How to Avoid War With China

At The Strategist Richard N. Haass summarizes the results of the summit meeting between U. S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping:

Over seven decades, the modern US–China relationship has evolved significantly. Early on, there was no relationship to speak of, and the US found itself in an armed confrontation with China during the Korean War. That was followed two decades later by a period of strategic cooperation against the Soviet Union, and then to boost trade and investment as a joint priority once the Cold War ended. But economic ties have become a source of friction in recent years, and as China became increasingly assertive, the two countries found themselves increasingly at odds over just about everything, from regional and global issues to human rights.

The San Francisco summit didn’t alter this reality. US–China relations remain an issue to be managed, not a problem to be solved. Expecting anything else from the summit was to expect too much. The world’s most important bilateral relationship continues to be a highly competitive one, and the challenge remains what it was prior to the summit: to ensure that competition doesn’t preclude selective cooperation or give way to conflict.

Terrible as it is to think about I do believe that war between the U. S. and China is an actual possibility. IMO the best way of reducing its likelihood is a two part strategy:

  1. Ensure that the U. S. has the capability of winning a war with China.
  2. Stop electing leaders who are willing to go to war if there is a viable alternative.

The notion that China can be deterred from pursuing what it sees as its vital national interest is foolish. I wish that were the case here.

3 comments… add one
  • walt moffett Link

    The old Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick, sounds good but money spent building ships is money not given to long haired men and shorted ladies to spend as they choose.

  • Yes, that’s the problem, isn’t it? As a colleague of mine once put it, don’t tell me your priorities. Tell me your subpriorities. If everything holds the highest priority, nothing does.

  • Andy Link

    “The notion that China can be deterred from pursuing what it sees as its vital national interest is foolish. I wish that were the case here.”

    Deterrence isn’t a magic wand, but it does influence behavior. For example – If not for the implicit and explicit US guarantee of Taiwanese independence, China would have invaded long ago.

    At the same time, we should not do what we did with Ukraine and promise a military alliance at some point in the future, which provided strong incentives for Russia to act before that alliance could be consummated.

    Xi is 70 years old. I think the best COA is trying to maintain the status quo and then reevaluate once he is dead and there is new leadership.

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