“Using barbarians to control barbarians” is a centuries-old Chinese policy. If rivalries and divisions between outside rivals can be exploited to China’s benefit, the Chinese will capitalise on any and all opportunities. In recent days the vapidity of the Yanks and the idiocy of the Europeans has given the Chinese their best opportunity in centuries to wreak havoc on their Western rivals.
On matters concerning trade and defence, the divisions between the US and EEA have only been growing. Since the Thatcherite and Reaganite revolutions of the 1980s, the world’s leading Anglophone powers have been in the thralls of an historical neo-liberal experiment. There have clearly been numerous successes — far more, in fact, than failures. There have, however, been failures and the two most neo-liberal economies are seeking to address the worst excesses and correct some of the most painful failures. Banging on about expanding tax collections and booming economies in a few urban centres doesn’t assuage the fears and concerns of those left behind. Silicone Valley’s success doesn’t mean that life is getting better in Michigan or West Virginia. That London, Manchester and Edinburgh are doing rather well doesn’t mean that life for the working poor in Brum, the Welsh Valleys or Glasgow is getting any easier. If anything, it’s been getting worse. Arbitrarily seeking to destroy the US coal industry and importing cheap, unskilled labour from Eastern Europe is undermining the livelihoods of those who were already struggling. There will be errors made as these concerns are addressed, but there will also be some successes.
Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accords, however shrill the screaming from Brussels, Berlin or Paris is, is effectively meaningless. If all countries stuck to their goals there would, at best, be a .17 degree Celsius change in estimated temperatures. It was always an expensive sham — at best. The only real “success” is that electricity prices in much of Europe have gone up 55pc and both France and Germany have blown their goals repeatedly. Adherence by the US would make only a marginal difference, but would be destructive to rural and rust belt economies. Of course, affluent investors and companies that are making a fortune on technologies that simply wouldn’t be viable without massive government subsidies aren’t terribly concerned about this. They make money and the masses can lump it.
As the UK and US are pulling away to various degrees from the status quo ante, the Chinese have seized their opportunity. The Chinese are conceding nothing by adhering to their part of the Paris Accords. Their emissions have been declining faster, anyway, simply through improved technologies and more efficient power plants. The Indians aren’t doing so badly, either, having finally decided that blaming the British for not building infrastructure that would eternally expand and never age despite neglect might not achieve quite as much as building new, better and more modern plants. By demanding adherence, the Chinese are making the virtue-signalling prats of Europe feel vindicated. They aren’t “moving closer to Europe”, they’re driving a wedge between the US, UK and Europe. Nor are the Chinese conceding much by embracing trade liberalisation. China’s population has stabilised and, if anything, is quickly ageing. Their former economic model, which was based on the Taiwanese and Japanese models in generations past, had already run its course and China need to diversify its economy, anyway. The Chinese are growing wealthier and they can afford to import more luxury goods from the West, especially European countries. This makes European governments increasingly beholden to Beijing and its good will. As Norway discovered, bureaucratic difficulties can be economically detrimental where the Chinese market is concerned.
As the post-Brexit balance of power on the Continent starts to take shape, the Chinese will put the goodwill they’ve nurtured to good use. They will put the Poles against the French, the Italians against the Germans, the Spaniards against the French and the Nordic countries against Greece and Portugal. Europe will, whatever its aims, rely on the markets and protection of the UK and USA. Even if it isn’t quite as much, it will still be substantial. A dysfunctional Europe preening on the world stage is much to China’s liking. It will defy the UK and US on its behalf, hurting everyone in the process. Even if relations are bettered in coming years, divisions have been revealed and exploited.