Saber-rattling across the world: Four Pillars Roundup

May 29, 2024News

The Biden administration continues imposing strong tariffs measures on China, now removing tariff exceptions for Chinese exports. It seems that they will be joined soon by Europe, another Pillar. As mentioned last week, the EU is seeking to implement its own tariffs on China for EVs and other industries. At the G7 meeting, leaders expressed concerns over Chinese overproduction flooding their markets – and understandably so, one only has to see the proliferation of Chinese dropshipped goods on Amazon or the marketing push Temu has been on. While free trade is a net positive generally, some bad faith actors can take advantage of it, like the CCP has to assert their authority domestically and expand its influence abroad. Furthermore, dependency on a potential adversary is a national security risk. It seems that the second trade war has begun. It is important that the Four Pillars coordinate these efforts  against China, to ensure the highest effectiveness. Furthermore, tariffs on a rival state should not mean tariffs on allies either – even if it may be a political play for the domestic audience, incidents like the US Steel buyout by Nippon Steel only hamper cooperation on peace and security between the Pillars and their allies.

It should be remembered that while some may bemoan the loss of cheap products, the CCP continues to harass and threaten its neighbors – whether it be in the Taiwan Strait, the East and South China Seas, or in the Himalayas. In fact, with the recent inauguration of the new Taiwanese president, China held its vaguely threatening wargame in the Strait and issued a warning that consequences for  leaders visiting Taiwan will be harsh. While the CCP makes a show, remember the idiom “China’s Final Warning”, where they send definitive complaints but actually don’t act upon them. In fact, the reason for this phrase’s entry into the English lexicon was Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, before which the CCP raised all kinds of hell about consequences (no action was taken after her landing in Taipei).

However, there are some concerning developments within Europe – and not within Ukraine or Russia this time (we’ll get to that actually). Hungary under Viktor Orban, after embracing Putin and Russia for the past decade, has now begun giving the same treatment to Xi Jinping and China. Hungary is not the only European country to have done so (see: Serbia), but they are the first EU and NATO member to publicly sway to these authoritarian states to this degree. Essentially, there may be a Fifth Column in these vital alliances now, and the EU gives all its member-states a non-overridable veto on key issues. Hungary has already used it to Russia’s advantage, such as voting against aid to Ukraine.

In Ukraine, Kharkiv is under threat again after Russia’s incursion last week. It appears they may be preparing for an offensive in the region. NATO members, parts of the Four Pillars, are now weighing in sending their own soldiers to Ukraine and/or giving the (official) go-ahead for Ukraine to strike Russia directly. President Macron has announced that France will be sending advisors and trainers to Ukraine, while NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and European leaders like Macron and Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that the US should allow Ukraine to use the supplied weaponries to attack Russia directly.

Ed Ram for The Washington Post

Article of the week – Xi Jinping’s Recipe for Total Control: An Army of Eyes and Ears – The New York Times