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How will Joe Biden govern the US, a superpower and engine room for the global economy? How will his presidency impact on international relations, trade and financial markets? Joining BizNews to discuss the crisis of American power, how Trumpism leaves an indelible mark and, importantly, what the changing international currents of power mean for Africa is Theo Murphy, Africa Director, at the European Council on Foreign Relations – an award-winning, pan-European think-tank which this week released the findings of an 11-country survey that shows most Europeans believe the US is in decline. – Jackie Cameron
Read the report here.
Theo Murphy on the 11-country survey showing most Europeans believe the US is in decline:
I think one of one of the key insights that hasn’t been lost on the general public – but especially on the policymaking elite – is that the factors that led to Trump coming into power have not gone away. In other words, Trump is a symptom and not just the cause. While there’s a there’s a warm embrace of the Biden administration and maybe even in some corners of Europe, I hope that this would allow us to return to, quote unquote, the transatlantic normal. I think those who look with a realpolitik eye, see that something has really fundamentally changed. The Europe America relationship – it remains key. But the idea of the US as a global hegemon, that provides a sort of security umbrella for Europe and unmitigated leadership for Europe, that is under revision.
On the underlying change:
I think what’s going on in the US is very complicated and people are still analysing it right now in real time and trying to understand exactly what has led to Trumpism. I think it’s also important to flag that the US is not exceptional in that case. We have similar strains of nationalism, of populism also prevalent in Europe. I think it behooves us not to sort of condescend towards the situation in the US.
Globalisation has left certain groups behind. I think there is a growing sense that there are perhaps two different tiers within society. That may not be true, but the perception is very real and in a sense, it’s a perception which counts. I think Trump – just like some of his counterparts in Europe – has done a very good job in convincing this sizable part of the population, that feels somehow left behind, that he represents their interests.
What’s stunning about it is that he can very openly and has very openly done things that are counter to their interests – specific policies that countermand them. But the overall perception is that Trump stood in contrast to this other – this elite other which this group was not a part of.
On whether the waning influence of the US will be beneficial to Africa in the long run:
I don’t think it’s necessarily to Africa’s advantage. What I talked about how Europe is looking at what China is doing in Africa, we should look at how the US views China’s activity in Africa. The US has made a lot of the same observations which I attributed to Europe, but came to a different conclusion. The US basically said, let us compete toe to toe, head to head with China and try to offer the same things that China is offering.
So China brought an incredible amount of financial capital, which comes in all kinds of different forms which are atypical to Western systems – a mix of investment, of lending. Some things might be called development assistance – it’s a complex bundle. The US said, ‘wow, that’s a lot of money’ and money buys influence. So we should find a way to increase that. I think also this model of – you could call it industrial policy – where China brings the might of a state behind private corporate actors – private companies – and creates space for them is something that’s a bit anathema to a liberalised, Western economy.
On US industrial policy in Africa:
But without calling it as such – without really calling it industrial policy – I think the US is more or less starting to do industrial policy in Africa. They’re trying to compete. There’s areas, historically, where the US was was paramount – and I think will continue to be. Although, China is equally trying to make inroads there. The provision of military support, training and expertise – the US remains unmatched there.
But we see that China has taken note and is also trying to up its game. Interesting roles for China and peacekeeping, interesting role for China in providing arms supplies now to certain African governments. So the competition there is definitely very head-to-head. In some areas, China really has the upper hand and will be difficult to match. I don’t think you can ever match the amount of money that China has put in.
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