A common refrain in Denmark is that China is too far away to be a threat to Danish economic, foreign and security policy interests. This is no longer the case. Danish policy-makers acknowledge that China’s rise as a global superpower presents Denmark with new challenges. However, transforming this strategic thinking into practice is no simple task.
The US Department of Defense is playing a predominant role in US foreign policy due to expanded mandates, large budgets and the disparagement of diplomacy by the Trump Administration. Defense relations may be the steadier foundation for transatlantic cooperation.
It may strike as odd coming from this author, but this is no time for grand strategy. As the European Union enters a new cycle, it’s overarching priority in the world should be action.
The last five years have been formative as far as European foreign policy goes. They have set the foundations for a European defence union. Whereas the EU acronym soup of recent defence initiatives may appear obscure to outside observers, for a Union that has historically struggled to inch forward in this field, they are huge. Furthermore, the outgoing Commission and High Representative have triggered a fundamental change in the way the EU works in the world. While institutional silos still exist, joined-up foreign policy making and an integrated approach to conflicts are now part of the European foreign policy lexicon, and to an extent practice too.
To the extent that any nation has a grand strategy, China surely does. The vision is no secret: Xi Jinping vows to make China great again. This resonates deeply: Since imperial decline in the First Opium War (1839 to 1842), every Chinese leader has sought the same, with broad popular support. Xi’s strategy for a modern China of unprecedented power and influence requires recapturing lost glories at home and abroad. It clearly entails reincorporating Taiwan, together with other unresolved island and maritime claims. China’s history and geography suggest that it now faces short-range opportunities and long-range challenges. China’s strategy thus has a broadly-defined arc that the United States should address with a strategy of “competitive coexistence” to safeguard American interests sustainably amid increasing Chinese assertiveness.
In the field of international relations, a nation’s credibility is often thought to be calculated by evaluating its historical record of following through on threats of punishment issued to adversaries. In contrast, today, the larger challenge to U.S. global credibility arises not from questions about its ability to inflict pain on rivals, but rather from the demonstrated failure of U.S. policymakers to make good on incentives promised to rivals in exchange for constructive changes in their behaviors.