A globalized economy was supposed to bring people together—or so went the dominant strain of thinking in the foreign policy world for most of the last few decades. In a few short years, the near consensus has collapsed. Gone are the prophecies of ever-accelerating integration and the paeans to trade and investment promoting prosperity and comity for all.
Now, the discussion centers on just how much the world’s two largest economies should “decouple,” on pandemic-addled governments taking control of supply chains and vaccine doses, and on techno-democracies vying with techno-authoritarians to shape the digital commons. Far from tempering geopolitical competition, trade has offered another means of waging it.