Nic Johnson and Robert Manduca in the Boston Review:
On or around 1939 debates about international political economy changed. Over the course of the Cold War, economic nationalism—the attempt to use the state to advance a country’s economic interests—was crowded out of official discourse by two competing universalisms, communism on one side and liberalism on the other. Over the last few decades, however, this opposition has been scrambled. First Marxist universalism failed; the Sino-Soviet split fractured the communist project before the USSR collapsed altogether. Then, after a brief period in the sun on the international stage, liberal universalism too began to falter in a declining arc from Iraq and the Global Financial Crisis to Donald Trump’s victory on an “America First” platform.
In the wake of these declensions, two political economic developments have muddied the earlier Cold War waters. In October last year the Biden administration announced that it would leave tariffs on two-thirds of Chinese exports intact. This came as a surprise for those who were hoping that Trump administration policies were pathological aberrations. Trade wars, it seems, have come to enjoy bipartisan support, in the unlikeliest of places—the ostensible headquarters of neoliberal globalization.