President Joe Biden and his European allies have repeatedly emphasized their desire to “de-risk,” not “decouple” the Chinese economy in recent months as a way to explain new restrictions on trade with Beijing. . The problem is that for China there is no difference.
Chinese state media, officials and academics have publicly rejected the distinction in recent weeks in a concerted effort to reduce the rhetorical shift. The official Xinhua news agency said in Friday’s commentary that “de-risking is just separation in disguise.”
“Change of words does not mean difference in action. In essence, de-risking is hardly different from de-risking,” the agency said, adding that the US is “stepping up its siege of China.”
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang made a similar criticism at a press briefing in Germany this month, saying that “if the EU wants to break away from China in the name of risk reduction, it will be at the expense of opportunities, cooperation, stability and would be detracted from development.
Fu Kang, China’s ambassador to the European Union, in an interview with the New Statesman pressed leaders to define what de-risks is. According to a transcript published on the embassy website, “If de-risking means ridding China of global industrial and supply chains, especially in key sectors, and when it involves critical technology, we strongly oppose it.” We do.”
technology cold war
The change in US language reflects an effort by the Biden administration to strike a more moderate tone to Western allies concerned about cutting trade ties with Beijing altogether. Washington’s efforts to deny China state-of-the-art chips over national security concerns have sparked concerns of a new technology Cold War.
“Pushing for de-coupling brings a lot of international pressure on the US because of its enormous economic impact,” said Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations at Nanjing University. to do maneuvers.
“There is no significant difference between the two conditions,” he said. “I don’t think the change in politics brings any adjustment in policies.”
The de-risking narrative began to take hold in March when EU President Ursula von der Leyen gave a speech explaining why she planned to travel to Beijing to meet President Xi Jinping.
“I believe it is neither feasible, nor in Europe’s interest, to break away from China,” he said. “We need to focus on de-risk, not decoy.” That approach was widely seen as an attempt to defuse US tensions with China, a month ago after an alleged Chinese spy balloon was shot down after crossing US airspace. This prompted Foreign Minister Antony Blinken to cancel a trip to Beijing and further sour diplomatic relations.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in April that “we don’t want to decouple our economy from China.” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan argued the following week: “We are to de-risk and diversify, not to diversify.”
This rhetorical shift allowed some of the world’s wealthiest democracies to speak with a common voice to counter Chinese economic risks at the Group of Seven summit in Japan this month. In a final statement, the leaders resolved to “diversify and deepen the partnership and achieve economic security not by de-coupling but by de-risking”.
Two researchers at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, a think tank affiliated with China’s top intelligence body, wrote this month that the “de-risking” narrative reflected how Western democracies felt they were too far behind the world’s second-largest economy. Can’t work without ,
He also argued that the term displayed “some goodwill” from the US and its allies, as it showed that they wanted to keep talks with China open. Biden said at the end of the G-7 that US-China relations could “thaw very soon”, suggesting the long-awaited call with Xi could be imminent.
Still, the researchers cautioned that the new language does not mean there will be a fundamental change in their strategy, such as the US rolling back trade sanctions on Chinese entities.
Pushing to de-risk supply chains could have the opposite effect: countries dependent on a single location for some products, according to Deborah Elms, Singapore-based executive director of the Asian Trade Center, who recently pointed to baby shortages. Did. Formula in America as an example of this.
“It’s a classic case that you put all your eggs in one basket and assume that your domestic production is somehow less vulnerable to disruption, but that’s actually not true,” he said.
Since the pandemic, the US and other western countries are increasingly looking towards onshore supply chains for various goods. For example, the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides subsidies and tax breaks for companies that produce in the US, has been criticized by Europe and South Korea for hurting their companies.
Japan is also spending billions of dollars to rebuild its domestic semiconductor industry. Tokyo has also imposed export restrictions on some chip-making technology to China.
“What they are trying to realize is a partial separation,” said Zhou Xiaoming, former deputy representative at China’s UN mission in Geneva.
“It means isolation in areas of their choice that are important to their national security,” he said, “as well as to the effort to contain China’s rise.”