US-based researcher Yu Shiyu notes that the EU seems to have gained greater unity and internal coherence from the stress test of Covid-19. In contrast, the US seems to be more divided and has not found its way around the pandemic as well as its many other domestic issues. What has the EU done right to be able to be a standard setter in the post-pandemic era?
Economics professor Zhu Ying notes that the new Biden administration is trying to rope in the EU in its efforts to contain China. However, the evidence so far seems to suggest that such a plan is unlikely to work, given the pragmatic stance exhibited by key countries such as Germany. The China-EU investment agreement is an early warning that the EU may not be a firm ally of the US, not forgetting that China has always leveraged the economy to divide the West.
German academic Jan Kliem says the Indo-Pacific that Germany envisions is neither unipolar nor bipolar, but led by multilateralism, which forms the key principle throughout its Indo-Pacific policies, from climate cooperation to security. However, while implicitly repudiating much of China’s behaviour regarding the international rules-based order, Germany is not directly criticising or shutting the door on China. This is good news for Southeast Asia and ASEAN, signalling increasing cooperation and support by both Germany and the EU for ASEAN’s multilateral (security) architecture.
Even with a new US president in place, US-China relations look set to remain uncertain as poor communication between them continues, like chickens and ducks trying to have a conversation. Except they’re not talking to each other at the moment — not on the phone at least.
After taking a hit in early 2020 due to the pandemic, Singapore-China trade quickly rebounded and looks set to be in healthy territory in 2021. China’s increasing focus on regional trade agreements and industrial chains will give an added push. Academics Li Wenlong and Zhang Shiming give their take on what is in store.
A media war is underway between the state media in China and the media in the US and Europe over vaccine development, distribution and reception. With loud hailer tactics used all round, it’s not the truth but what people perceive to be true that counts most. Whose voice will be the loudest to drown out the din and shape the vaccine narrative?
The conclusion of the EU-UK Trade Cooperation Agreement and the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) in the last days of 2020 sent a strong signal that the EU will not wait for the US to resume a leading role in the world economic order. Building partnerships with countries like China are just the impetus the EU needs to deepen integration and build better prospects for itself. In this move away from a US-centric view of the economic order, the EU is not alone.
China’s willingness to consider joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is perhaps an admission that emphasising free trade but ignoring fair trade is no longer sustainable. Even sacred cows such as its state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and insistence on the WTO platform for multilateral trade negotiations may be up for discussion. On a practical level, the CPTPP may just be the external push it needs to force its SOEs to reform.
The US State Department recently cancelled all overseas trips, including the planned trips by UN envoy Kelly Craft to Taiwan, and Secretary of State Pompeo to Europe. Zaobao associate editor Han Yong Hong takes a look at what it says about the outgoing Trump administration and the implications for President-elect Joe Biden’s team going forward.