The closure of consulates and the reciprocal expulsion of diplomats between the United States and China brings the confrontation between the two superpowers to a worrying level and directly affects the main peaceful tool that the international community recognizes for the resolution of any conflict or disagreement: diplomacy.
At a time when the rivalry between Washington and Beijing is evident in all fields – from technological to the military, to economic, to geopolitical influence – channels of communication and diplomatic representation are more important than ever and their elimination, even in the case of two minor consulates, places the clash between the two countries on a path that is better not to tread upon.
Relations between Washington and Beijing have always been complicated, first by the incompatibility of their political systems and then by the global positioning – if not the threat of primacy, as in the case of 5G technology – achieved by China in recent decades. And precisely because of its importance for world stability, any movement must be carefully calculated. Circumstances – if they are true – such as those that have led the United States to close the Chinese consulate in Houston probably occur between countries more frequently than known and are resolved in a way that does not publicly harm the bilateral relationship. This has not been the case. After the reciprocity on the part of China, it is desirable that the diplomatic channel is left out of any dispute.
In this escalation, it cannot be overlooked that Trump faces the real possibility of not being re-elected president in next November’s elections. And here fits the dialectical escalation against Beijing, using a language typical of the Cold War, by Mike Pompeo. The US Secretary of State now requires his allies “creative and energetic ways” to confront the Chinese regime.
However, just over a year ago, while the European Union described the regime in its official documents as a “systemic threat” and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, warned that with China “the time of naivety” was over, Trump it unilaterally decided not to pressure the Asian giant in trade disputes. Many analysts then warned that this lurch had an eminently electoral interest and that the confrontation, not only commercial, would resume in 2020. This has happened.
It is obvious that China pursues a global hegemonic position in all fields and that the nature of its political system is neither democratic nor of respect for collective and individual freedoms, as has just been verified with the case of Hong Kong.
It would be good, then, if the main economy of the planet, which is also a democracy and the military umbrella of the other world democracies, addressed this issue seriously, without limping or stridency, and above all, applying a multilateral logic. Unfortunately, this is something that both Donald Trump and his Administration, during their four years in the White House, have given many signs of not understanding.