Is It Time to Meet China Halfway?

May 12, 2015 Topic: China Region: Asia Tags: ChinaAsiaMeeting China Halfway

Is It Time to Meet China Halfway?

Book Excerpt: An important new work offers important ideas on how to defuse the emerging U.S.-China rivalry. 

Editors Note: The following is the introductory chapter from frequent TNI contributor Lyle Goldstein's new book Meeting China Halfway: How to Defuse the Emerging U.S.-China Rivalry. Copyright 2015 Georgetown University Press. Reprinted with permission.

Dr. Goldstein is the author of TNI's occasional essay series "Dragoneye" which seeks insight and analysis from Chinese writings on world affairs​. You can read all essays from the series here

Reversing the Escalation Spiral: More than six decades have now passed since young Lieutenant John Yancey of the Seventh Marine Infantry Regiment watched half his platoon mowed down by Chinese bullets on an obscure ridge in Northeast Asia. He turned to his surviving men and said: “Stand fast and die like Marines.” More than one thousand fellow Americans would perish in the frozen onslaught of the Chosin Reservoir campaign in late 1950. That battle was not supposed to happen. Two weeks earlier, Far East commander General Douglas MacArthur had assured President Harry Truman in a face-to-face meeting on Wake Island that the chance of Chinese military intervention in the Korean War was “very small,” despite high-level warnings from Beijing that US forces crossing the 38th Parallel represented a “menace to the security of China.”1

As US-China rivalry continues to build a dangerous momentum in our own time, it will be important for those interested in the future of this crucial relationship to somberly reflect on the roughly 35,000 Americans killed in the Korean War—the first and only major US-China conflagration.2 They may also consider that in the fall of 1950, “no one in the Pentagon, the State Department, or the White House took [Chinese warnings] any more seriously than MacArthur did.” 3 Today, similar warnings are worryingly common in Chinese discourse on strategic affairs.4 The Cold War and related ideological struggles are now long past, of course, but the potential for a US-China military conflict has increased markedly in the past ten years and now encompasses scenarios ranging from the South China Sea, to the East China Sea, back to the Korean Peninsula, and even into the Indian Ocean and much further afield. In comparing the present era of geopolitical rivalry with the early Cold War, however, one difference is most prominent. In 1950 the United States was at the apex of its strength, and China had been gravely weakened by decades of war and internal turmoil. Today the United States confronts a China that is vastly strengthened. The concomitant risks, therefore, are that much greater. Indeed, given the strength of both powers, a military conflict today between China and the United States could resemble not so much the “limited” Korean War but the even graver tragedy of World War I, which has been the subject of so much discussion during its recent centenary.

Scholars who research US-China relations on both sides of the Pacific are nearly universal in concluding that such a catastrophic conflict today is far from inevitable. But what they have not done thus far is to provide concrete intellectual paradigms and accompanying policy proposals to lead this troubled relationship away from the brink of disaster. Therefore, this book seeks to be dramatically different from any other in the field in its treatment of US-China relations, by explicitly focusing on how to realize new paths to bilateral cooperation via “cooperation spirals”—the opposite of an escalation spiral. One hundred policy proposals are made throughout the chapters of this book, not because these are the only solutions to arresting the alarming course toward conflict, but rather to inaugurate a genuine debate regarding policy solutions to the most vexing problems in bilateral relations.

At present, unfortunately, the two nations’ rivalry continues to unfold across geopolitical, economic, and even cultural realms and is now extant in all corners of the globe. As China seeks to pursue its “New Silk Road Strategy” with a raft of new projects and initiatives, American strategists might do well to reflect on the obvious fact that China’s new “lean to the west,” in part at least, seems to reflect a disposition not to “lean to the east,” an alternative that would have meant seeking to meet the American rebalance directly in East Asia but was ultimately rejected. Beijing thus appears to be intentionally avoiding a kind of “head-on” collision by focusing China’s energies in a different direction. However, strategists with a zero-sum disposition are all but certain to try to conjure up a clever series of strategic countermoves to prevent the growth of Chinese influence in Central Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and beyond. The author has had the unique opportunity to witness firsthand, in both Washington and Beijing, the intense fear and loathing that drive zero-sum mentalities in both countries and the competitive and increasingly dangerous policies that have resulted. Of course, the combination of the “balance of financial terror” with the “balance of nuclear terror” thankfully lends considerable ballast to the relationship. But it would be foolhardy in the extreme to rely on these largely hypothetical shock absorbers to prevent a catastrophe. Moreover, the rivalry between the United States and China not only carries the risks of conventional or even nuclear warfare but, apart from these most obvious risks, also bears the immensely costly burdens of an arms race and proxy conflicts below the threshold of direct hostilities. And then there are the opportunity costs of this rivalry—in crucial areas, such as responses to nuclear proliferation or pandemic outbreaks—where cooperative opportunities have, far too often, been crowded out by the tendency toward rivalry. Of late, the US-China rivalry has been eclipsed, at least in the headlines, by tensions in US-Russian relations resulting from the 2014 crisis in Ukraine. But this trend is not likely to be durable since Russia is hardly strong enough to compete against the West on its own. The same cannot be said of China.

