“China would prefer Trump to be president again.”

“China would prefer Trump to be president again.”

To explain his path, Robert Daly (61 years old) uses a Chinese proverb: “If you have a good trick, you can always eat.” His language was Chinese, which he learned during his years as an American diplomat. EL PERIÓDICO attends an interview in Barcelona where he was invited by the Center for North American Studies to talk about the two powers fighting for world leadership.

In your view, what are China's strategic interests in the Middle East?

China's interest in the region is relatively recent. It is one of the main customers for its oil, but apart from that, it has been very negative. But this did not prevent him from achieving something unique: establishing very good relations with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel, thanks to his historical support for the Palestinians as a background. He succeeds because all his relationships are transactional. They bought weapons and technology from Israel and stayed away from the Sunni-Shiite conflict.

Last year, he brokered the restoration of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

It was a big hit. He appeared to the world as a brilliant diplomat, but the truth was that he didn't have to do anything. The agreement was in the interest of both parties. Since then, he has become more involved with his partners in the region, but without getting into politics. A greater presence helps the region extract counterparts from the United States, and little by little the Middle East is becoming another area of ​​competition between the United States and China.

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Is it gaining ground in the United States?

The region has not yet turned toward China because there are no signs that Beijing is prepared to shoulder the burden of leadership. In this sense, he does not want to take risks or incur costs. In other words, it is not looking to define the regional future. If you look at their plans for peace in Ukraine or the Middle East, you will see that they basically have no plan.

In Gaza, he barely participated in seeking a ceasefire.

China has always been closer to the Palestinians. This has not changed. If you look at Chinese media coverage of the current conflict, it doesn't start on October 7th, but with images of US aircraft carriers heading to the eastern Mediterranean. The message is that the United States is responsible.

The war in Ukraine has helped bring China and Russia together again, and in parallel between Moscow and Tehran. Experts warn that this tripartite alliance represents a nightmare for American hegemony in Eurasia. How much does Washington care?

Concern is growing, especially among the American right, but not only there. Some began to use the term axis of evil. The insistence on caricaturing our adversaries and characterizing frictions with the United States as a battle between good and evil, rather than trying to understand the common interests that unite them, is troubling. Iran supplies many weapons to Russia and sells oil to China. Then there are second-tier countries, such as North Korea, Venezuela, and a growing number of countries in the Global South willing to support it.

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My impression is that China is more willing to coexist with the United States than the other way around.

It's a fair description. The United States wants to change China, but China does not want to change the United States. She just wants them to leave her alone and get out of her way. While Beijing does not trust Washington because of what it does, Washington does not trust Beijing because of who it is.

Trump has maintained a very aggressive policy toward China. Has things changed with Biden?

The main coincidence is that both see China as the main geostrategic challenge. The difference is that Trump abused and threatened most of our allies, whereas for Biden alliances are essential and he has looked to rebuild them. This is one of the reasons why China would prefer Trump to become president again, because Biden has been very effective in strengthening alliances in Europe and Asia.

Some political scientists hint at a Thucydides trap to claim that war between the US and China is inevitable as Beijing replaces Washington as the dominant power.

It is not even inevitable in Graham Allison's book, in which he presented his thesis on the Thucydides Trap. The truth is that neither the United States nor China wants war. But they are also not willing to make concessions to prevent this. The best way to define the current situation is to talk about a new Cold War. The big challenge is making them stay cool.

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