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To the Brink with China

Author:
Richard Haass

NEW YORK – Observers of US-China relations increasingly talk of a new cold war. On top of a long-running trade war, the two countries now find themselves in a destructive cycle of mutual sanctions, consulate closings, and increasingly bellicose official speeches. Efforts to decouple the US economy from China’s are underway as tensions mount in both the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.

A cold war between the United States and China would leave both countries and the world worse off. It would be dangerous and costly – not least because it would preclude needed cooperation on a host of regional and global issues.

The good news is that such an outcome is not inevitable. The bad news is the chances of a second cold war are far higher today than they were just months ago. Even worse, the chances of an actual war, resulting from an incident involving the countries’ militaries, are also greater.

Why is this happening? Some say Sino-American confrontation is inevitable, the result of friction between the established and rising powers of the day. But this overlooks the various episodes in history when such power shifts did not result in war. Even more, it underestimates the importance of decisions already made and yet to be made. For better and for worse, little in history is inevitable.

The article's full-text is available here.

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