How America Can Stop Its Rivalry With China From Spinning Into War


How America Can Stop Its Rivalry With China From Spinning Into War

Two powerful forces are shaping the future of Sino-American relations: geopolitics and America’s liberal ideology. If managed, it is possible to keep even intense great power competitions from tipping over the precipice into war.

The history of diplomacy is the history of relations among rival powers, which did not enjoy political intimacy, and did not respond to appeals to common purposes. Nevertheless, there have been settlements. Some of them did not last very long. Some of them did. For a diplomat to think that rival and unfriendly powers cannot be brought to a settlement is to forget what diplomacy is about. There would be little for diplomats to do if the world consisted of partners, enjoying political intimacy, and responding to common appeals.

Regrettably, Lippmann’s words were dismissed in Washington, and the First Cold War was the result.

This is, to be sure, a time of renewed great power competition. But there is a big difference between rivalry and war. In the coming decades, it will be the United States that controls the exit ramp from a Sino-American war.

Christopher Layne is University Distinguished Professor of International Affairs and Robert M. Gates Chair in National Security at Texas A&M University.

Image: Reuters