Amidst escalating tensions between major global powers and the emergence of new economic priorities, the world finds itself under pressure to choose sides. The battle for dominance spans various fronts, with semiconductors emerging as a critical battleground. The United States, through export controls and subsidies, aims to restrict China's access to advanced chips, citing concerns over military capabilities. However, compliance from American allies is necessary for these restrictions to be effective. The potential economic repercussions loom large as companies involved in chip production may lose access to the vast Chinese market, while Beijing invests in its own semiconductor industry and potentially retaliates against tightened restrictions.
Another concerning front in the new cold war centres around Taiwan. China claims Taiwan as its own, and increased military drills and provocative actions have raised fears of potential conflict. Besides the direct risks associated with a superpower clash, there are significant economic implications. Taiwan, home to TSMC, the world's largest chip maker, plays a crucial role in global supply chains. Even a non-military escalation, such as a Chinese blockade, could trigger a massive domino effect. Firms around the world are preparing for potential sanctions and evaluating their alliances in response to a Chinese move against Taiwan.
Governments are increasingly utilizing their economies as tools of statecraft. This includes denying rivals access to goods or markets while relying on trusted allies for strategic supplies, a concept known as "friendshoring." However, this shift away from free-trade norms has sparked tensions, as nations ramp up subsidies for domestic industries. The Biden administration's substantial investments in chipmakers and the electric-vehicle industry have drawn criticism, with Europe accusing the US of unfair trade practices and potentially responding with its own financial supports. This dynamic raises the risk of a global subsidies race, with developing economies bearing the brunt of the consequences.
Moreover, there is a growing trend among countries, including some not considered adversaries of the US, to seek alternatives to the dollar for conducting business. This is driven by concerns over the US using its currency as a tool to advance foreign-policy objectives. While displacing the dollar as the world's reserve asset would be a lengthy process, countries like China, Russia, Iran, India, and Gulf energy giants are exploring ways to build trade links that bypass the dollar. The potential consequences for the US and its allies are twofold: the effectiveness of their sanction weapon, reliant on dollar dominance, may diminish, and higher inflation may result from trade deals involving non-Western economies, leading to increased prices for other buyers.
In this increasingly complex geopolitical landscape, it is crucial for businesses and investors to stay informed and adapt to the changing dynamics. Evaluating potential risks, identifying opportunities, and maintaining a flexible approach will be vital to navigating the profound impact of these geopolitical developments on global markets and trades.