From French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Beijing to CIA Director William Burns’ visit to Saudi Arabia, the past weeks have underlined one thing: the US is standing on the sidelines merely observing events in a stark contrast from US’ previous role: that of global broker and policeman.
The President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Layen, on her trip to Beijing emphasized that the EU and China shouldn’t be pursuing a policy of decoupling, but rather seek de-risking. Europe has been dependent on the US for security for the past decades, but that doesn’t mean that Europe will necessarily follow the US when it comes to China. The US’ policy towards China will not be Europe’s policy towards China.
French President Macron conveyed to China that it must put pressure on Russia to end the war in Ukraine. Macron is further worried about the direction that the US Congress is taking on China and does not want to be dragged into an ideological fuel. And it’s not just France. Most of Europe quietly agrees.
As French President Macron made clear, the EU will not follow the US blindly when it comes to China. There are calls from various quarters of Europe that the EU should seek a united front vis-à-vis China, but the EU won’t be able to reach consensus. The EU, in fact, does not need a common foreign policy towards China.
In another part of the world, the Middle East, that is traditionally seen as a place where the US has a gravitas, China now increasingly plays the lead peacemaker role. China brokered a peace agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia which came as a big surprise. China further seeks to facilitate peace agreements between Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. CIA Director William Burns expressed frustration at his trip to Riyadh last week. China’s methodical moves have left the US as an observer at the sidelines.
The trend of the US as a global observer will additionally be supplemented by a likely US presidential winner next year — former president Donald Trump.
If former US President Donald Trump returns as president next year, the US might in fact further ease into the role of global observer. Trump’s aversion to entanglements abroad and his isolationist, non-interventionist world view would further push the US down from its pedestal of global shot-caller into a mere observer.
The same goes for the dollar as the main international currency. There is increasingly talk on the international arena about moving on from the dollar and replacing it with other currencies as main currency.
All this is not about the decline of the US, as some commentators have argued. This is simply a global shift in power that the US will have to account for and will have to gracefully accept as a new role.