What a wonderful word is “reciprocity.” It seems to spring from a Walt Disney cartoon movie from the 1950s, a concept bathed in golden goodwill towards all.
There was none of that golden glow in Beijing this week for the German vice-chancellor and Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel. Germany has recently been questioning and blocking Chinese corporate purchases of certain German companies, and the management team of China Inc. responded frostily. Canceled meetings and difficult discussions. Accusations of protectionism. This is, in effect, the beginning of a new phase in globalization, and the scene for this phase was set two or three decades ago when the West decided to give China access without insisting on reciprocal treatment, the argument being that as China became more enmeshed in the global system, it would naturally shift in nature to something closer to the global norm. Didn’t really go that way.
Oh dear. By next Wednesday China time, we will know who will be the next president of the United States, but really no matter which of the two gets it (and we are burning incense to get Buddha to intervene on Hillary’s behalf) the pressure will be on to make globalization a more balanced two-way street. Ultimately China needs the United States more than the US needs China, and China needs Europe collectively more than the other way round, so there is room for negotiation. But Europe is not a single entity and divide-and-rule is a game played with great skill in these parts. We expect lots more frosty charges of protectionism in the near future. It’s going to get rough, so have a pleasant weekend while you can, bathed only in autumnal sunshine, as reciprocity supplies are running low.