European rush to join China's AIIB threatens trans-Atlantic alliance
China's rise is no longer a regional phenomenon that primarily impacts Asia. It is a global force, creating pressure on alliances that underpin the liberal international order. Nowhere is this truer than in trans-Atlantic relations, where China has just convinced America's closest European allies to join the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank -- Beijing's proposed multilateral development bank -- over Washington's concerted opposition. White House officials have condemned the "constant accommodation" of China by Britain and other European powers. But it is the U.S. that looks isolated by this diplomatic spat, even as Beijing's leadership remains untested and Washington is set to deliver trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic trade agreements that are far more important economically.
American officials worry that the allure of the China market risks converting European allies into proponents of the kind of Ostpolitik that Cold War-era U.S. leaders feared could tear apart the Western alliance by turning Europeans into middlemen horse-trading for advantage between rival superpowers. China is not yet a superpower like the Soviet Union; it needs Europe's technology and investment capital at least as much as Europeans need access to Chinese markets. And as Russia's army marches westward, Europeans still find U.S. defense guarantees rather useful. Nonetheless, in at least five ways, China threatens to crack the Atlantic alliance by challenging America's privileged position in Europe.
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