Friday, September 17

Thucydides and the thaw


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Henry Kissinger was the architect half a century ago of a new relationship between the United States and China, which divided the Communists in two and weakened the Soviet Union. In the face of the unstoppable rise of the Beijing regime, the former Harvard professor even said at the end of the Trump Administration that we were approaching a new cold war. Joe Biden seems determined to deny it and come up with a thaw strategy to compete and cooperate without drama with the great Asian giant. This week he took the first steps in a long telephone conversation with Xi Xinping. It has proposed to him to manage in a responsible way the competition between the two countries in order to avoid the

conflict. The fight against global warming and the fight against pandemics could serve as a meeting place. Differences would persist in areas such as human rights, commerce or digital technology. He has created a private conversation channel with Xi and wants to manage the relationship with China from president to president. His advisers in the White House were doves during the Obama era, but now they are hawks and do not have his ductility.

Biden has drawn on his long international experience, which has served him so little in Afghanistan, and has emphasized his personal respect for the Chinese hyper-leader, in full nationalist affirmation. In this way, the American president wants to refute another Bostonian colleague of Kissinger, Professor Graham Allison, author of the so-called ‘Thucydides trap’. Inspired by the Greek general’s History of the Peloponnesian War, it suggests that there is a tendency for armed conflict when an emerging power challenges the status of another dominant one. China and the US would be about to collide in a war, following a historical rule of thumb, an almost inevitable trap. Biden is gambling his presidency with this bet, because the vision of Beijing as a rival is one of the few issues that unites Republicans and Democrats. We Europeans have little time left to restore the transatlantic relationship and make it trans-Pacific as well.

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