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Preventing a US-China War

China and America both need to pursue policies that will reduce economic and geopolitical tensions and foster healthy cooperation on global challenges. If they fail to achieve a new understanding on the issues driving their current confrontation, they will eventually collide – with disastrous consequences for the world.

NEW YORK – The United States and China remain on a collision course. The new cold war between them may eventually turn hot over the issue of Taiwan. The “Thucydides Trap” – in which a rising power seems destined to clash with an incumbent hegemon – looms ominously. But a serious escalation of Sino-American tensions, let alone a war, can still be avoided, sparing the world the cataclysmic consequences that would inevitably follow.

There will always be at least some tensions when a rising power challenges the prevailing global power. But China is facing off against the US at a moment when America’s relative power may be weakening, and when it is committed to preventing its own strategic decline. Both sides are thus becoming increasingly paranoid about the other’s intentions, and confrontation has mostly supplanted healthy competition and cooperation. Both sides are partly to blame.

Under President Xi Jinping, China has become more authoritarian and moved further toward state capitalism, rather than adhering to Deng Xiaoping’s concept of “reform and opening-up.” Moreover, Deng’s maxim, “hide your strength and bide your time,” has given way to military assertiveness. With China pursuing an increasingly aggressive foreign policy, territorial disputes between it and several Asian neighbors have worsened. China has sought to control the East and South China Seas, and it has become increasingly impatient to “reunify” with Taiwan by any means necessary.