British academic slams US over trade conflict with China


British academic slams US over trade conflict with China

Cambridge's Professor Martin Jacques sees no end to new Cold War before 20 years


Sunday, June 02, 2019

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JEJU ISLAND, South Korea — A leading British academic has predicted that the United States is likely to be the bigger loser in what he called the beginning of a new Cold War with China, which he reckons will last at least 20 years.

Professor Martin Jacques, senior fellow at Cambridge University in England, concluded that the US had started a war with China which it could not realistically win.

Beijing and Washington have been at odds in recent months, with US President Donald Trump first imposing tariffs on Chinese goods entering the USA, and China hitting back at every interval.

The situation, economic experts told the 2019 Jeju Forum for Peace & Prosperity at this Korean sea coast tourist city last Thursday, was likely to lead to instability in the world.

Professor Jacques — who, along with former China Foreign Affairs Minister Li Zhaoxing, and Douglas Dillon, professor of Government at Harvard University, addressed participants during the first plenary session of the conference, themed 'Asia Towards Resilient Peace: Cooperation and Integration' — drew rounds of applause in his fiery presentation.

Describing the US as an angry and divided country that is desperately trying to hold on to what it had and the world which it created, Professor Jacques, who is also visiting professor at Tsinghua University, said the Trump Administration got it all wrong by picking a fight with the world's strongest economy, globally.

“Over a period of 40 years, the most remarkable in global economic history, China overtook the US economy and is now 20 per cent larger. Furthermore, it is now patently clear to everyone that China is never going to be like the US. The US largely miscalculated — a victim of its own hubris. Its response is volte face: a desperate search to find ways of reversing China's rise or at least slowing it down,” he said.

Professor Jacques said that the US was right that the underlying reason for China's rise is economic. So, he believes, it is logical for the US to start with a trade war.

“But it will not stop at that. It will encompass all aspects of their relationship. We are watching the birth of a new Cold War, and the most likely scenario is that it will last a long time, my guess is at least 20 years,” Professor Jacques emphasised.

“But this will not be a rerun of the last Cold War. There are only two similarities: the US is one of the adversaries, and a Communist party is the governing party in the other — though in truth the Chinese and Soviet Communist parties have barely anything in common. Otherwise, the circumstances are now entirely different.

“During the first Cold War the US was still a rising power. Now it is a declining power. The Soviet Union failed: China is the antithesis of failure. It has achieved the most remarkable economic rise in human history. China is in the ascendant; the US is an angry and divided country desperately trying to hold on to what it had and the world which it created,” he said.

“So what is likely to happen in this new Cold War? So far it is being fought overwhelmingly on economic terms. This is China's ground. Apart from its far superior growth rate, its standout economic achievement over the last decade has been its sharply rising capacity for innovation. Look at the speed with which Alibaba and Tencent have joined the Silicon Valley tech giants in the premier league of technology,” Professor Jacques argued.

He said that Huawei is the global leader in telecommunications, while the US doesn't even have a player in the field. “Of course, most Chinese companies lag behind their American equivalents in terms of productivity, but the direction and speed of travel are irresistible. You may remember that even five years ago, the West was still questioning whether China could ever be innovative, rather than imitative. No one asks that question anymore. China is a technology superpower in the making. It is this, above all, that has stunned the US. The underlying motive for the attack on Huawei has little to do with security, above all, it is about a fear of China's competitive challenge,” Professor Jacques suggested.

According to the Englishman, the US faces a “great danger” with the trade war. Tariffs, he said, and a growing willingness to cut itself off from the dynamism of the Chinese economy will make the US economy increasingly less competitive. As a result, Professor Jacques continued, America will emerge from the trade war and protectionism seriously weakened.

He reasoned that both economies will suffer, but in the long term the US economy is likely to suffer more.

“One of the central characteristics of the last Cold War, in which overt economic conflict was very much a secondary factor, was military competition between the US and the USSR. This time it will be very different. While military strength remains America's most coveted form of power, this is not the case for China. The two most important modes of Chinese power, both historically and in the contemporary context, are economic and cultural,” the professor went on. “For the West, in contrast, they have most typically been military and political.”

“In Chinese thinking one recalls Sun Tzu … war is something to be avoided rather than embraced. This does not mean that China will not develop a formidable military capacity, but it will not behave in anything like the same fashion as the US, or indeed the Soviet Union. Nor does it mean there will not be war between the US and China, but makes it rather less likely. The Chinese believe in the very long run; and in the long run they are confident that their economic and cultural power will be decisive. Such thinking engenders patience. All of this tells us that China will be a very different kind of world power to the US,” the highly respected lecturer asserted.

He said that as the world once more enters dangerous waters, the concern of people globally should not be so much on China but the United States. One of the remarkable things about China, he stated, is how relatively peaceful that country has been during its rise. “Contrast that with the US in its equivalent period, notably between 1860 and 1914, with the wars of westward expansion against Spain, Mexico, the annexation of Hawaii and the conquest of The Philippines. Perhaps, above all, what I worry about is how America will respond to deal with its decline,” he said.

“Trump is the first clear expression of, and response to this process, and it is not encouraging: the authoritarian turn, the erosion of democracy and the separation of powers, the drawing on some of the most regressive aspects of American history, the rejection of diversity at home and plurality in the world. The fact is that imperial countries find decline extremely difficult and painful; my own country, Britain, is a good illustration. America is almost totally unprepared for its own decline. One must hope that it is not too harrowing an experience either for the US or for the rest of the world,” he argued.

In respect of South Korea, Professor Jacques said that things have shown the world, in chronological order, the worst of Trump — with the utterance “We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea” — and the best of the US president with the words, “The US must pursue a chance to avert nuclear war at all cost.”

“In a way, Korea is a test case: the longest lasting legacy of the Cold War which has so far been impervious to all attempted solutions. After the Singapore Summit, which was seemingly beyond everyone's expectations, the Hanoi Summit was a great disappointment. Where from now? It is difficult to see progress in the context of a rapidly deteriorating relationship between China and the US and Trump's turn towards a Cold War. Can the Korean Peninsula provide a shaft of light?” he asked.

“It seems unlikely; but the Singapore Summit, and Trump's embrace of (North Korea's Chairman) Kim Jong-un and warm words about North Korea's economic future, cannot be erased. But the rational part of my brain tells me that pessimism is in order,” Professor Jacques ended.

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