Asian partnerships offer double-hedge for European Grand Strategy

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From Wall Street Journal article “China Sees Itself at Center of New Asian Order”, 9 November 2024 (click for link)

There is a lot of thought going into the need for Europe to have a grand strategy. Some of it is very good (link). Here is a simple suggestion:

A: What do Europeans want? Safety and prosperity.

B: Europe’s only real security threat? Russia. The main driver of global prosperity? Asia, centred on China.

C: So Europe should (i) partner with China on trade to build a strategic hedge against Russia, and (ii) partner with Indo-Pacific powers to insure against dependence on China.

What would that look like?

(i) Partner with China to balance Russia. China is countering the US Pivot with its two silk roads (link, link), and cooperating with this plan represents a golden opportunity for Europe to kill two birds with one stone. First, it offers a way to lock in trade interdependence with China. Second, it offers a basis for strategic cooperation that will create a balance against Europe’s only major security threat – Russia. So Europe should pour diplomatic, economic resources into partnering with China to establish the silk road around Russia and to develop market and strategic opportunities in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East (link here for ideas). After all, since the whole purpose of the silk route is to connect China and Europe, this is the most natural basis for our common interest. The fact that it offers a chance to drive a wedge between China and Russia is a bonus in terms of European security (link).

(ii) Partner with Indo-Pacific powers to encourage peaceful growth in the region, and to insure against the risk of an all-powerful China becoming a threat to regional peace and global prosperity. While Europe wants a peaceful and prosperous relationship with China, it would not be in Europe’s longer term interests to see China turn East and South East Asia into a Sino-centric block. European prosperity is increasingly dependent on on the health not just of China’s economy, but of the economies of the whole Asian region. Currently the most likely source of conflict – and threat to continued prosperity – in Asia is rivalry in the maritime sphere. A quadrilateral alliance (made up of the United States, Japan, Australia and India) is already taking shape to prevent Chinese naval hegemony at sea. It helps that these countries  broadly share the same set of values as Europe. If China’s neighbours continue to feel intimidated, then this alliance will be supported by the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia. No matter how far and how fast China rises, it would be futile to oppose such a coalition. If European diplomacy, technology and naval forces are put in the service of this coalition to support freedom of navigation and uphold UNCLOS then it will support the international order and prosperity in Asia, and provide a hedge against the possibility that China might be tempted to do anything that threatens global free trade and prosperity. Europe’s message to China should be ‘we welcome your return to great power status and want to trade with you, but we stand by the rules based order of international relations, and we will pay the price to uphold it’.

A more developed version of this idea was posted at the website European Geostrategy here:

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