This week, PS talks with Javier Solana, a former EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, NATO Secretary-General, and Spanish Foreign Minister, who is now President of the EsadeGeo – Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics and a distinguished fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Project Syndicate: You and Óscar Fernández recently warned against making a Sino-American cold war into a self-fulfilling prophecy, arguing that while China “will seek to shape the global landscape according to its interests,” it will “not attempt to reshape other countries in its own image,” and has few allies. Yet, as you acknowledge, China’s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea and Hong Kong does not augur well for de-escalation. Now, Chinese aggression is also fueling rising tensions with India. Is China approaching a tipping point, beyond which peaceful de-escalation – whether with the United States or its regional neighbors – becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible?
JS: Not necessarily. There is no question that China feels increasingly mighty. It has no intention – or, in its view, incentive – to accept foreign intervention in what it considers to be its domestic affairs, nor to renounce its territorial claims. But there are excellent reasons for China to seek to strengthen relations with its neighbors and improve its global standing, especially at a time when America’s leadership position is diminishing.
Both China and the US would serve their interests well by taking a big-picture view – one that entails de-escalation and cooperation. Regrettably, at the moment, they seem instead to be feeding into each other’s worst impulses. But should Joe Biden, President Donald Trump’s presumptive Democratic challenger, win the upcoming US presidential election in November, we could at least expect a shift in tone.
PS: To avoid future shortages of essential goods, you advocate a shift from just-in-time production to a “just-in-case” model that prioritizes security of supply over optimal cost efficiency. To what extent would such a shift reduce the US and China’s economic dependence on each other, and what effect might that have on the bilateral relationship?
JS: US-China tensions are leaving the rhetorical realm. That much was made clear by the US demand for China to shutter its consulate in Houston, and China’s retaliatory closure of the American consulate in Chengdu. And US authorities do favor an economic decoupling from China – a shift that would have far-reaching effects on the bilateral relationship. But the just-in-case model I advocate would not necessarily produce such a decoupling.
We ask all our Say More contributors to tell our readers about a few books that have impressed them recently. Here are Solana's picks:
by Rutger Bregman
During the pandemic, many people have succumbed to gloomy views of human nature. But Bregman argues that expecting the best of our fellow humans and ourselves is not only more productive, but also more realistic. Cooperation is the rule, not the exception, in human history – even in the direst of circumstances.
by Anu Bradford
Bradford provides an insightful reminder of just how unintentionally powerful the EU has become in the last three decades. A defense or fiscal union may still be a long way off (though we are getting closer). But, in a growing number of crucial areas, from data protection to food standards, governments and businesses worldwide increasingly look to Europe for guidance.
by Orlando Figes
This is a vivid account of the emergence of pan-Europeanism in the nineteenth century, as illustrated by the intertwined lives of the French opera singer Pauline Viardot, her erudite husband Louis, and the Russian writer Ivan Turgenev. This masterful book is a celebration of Europe’s virtually limitless potential in all domains, but also serves as a reminder that nothing can be taken for granted.
From the PS Archive
In this PS On Point long read, Solana considers prospects for a new diplomatic rapprochement with Iran. Read more.
Solana points out that Europe’s efforts to bolster its own security are often frustrated by the US itself. Read more.
Around the web
In a 2016 interview, Solana considers the future of the transatlantic relationship. Watch the video.