Sun, Jun 10, 2018 - Page 6 News List

US-China trade spat facilitates war

By Minxin Pei 斐敏欣

The good news is that neither the US nor China wants to become enmeshed in such a dangerous and costly cold war — one that would likely last decades. Given this, a second scenario — managed strategic conflict — is more likely.

Under this scenario, economic disengagement would occur gradually, but not completely. Despite the adversarial nature of the relationship, both sides would have some economic incentives to maintain a working relationship.

Similarly, while both countries would compete actively for military superiority and allies, they would not engage in proxy wars or provide direct military support to forces or groups engaged in armed conflict with the other party, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan or Uighur militants in Xinjiang.

Such a conflict would certainly carry risks, but they would be manageable — as long as both countries had a disciplined, well-informed and strategically minded leadership.

However, in the case of the US, such leadership is nowhere to be seen today.

Trump’s erratic approach to China demonstrates that he has neither the strategic vision nor the diplomatic discipline to devise a policy of managed strategic conflict, much less a doctrine — such as that created by former US president Harry Truman in 1947 — to pursue a cold war.

This means that, at least in the short term, the most likely trajectory of Sino-US relations is toward “transactional conflict,” characterized by frequent economic and diplomatic spats and the occasional cooperative maneuver.

In this scenario, bilateral tensions would continue to mount, because individual disputes are settled in isolation from one another, based on a specific quid pro quo, and thus lack any strategic coherence.

So, however their current trade spat plays out, the US and China seem to be drifting toward long-term conflict. Whatever form that conflict takes, it would entail high costs for both sides, for Asia, and for global stability.

Minxin Pei is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

This story has been viewed 3900 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top