Perang perdagangan Trump dan pertembungan peradaban

As the two global superpowers go head-to-head over trade, the two leaders’ rhetoric reveals underlying currents at play.

By Cédomir Nestorovic, Professor of International Marketing and Geopolitics at ESSEC Business School.

Trade wars of the magnitude of that currently raging between the United States and China often come with the risk of mutually assured destruction. Ini menimbulkan persoalan: why is Donald Trump so confident in his protracted spat with China?

A simple answer is the economy. The economic picture in the United States has been considerably better under Trump’s tenure, while China’s economy is slipping. For Trump, the US$200 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese exports to the United States will increase his economic advantage.

China’s retaliation was to introduce US$60 billion of tariffs on American products.  mulanya, these were focused on products exported by Trump’s electoral base (soybeans, corn producers, etc.), namun begitu, there has since been a move towards total war.

With tariffs levied across the board, there is now even less reason for Trump to be concerned. As a negotiator, he will leverage this advantage to push China into signing agreements which are advantageous to him. In such a scenario, the tariff war only serves to further Trump’s negotiations with few negative implications for him.

Donald Trump
Foto: Gage Skidmore

Bringing the trade war into the public eye increases the risks

Walau bagaimanapun, things have changed dramatically. President Xi is now speaking publicly about the trade war. Previously Xi stood behind the intricate Chinese diplomacy of mandated negotiators and ministers. This afforded Xi the possibility of making or breaking a deal behind the closed doors of the Forbidden City.

Now he is in the spotlight, there is little chance of a U-turn or de-escalation. The stakes are higher. With neither side able to back down without losing face, there is a real risk that the tariff war could morph into a political, social or even military clash.

A clash of ideology or a clash of civilisations?

The vocabulary used by both sides is significant and one concept, the clash of civilisations, has taken centre stage. Trump has yet to use the term to refer to the United States’ relationship with China, but his advisors have. Seperti yang diharapkan, Xi has rejected this inference, as he has done so repeatedly.

The term Clash of Civilisations is never explicitly defined but we can assume that it refers to Samuel Huntington’s book ‘Clash of civilisations and the remaking of world order’ published in 1996. Huntington predicts wars between civilisations will replace ideological wars following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War.

Selepas 9/11, the term was ascribed to the confrontation between the so-called ‘Western world’ and ‘Islamic world.’ Now, namun begitu, it has evolved into a purported conflict between the ‘Western world’ and ‘Sinic (cina) world’.

Xi Jinping
Foto: Kremlin

The talk is not of civilisation when Trump’s interlocutors label China as a non-market economy, when they condemn China’s poor human rights record and its aggressive approach in the South China Sea. Equally, the Chinese side does not reference ‘civilisation’ when it presents itself as wanting to build a better world order based on win-win trade policies and a mutually beneficial One Belt One Road Initiative.

A clash of ideology better fits Trump’s narrative

Trump’s invective regularly refers to ideology rather than culture or civilisation. He views China as an illiberal country and believes it is due to this that China lacks allies, unlike the United States. According to Trump, no country will back the idea of introducing facial recognition, with the aim of following citizens’ movements and awarding them a social score yang, jika ia jatuh di bawah tahap yang telah ditetapkan, akan mengakibatkan hak perjalanan terhad, hilang kelayakan daripada pejabat awam atau tahap penjagaan hospital yang berkurangan. juga, tiada negara akan menerima bahawa Huawei dan gergasi teknologi lain dari China digunakan sebagai kuda Trojan dan mengumpul data yang boleh dieksploitasi oleh Tentera Merah.

Beberapa negara Eropah menyatakan keraguan mereka dalam melabelkan China dan Huawei sebagai satu-satunya pesalah. Mereka menuding jari mereka kepada syarikat Amerika dan skandal terbaru yang melibatkan Facebook dan Google mengumpul data pengguna mereka. Semua ini, namun begitu, tidak menghalang Trump daripada menandatangani perintah presiden terhadap Huawei dan sekutunya.

Tuduhan Trump bukan perkara baharu, but they can help to shore up support within the United States for his trade war by identifying a powerful and threatening enemy, particularly at a time when the president is preparing for the 2020 presidential elections.

Trump will likely continue to use ideological polarised lenses because it fits his narrative and he secures more support at home and abroad by stressing ideological differences rather than economy or trade.

The prevailing misunderstanding in this struggle is that when Xi rejects Western superiority he rejects civilisational and racial superiority, while Trump refers to ideological superiority. It is difficult therefore to reach an agreement when the two parties, be it consciously or unconsciously, consistently entertain a plurality of interpretation of negotiating nomenclature.