[FF Editorial: This article is posted to enable our readers to get a insider’s view as to the latest thinking on China-US relations.]
The upcoming summit between the American and Chinese presidents is to take place while progress is being made in resolving many of the issues before them, and a positive communique is probable. Yet both leaders also face an opinion among elites in their countries emphasizing conflict rather than cooperation.
Most Chinese I encounter outside of government, and some in government, seem convinced that the United States seeks to contain China and to constrict its rise. American strategic thinkers are calling attention to China's increasing global economic reach and the growing capability of its military forces.
Care must be taken lest both sides analyze themselves into self-fulfilling prophecies. The nature of globalization and the reach of modern technology oblige the United States and China to interact around the world. A Cold War between them would bring about an international choosing of sides, spreading disputes into internal politics of every region at a time when issues such as nuclear proliferation, the environment, energy and climate require a comprehensive global solution.
Conflict is not inherent in a nation's rise. The United States in the 20th century is an example of a state achieving eminence without conflict with the then-dominant countries. Nor was the often-cited German-British conflict inevitable. Thoughtless and provocative policies played a role in transforming European diplomacy into a zero-sum game.
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