCOM geography,” which stretches from Northeast Africa across the Middle East to Central and South Asia, is an area where vital commercial sea lanes, flight corridors, pipelines and overland routes intersect. There are about 600 million people from 22 different ethnic groups living in the CENTCOM area spanning Egypt, the Arabian peninsula, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, the U.S. is trying to add India and Vietnam to its allies to close in on China.
The trade wars awaiting the U.S. and China have long been among the area of interest of American academics. The most popular book in this context was political scientist Professor Graham Allison’s book that was published in 2017 titled, “Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap?” Allison was inspired by the “Peloponnesian Wars” between Sparta and Athens. Accordingly, the rivalry between Sparta, the dominant power, and Athens, the rising power, had led to regional wars. Allison, who studied 16 cases from the 1500s to the 2000s and said that 12 of these cases resulted in war, was indicating that a similar destiny awaits the U.S., the dominant hegemonic power, and China, the rising power. Allison, who was invited to the White House last year during Trump’s term in office, gave a briefing at the National Security Council.
It was Professor Peter Navarro who had strongly expressed the “China fear” before Allison. Navarro, the author of “Death by China: Confronting the Dragon - A Global Call to Action” and “The Coming China Wars,” was known as the “Trade Hawk.” Navarro, who was appointed director of the “National Trade Council” by Trump, was in the lead role in bringing additional tariffs aimed at China. Gary Cohn, who objected to the tariffs, resigned from his position as Trump’s “chief economic adviser” and director of the “National Economic Council.”
According to many Western historians, the economic competition between great powers recalls “pre-1914” world conditions. If that is the case, in today’s conditions which the global system has lost functionality, we need to wait for certain alliances to break and new ones to be established.