Is the world on the eve of chaos? It appears so. The global trade war that US President Donald Trump threatens has become increasingly likely. This will change the world’s perception on global order and 21st century international relations, and eventually cause a series of domino effects.
The trade war has its origins and Mr Trump is not the only one behind it. West-led globalisation has brought about some unexpected changes, among which the rise of emerging markets such as China and India is prominent. Washington believes that these changes have undermined its absolute advantages and thus wants to unilaterally rewrite global economic rules on a large scale. Mr Trump’s threat of a trade war panders to some Americans’ dissatisfactions and anxieties.
Washington is obstinate in transforming the world. Mr Trump’s radical diplomatic ideas have recently gained an upper hand in US politics, especially after the president gained effective control over the Republican Party. The tariffs on steel and aluminum imports can be regarded as the White House’s mobilisation of the American public for a real trade war.
Washington’s new goals are: turn the US into a trade surplus country, restore its status as a global manufacturing power, ensure the dominance of US technology, exclude any possibility of being challenged, and maintain the unparalleled advantages and strength of its military.
Washington’s plan will strike a heavy blow to the WTO-rules-centered international trade system, disrupt the international division of labour formed after decades of development, and affect global distribution of interests. More perilously, such an adjustment will, to some extent, result in the re-rise of the law of the jungle and bring about various uncertainties and risks.
Counterstrike is the major economies’ first reaction to Washington’s trade war. It’s hard to predict where these moves will lead the world, but Washington will unavoidably pay heavy prices for its attempts to change the whole world to its economic tributary. The EU warned that about $300 billion worth of US exports would face retaliatory measures, the strongest counter-response to Mr Trump’s tariff threat so far.
If the trade war is escalated to such a scale, it will exert irreversible negative influences and may evolve into a worldwide trade war. If this is the case, the world would be locked in a tangled fight, and the most ambitious combatant would most likely become a target by all parties. The US has put itself in such a position.
China should prepare for the worst. As the most successful emerging market, China will have to bear heavier pressure than other countries. We need to accept this fact. Comprehensive strength is a talisman and China has stronger capability to withstand the trade war than other countries.
China stresses principles. It neither escalates tensions nor makes unprincipled concessions. It’s impossible for China to completely shield itself from the trade war, but the country will not be the only victim and will not be a common target. China should put major risks under effective control so as to get through the crisis and reduce its costs in the path of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.