Will China fill the vacuum that America leaves on the world stage

Even those analysts who earn their living with predictions about a sharp shift in wealth, power and world leadership from the US to China, did not anticipate the speed at which Donald Trump is marginalizing his country, writes The Economist.

He recently announced the withdrawal of America from the Paris climate agreement. At the annual EU-China summit, which was taking place at that moment, the President of the European Union Donald Tusk said that the Middle Kingdom and Europe together will show “solidarity with future generations and responsibility for the whole planet.” Other experts go even further: they say that the world will now turn to China when the leader is needed on important issues.

Beijing seems to have moved forward on some fronts. The “Shangri-La Dialogue”, which was held June 2-4 in Singapore, is an annual forum, one of whose goals is to demonstrate America’s commitment to the maintenance of peace in Asia. On it, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis was struggling to appease Asian friends. And most of all they are concerned about the situation with the South China Sea, which the Celestial Empire, it seems, is going to turn into its own lake.
And although Mattis’ promises to increase US activity in Asia were very warm, his words still did not dispel the impression that America is now more concerned about the North Korean nuclear threat, while losing attention to the rest of the Region. And it is not Mattis who leads the States, but an unpredictable person for whom the slogan “America first” may mean that it is necessary to destroy the world order, which she herself created on the ruins of the Second World War. Against the backdrop of doubts about US compliance with its obligations to the Southeast Asian states, the region’s politicians proposed that their warships, together with Chinese patrols, patrol in the South China Sea, where Beijing greatly strengthened its presence through the structures and military strengthening of artificial islands. Someone it seemed to capitulate to the power of the Middle Kingdom.

China’s leadership is also becoming more active in other areas. When this article was being prepared for publication, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), under its leadership, including, in particular, Russia and four Central Asian states, was preparing to receive new members – India and Pakistan. Joining the last, long-time ally of China, is quite natural. But India is a rival, so its gesture of agreement with the power of the PRC can not go unnoticed. The expansion of the SCO reinforces Beijing’s ambitions for the One-Belt-One-Way Initiative: investments in infrastructure that must link Asia to Europe, the Middle East and even Africa. Those who are troubled by his power consider this initiative to be a hidden tool for establishing a new Chinese order.
However, such an alleged deviation towards the Celestial Empire has little to do with the country’s attractiveness.

This is a more reflex reaction to the events in Washington, they say, if you are so, Mr. Trump (those who flourished under the American system say), then there is nothing for us but to turn around somewhere. But here it should be noted that the Chinese demonstrate an ideal sense of the moment. In January, even before Trump’s inauguration, Chinese President Xi Jinping, speaking to the world elite in Davos, positioned his country as a fighter for globalization and open markets.

However, where it seems like China is filling an empty niche of leadership, forms are often greater than content. One example is climate change. As the most significant polluter in the world, he did a lot to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: he built more renewable energy facilities than any other country. But the transparency and accountability of the country with respect to pollution and emissions is still very far from the level that the world leader should have in the field of climate change. Meanwhile, there is little common in the interests of Europe and China on this issue. According to Financial Times journalist James Kind, China is forced to reduce its emissions by its own environmental crisis, as well as the hope to win global renewable energy markets. Europe aspires to save the whole planet.

The space for economic leadership in relations between the EU and the PRC is also limited. Xi Jinping forcefully extends to open markets, but much of the Chinese remains closed. And where foreigners are allowed to work, they are afraid of technology theft. In Europe, this is disappointing. Indignant Europeans and through the Chinese tactics of “divide and conquer”: flirting separately with the 16 poor Central and Eastern European countries, who are lured with promises of benefits from the project “One belt – one way.”