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Published in: Journal of Chinese Political Science 3/2022

20-10-2021 | Research Article

The Illusion of the China-US-Europe Strategic Triangle: Reactions from Germany and the UK

Authors: Richard J. Cook, Maximilian Ohle, Zhaoying Han

Published in: Journal of Chinese Political Science | Issue 3/2022

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Abstract

The dawn of the Sino-US peer competition has broken, denoting a new status quo of instability as Beijing and Washington vie for influence. As leader of the rules-based international order (RIO), Washington under the Trump administration nevertheless adopted an “America first” posture, which triggered a transatlantic discord. Simultaneously, Beijing, having signalled discontent with existing settlements, has sought to alter international arrangements to cement its leadership role. Europe has been identified as a significant theatre for the emerging competition, with Germany and the UK recognized as essential target states for Beijing’s efforts, yet are simultaneously major stakeholders in the US-led RIO. As such, this article sets out to operationalize a European narrative of hedging. The article poses the questions, how does the transatlantic discord and Beijing’s leadership ambitions impact the hedging strategies of Germany and the UK, and why do such coping behaviors differ in various indices? Utilizing key signals from policy practitioners, policy elites’ rhetoric and national strategies, it is contended that while the UK is struggling to formulate a coherent foreign policy and now finds itself aligned with US foreign policy narratives, Germany is unlikely to signal its wishes to become strategically independent, if the US and EU foreign policy imperatives accord with Berlin’s political and economic interests. These two case studies reveal that both European powers are decidedly wary about Beijing’s signals and intentions, and are likely to retain closer alignment with Washington, foregoing strategic independence and illustrating the temporary nature of the transatlantic discord. Both will not, however, wish to relinquish Beijing, so long as attractive economic benefits can be attained, resulting in an inexplicit strategic hedge.

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Footnotes
1
Here the status quo of instability refers to the circumstance where one or more powers have incentive to change the power dynamics of the international system, as opposed to Gilpin’s notion of “where no one has an incentive to change the system, the status quo may be said to be stable” [29]: 11-12. Thereby, as a rising power gains incentive and aims to adjust power dynamics in the international system, for its own benefit and interests, it inevitably clashes with the existing power, as they would seek themselves to maintain their relevant power. This circumstance triggers instability, which becomes the protracted norm throughout a period of competition, as the system struggles to readjust.
 
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Metadata
Title
The Illusion of the China-US-Europe Strategic Triangle: Reactions from Germany and the UK
Authors
Richard J. Cook
Maximilian Ohle
Zhaoying Han
Publication date
20-10-2021
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Published in
Journal of Chinese Political Science / Issue 3/2022
Print ISSN: 1080-6954
Electronic ISSN: 1874-6357
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11366-021-09771-2

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