During the February 16 security conference in Munich, Germany, the Trump administration sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to attend. The two men warned European allies that China will use whatever means it can to gain advantage, and the United States regards it as the number one threat. They persuaded European allies to abandon and resist Huawei’s technology and products in order to maintain Western independent cyber sovereignty. During the period, Pompeo also said that the West is winning in confrontation with some authoritarian regimes.
The “Western” mentioned by senior US officials here refers specifically to the United States and its European allies, and is used to replace the “international society” including China. However, in the context of the conference on the theme of “Westlessness,” Pompeo and Esper’s deliberate emphasis on US-European solidarity seems to be somewhat far-fetched, because in the eyes of European allies, Trump abandoned To a certain extent, some western allies have also been alienated. In this context, it is very difficult for the United States to put Europe on the opposite side of China.
In order to exhort European allies, Pompeo and Esper made a fuss about Huawei and 5G, arguing that Huawei and other companies supported by the Chinese government are “trojan horses” of Chinese intelligence agencies. Espa even stated that Huawei is a “representative” in China’s “evil strategy” that penetrates and dominates important western infrastructure. It took years for the United States to realize the threat from Huawei, while Europe may take longer. If the EU and the US fail to reach a consensus on this issue, the future of NATO will also be threatened.
To complement the two’s lobbying efforts during the Munich security conference, the US Department of Justice has also added a new lawsuit against Huawei and its vice president Meng Wanzhou, accusing Huawei and its subsidiaries of conspiring to steal US trade secrets and cutting-edge technology. This is a kind of pressure on European countries. Moreover, the US media also broke the news that the Trump administration plans to introduce new trade restrictions on Chinese companies such as Huawei at the end of the month to prevent China from acquiring chip technology.
It can be said that in conjunction with lobbying Europe during the Munich meeting, the Trump administration ’s public relations operation is very timely, and it has elements of temptation, intimidation and pressure.
So far, in order to lobby European allies to abandon Huawei technology from Chinese companies, the United States has basically mobilized all diplomatic forces. From cabinet members such as Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Esper, to Nancy Pelosi as the representative of the anti-China forces in Congress, they have blocked Huawei on different occasions PR lobbying, but the effect is average.
During the Munich Security Conference, US parliamentarians and Trump administration officials said more directly that they asked Europe to make a dual choice between China and the United States such as “we vs. them.” However, between narrowing or consolidating relations with the United States and alienating China, European countries also pay attention to risk assessment and balance their interests. Apart from France, Germany and Italy, which are not listening to the US, the most notable is the recent Brexit Britain.
It is the doubts of the European allies whether to ban Huawei from the security interests of the allies or the US’s own interests. Because curbing Huawei involves the future competition between China and the United States in the digital economy, it is ultimately a question of economic leadership. How much of this involves so-called alliance interests is another issue. After all, the United States always values itself in the digital economy and technology. Absolute hegemony. Although the Trump administration staff used Huawei to view China as an American existential threat, from the perspective of the actual response of the allies, European allies such as the United Kingdom did not want to be placed in a “two-or-one” dual choice. . In fact, in the face of European allies who refuse to cooperate, the Trump administration cannot truly “cut the ground” with Europe.
In the final analysis, as the British Prime Minister Johnson mentioned, before the European allies, apart from mechanizing the containment and blocking of Chinese technology products, the United States has not proposed any alternative options. US Attorney General William Barr also acknowledged the US’s weaknesses in his speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on February 6. So he proposed that the U.S. government would quickly provide a “Huawei alternative to the market” by controlling the shares of Huawei and other rivals such as Nokia and Ericsson in Europe. But such a proposal “to fight against Chinese companies and thereby annex European companies” will undoubtedly exacerbate the EU’s antipathy towards the United States.
It can be seen that Trump’s attempts to divide EU-China relations are difficult to achieve.
In fact, this kind of disagreement between the United States and Europe has begun as far back as Barack Obama. Especially since the late Obama administration, as China’s power has grown, US global leadership has been questioned. On the one hand, China’s diplomacy is active and proactive, and it has proposed the Belt and Road Initiative and the construction of the Asian Investment Bank, which has strengthened China’s right to speak in Asia and global affairs. In the end, it became an empty shell; on the other hand, the US “Yamen” incident and Obama’s missteps in the Libya, Syria, and Ukraine crises have further ruptured the traditional alliance relationship on both sides of the Atlantic.
The “retreat” after Trump took office, requiring allies to increase military spending, and threatening to increase tariffs on cars have also made the gap between the United States and Europe increasingly wide. The biggest uncertainty behind this rift is Trump himself.
Even if the US government, or one of its hawks, including the entire conservative group in Washington, intends to use all available resources to upgrade its strategic confrontation with China, European allies are not sure whether Trump himself has the will.
The past three years of governance has fully demonstrated that Trump, a “businessman’s president”, is truly his name, with a special emphasis on political benefits, and is still a political profit that can be realized in the short term. He is basically not concerned about strategic design. . Henry Kissinger had suggested to his team “Union Russia against China” during Trump’s campaign that year, and it was basically not adopted.
Regarding the separation between the Allies and the United States, Trump looked down on it. For example, Trump has not responded to the turn of the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte government on the South China Sea issue and its support for Huawei’s products and technologies. And when the Philippines wants to terminate the “Visit Force Agreement” (VFA) with the United States, Trump’s first reaction is also: “Good thing, we can save a lot of expenses.”
In other words, the United States and Europe face a broken “West”, and within the United States, there is also a lost “White House.” Therefore, the United States’ attempts to separate China and the EU or isolate China have always been insufficient and insufficient, and it is ultimately difficult to achieve results.