October 8, 2014
The second panel of the Atlantic Council's "Transatlantic Interests in the Asia Pacific in 2025" conference titled "The Rise of China – The True Game Changer", featured noted Financial Times' journalist Geoff Dyer in conversation with moderator Roger Cliff, nonresident senior fellow in the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. In his talk, Mr. Dyer discussed the major implications of the rise of China and the United States' and Europe's response. He reminded the audience how China's activities over the past couple of years have been causing "hairline fractures" in the global order that protects US interests in the Asia Pacific. Each action taken by China does not standalone as a major event, but over time these events compile into a significant pattern and showcase China's influence is this rising region. Mr. Dyer noted that Russia and China are often associated together in their attempts to expand their sphere of influence, but this is not necessarily the case. Russia, Mr. Dyer believes, is playing a losing hand, whereas China is drawing ever closer to becoming the number one economy on the planet.

An ambitious China that is pushing towards becoming the most powerful economy has three implications for Mr. Dyer: broadly, it will push American and European interests closer together, there will be a reassessment on both sides regarding the necessary steps to achieve their goals, and Europe will be wary of working closely with the US in the Asia Pacific. Europe and the United States have similar philosophies and end goals agreed upon over decades of mostly positive relations but building allies in Asia may show their differences. In addition, China seems to hold values that do not neatly align with these two traditional allies.

Despite their common interests and endgames with China, Mr. Dyer believes there are some major differences between the United States and Europe. The European Union (EU) has not been able to form a consistent foreign policy, and due to current events, the EU will be bound to address Russia and the Ukraine crisis. Also, China does not pose a direct military threat to EU interests, because unlike the United States, the EU does not have a strong naval presence in the Asia Pacific. This disparity is indicative of the two different approaches between the US and EU to Asia. The United States favors stronger military involvement in Asia, whereas the EU favors stronger economic and international institutions in Asia.

The EU needs to be wary of US involvement in Asia, because the US is pursuing its own agenda, which in some circumstances favors US businesses over European businesses. Mr. Dyer noted that it is also important for the EU to not be seen as "America's plus one" in Asia. The EU has to be a legitimate actor in Asia and not just the United States' number two. Beyond defining common interests, the rise of Asia is certain to shed light the key differences in the United States' and Europe's approach to a new world order.