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If no progress takes place on trade at the G summit and a new round of tariffs and counter-tariffs takes effect, the next escalation could come in mid-August. For those and other reasons, including rising risks to financial markets and potentially shifting political calculus, Damien Ma, a fellow at the Paulson Institute think tank in Chicago, still sees the possibility of a limited trade deal by fall. About Us. Brand Publishing. Times News Platforms. Real Estate.

Bonnie Glaser: US-China Relations at a Crossroads

Facebook Twitter Show more sharing options Share Close extra sharing options. May 31, Don Lee. Follow Us. Don Lee covers the U. Since joining the Los Angeles Times in , he has served as the Shanghai bureau chief and in various editing and reporting roles in California. He is a native of Seoul, Korea, and graduated from the University of Chicago.

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Going forward, China policy must be about more than the kind of relationship the United States wants to have; it must also be about the kinds of interests the United States wants to secure. The steady state Washington should pursue is rightly about both: a set of conditions necessary for preventing a dangerous escalatory spiral, even as competition continues. It is true, of course, that China will have a say in whether this outcome is possible.

Vigilance will thus need to remain a watchword in U. Although coexistence offers the best chance to protect U. Instead, coexistence means accepting competition as a condition to be managed rather than a problem to be solved. Given the current hazy discourse on competition, there is an understandable temptation to reach back to the only great-power competition Americans remember to make sense of the present one: the Cold War. The analogy has intuitive appeal. Like the Soviet Union, China is a continent-sized competitor with a repressive political system and big ambitions.

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The challenge it poses is global and lasting, and meeting that challenge will require the kind of domestic mobilization that the United States pursued in the s and s. But the analogy is ill fitting. China today is a peer competitor that is more formidable economically, more sophisticated diplomatically, and more flexible ideologically than the Soviet Union ever was. And unlike the Soviet Union, China is deeply integrated into the world and intertwined with the U. The Cold War truly was an existential struggle.

The U. No such prediction holds today; it would be misguided to build a neo-containment policy on the premise that the current Chinese state will eventually collapse, or with that as the objective. Its fusion of mass surveillance and artificial intelligence , meanwhile, is enabling a more effective digital authoritarianism—one that makes the collective action necessary for reform or revolution hard to contemplate, let alone organize. China may well encounter serious internal problems, but an expectation of collapse cannot form the basis of a prudent strategy.

Even if the state does collapse, it is likely to be the result of internal dynamics rather than U. The Cold War analogy at once exaggerates the existential threat posed by China and discounts the strengths Beijing brings to long-term competition with the United States. The kind of nuclear brinkmanship that took place over Berlin and Cuba has no corollary in U. Nor has U. Despite the diminished danger, however, China represents a far more challenging competitor. In the last century, no other U.

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The kinds of economic, people-to-people, and technological linkages that were lacking in the militarized U. This thick web of ties makes it difficult to even start to determine which countries are aligned with the United States and which are aligned with China.

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Ecuador and Ethiopia might look to Beijing for investment or for surveillance technologies, but they hardly see these purchases as part of a conscious turn away from the United States. Even as China emerges as a more formidable competitor than the Soviet Union, it has also become an essential U. Global problems that are difficult enough to solve even when the United States and China work together will be impossible to solve if they fail to do so—climate change foremost among them, given that the United States and China are the two biggest polluters.

A host of other transnational challenges—economic crises, nuclear proliferation, global pandemics—also demand some degree of joint effort. This imperative for cooperation has little parallel in the Cold War. Washington should heed the lessons of the Cold War while rejecting the idea that its logic still applies. Such a bargain would go well beyond the terms of U. This position is sold as realistic, but it is no more tenable than containment.

It would damage American allies and values by turning sovereign partners into bargaining chips. A grand bargain would also require stark and permanent U. Not only are these costs unacceptable; a grand bargain would also be unenforceable. A rising China would likely violate the agreement when its preferences and power changed. Advocates of neo-containment tend to see any call for managed coexistence as an argument for a version of the grand bargain; advocates of a grand bargain tend to see any suggestion of sustained competition as a case for a version of containment.

That divide obscures a course between these extremes—one that is not premised on Chinese capitulation or on U. Instead, the goal should be to establish favorable terms of coexistence with Beijing in four key competitive domains—military, economic, political, and global governance—thereby securing U. In contrast to the military competition of the Cold War, which was a truly global struggle, the dangers for Washington and Beijing are likely to be confined to the Indo-Pacific. Neither side wishes for conflict, but tensions are rising as both invest in offensive capabilities, boost their military presence in the region, and operate in ever-closer proximity.

Washington fears that China is trying to push U. But coexistence in the Indo-Pacific by both militaries should not be dismissed as impossible. Beijing will have to accept that the United States will remain a resident power in the region, with a major military presence, naval operations in its major waterways, and a network of alliances and partnerships.

Taiwan and the South China Sea are likely to present the most significant challenges to this overall approach. A military provocation or misunderstanding in either case could easily trigger a larger conflagration, with devastating consequences, and this risk must increasingly animate the thinking of senior leaders in both Washington and Beijing. On Taiwan, a tacit commitment not to unilaterally alter the status quo is perhaps the best that can be hoped for given the historical complexities involved.

Yet Taiwan is not only a potential flash point; it is also the greatest unclaimed success in the history of U. The island has grown, prospered, and democratized in the ambiguous space between the United States and China as a result of the flexible and nuanced approach generally adopted by both sides. In this way, the diplomacy surrounding Taiwan could serve as a model for the increasingly challenging diplomacy between Washington and Beijing on a variety of other issues, which are similarly likely to include intense engagement, mutual vigilance and a degree of distrust, and a measure of patience and necessary restraint.

To achieve such coexistence, Washington will need to enhance both U. Even as Cold War adversaries, the United States and the Soviet Union worked concertedly to reduce the risk that an accidental collision would escalate to nuclear war; they set up military hot lines, established codes of conduct, and signed arms control agreements.