China’s Importance for the Transatlantic Relationship
How does the rise of China affect the transatlantic relationship? The United States and European Union are increasingly shifting their attention toward China as its economic growth and greater significance in international affairs make the country’s resurgence to the world stage a central feature of the twenty-first century’s international order. Whether we are going to face a new multipolar or more of a nonpolar world is not yet clear. But China’s increasing prominence coincides with a growing perception that “Europe no longer matters,” leading to predictions of “a dim if not dismal future for the transatlantic alliance.” Still, the proclamation of a G-2 comprised of the U.S. and China to replace the transatlantic partnership as the most prominent international connection seems pre-mature as the People’s Republic “sees itself as an at least partially dissatisfied power and takes a critical attitude towards the United States.” Furthermore, China remains passive as a potential “responsible stakeholder.” Whether in the economic or security realm, today’s complex and interdependent challenges require an even more stable, open, and rule-based international order that allows for effective multilateral cooperation. Faced with unfavorable conditions at home and abroad on the one hand and given China’s reluctance to act as a responsible stakeholder in the international system on the other, the transatlantic relationship matters more than ever before.
Common Transatlantic Challenges
The United States and Europe both face tremendous interrelated global challenges. International security issues, though they have changed since the Cold War, remain salient to both the United States and Europe. “New” transnational security challenges from proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), to terrorism, to state failure, to climate change still significantly threaten the well-being of nations and societies all over the world. The same holds true for increasingly significant global economic problems, such as returning financial crises, trade and currency imbalances, and recessions. No nation—regardless of its hard, soft, or smart-power capabilities—can address these complex issues autonomously as they are, by and large, caused by cross-border globalization processes that undermine state governance capacities. The same processes tend to concentrate globalization’s upsides overwhelmingly on developing nations while seemingly putting western governments and their societies behind the economic eight ball, thereby making it increasingly complicated for the U.S. and EU to provide global governance.
The Global Governance Dilemma
The world and the transatlantic community find themselves in a “governance dilemma.” Both the United States and the EU are beset by notions of “declinism.” The EU is increasingly self-absorbed with its ongoing institutional deficit and with preventing its sovereign debt crisis from derailing the European spirit of integration. On the other side of the Atlantic, the U.S.—its political system in partisan gridlock—is equally hampered by serious economic problems. Furthermore, Washington has to narrow down its military commitments in Europe and the Middle East to enable its pivot to Asia, where it sees its main peer strategic competitor of the twenty-first century—China.