How to Lose Friends and Strain Alliances

Washington’s Partners Aren’t Buying Its China Policy

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Donald Trump in Biarritz, France, August 2019 Erin Schaff / The New York Times / Redux

Since launching the trade war in 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump has tried to corral U.S. allies into joining a wider struggle against China. So far, few countries are willing to follow Trump’s lead.

In January, the United Kingdom announced its decision to allow the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei to build part of its 5G wireless network—an investment that U.S. officials fear poses a security threat. The U.S. president was reportedly “apoplectic” in a phone call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Weeks later, at the annual Munich Security Conference, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said that when it comes to China, “we are asking our friends to choose.” But observers at the conference noted that Washington’s warnings about China fell on “deaf ears” and that the United States and Europe were “speaking a completely different language” regarding the rising Asian superpower.

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