How to manage the growing rivalry between USA and a rising China
May 18.– Fighting over trade is not the half of it. The United States and China are contesting every domain, from semiconductors to submarines and from blockbuster films to lunar exploration. The two superpowers used to seek a win-win world. Today winning seems to involve the other lot’s defeat—a collapse that permanently subordinates China to the American order; or a humbled America that retreats from the western Pacific. It is a new kind of cold war that could leave no winners at all.
As our special report in this week’s issue explains, superpower relations have soured. America complains that China is cheating its way to the top by stealing technology, and that by muscling into the South China Sea and bullying democracies like Canada and Sweden it is becoming a threat to global peace. China is caught between the dream of regaining its rightful place in Asia and the fear that tired, jealous America will block its rise because it cannot accept its own decline.
The potential for catastrophe looms. Under the Kaiser, Germany dragged the world into war; America and the Soviet Union flirted with nuclear Armageddon. Even if China and America stop short of conflict, the world will bear the cost as growth slows and problems are left to fester for lack of co-operation.
Both sides need to feel more secure, but also to learn to live together in a low-trust world. Nobody should think that achieving this will be easy or quick.
The temptation is to shut China out, as America successfully shut out the Soviet Union—not just Huawei, which supplies 5g telecoms kit and was this week blocked by a pair of orders, but almost all Chinese technology. Yet, with China, that risks bringing about the very ruin policymakers are seeking to avoid. Global supply chains can be made to bypass China, but only at huge cost ...
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