Within five years, if it has not already occurred, China’s economy will surpass that of the United States in size. And China has steadily improved its military prowess and weapons technology, such that it has even moved ahead of the US military in certain domains, for example, the not insignificant area of antiship cruise missiles.5 The ideological factor in the bilateral relationship, moreover, which pits democratic and market principles against authoritarian state capitalism, has the frequent effect of spraying gasoline over already-red-hot coals. A rather typical, ideologically tinged American analysis of the strategic dilemma posed by China’s rise ends as follows: “Only a fully democratic China would undoubtedly seek to . . . maximize the happiness of the population rather than [its] . . . own power.”6 In other words, the dilemma, as understood by many if not most Americans, can be resolved only if China embraces American values and institutions. But might there be other ways to mitigate the two countries’ “natural” tendency toward rivalry, with its myriad costs and dangers?

A spring 2011 Brookings Institution report by Kenneth Lieberthal and Wang Jisi marked an important reality check for observers of US-China relations. Their dismaying conclusion revealed that relations were plagued with “strategic distrust,” despite more than sixty bilateral dialogues intended to foster greater trust. In explaining the Chinese perspective on strategic distrust, Wang reports candidly that “some high-ranking officials have openly stated that the United States is China’s greatest national security threat. This perception is widely shared in China’s defense and security establishments and in the Communist Party’s ideological organizations.” Lieberthal likewise offers a similarly suspicious American perspective: “Americans . . . worry . . . that China seeks to displace the United States as Number 1, and [Beijing] views US-China relations in fundamentally zero-sum terms.” This book adopts and seeks to carry forward several recommendations made in Lieberthal and Wang’s path-breaking report, but it also draws inspiration from their attempt “to spark creative thinking.”7

The June 2013 meeting of presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California illustrated the top-level recognition on both sides that the bilateral relationship is evolving in troubling directions. The concept of the meeting—that the two leaders would spend extended “free time,” without a formal agenda or large groups of advisers— was undoubtedly positive. As one wise commentary on the Sunnylands summit observed: “It is extraordinary that the leaders of the world’s two great powers meet so rarely in this way,” and further noted that “it is easy to mock the idea of meetings for the sake of meetings,” but quite correctly concluded that personal trust between the leaders could amply facilitate much-needed diplomatic breakthroughs and also help mitigate the most severe crises.8 A breakthrough of sorts could even be seen in President Xi’s proposed “新型大国关系” (new-type major power relations). Although many will undoubtedly criticize the term as frustratingly lacking in specific frameworks regarding how to proceed, what the term does usefully provide is a strong recognition that, on one hand, the relationship is of supreme importance to both powers and indeed to the world. On the other hand, and perhaps even more important, the term illustrates the clear understanding by Beijing of the inherent dangers of unbridled great power competition and the imperative, therefore, to break with patterns of past great power rivalries.9 Since the Sunnylands summit, a string of positive, albeit small-scale joint activities has been undertaken by the US and Chinese armed forces. And yet troubling military confrontations have also continued—for example, in December 2013, involving warships from the two countries in the South China Sea; and in August 2014, involving US and Chinese military aircraft over the East China Sea. Regrettably, US-China relations are still lacking fundamental stability. A second major Obama-Xi summit occurred in November 2014 in Beijing. Encouragingly, this meeting seemed to yield some tangible results in key areas, such as carbon emissions, trade, easing visa requirements, and military confidence-building. President Xi said that “a pool begins with many drops of water,” while President Obama remarked that “when the U.S. and China are able to work together effectively, the whole world benefits.”

Yet the Washington foreign policy establishment greeted the late 2014 summit with ample skepticism. As one representative commentary published a couple of weeks after the summit reflected, “The atmospherics were cordial, [but] there were no substantive changes . . . [regarding] any of the most neuralgic security issues driving strategic competition in the Asia-Pacific. China committed itself to nothing specific or binding. It is difficult not to think that China wants the appearance of peaceful rise, not the reality.” In this same piece from a commentator at a think tank closely aligned with the current administration, the author states, “We need to think through China’s strengths and vulnerabilities [and] determine our best points of leverage.” In the end, the author calls upon the “United States and its allies and partners . . . to think through the full panoply of countermeasures available to help fashion a concerted strategy for countering coercion.”10

A similar skepticism seemed to pervade Obama administration thinking in the lead-up to the November 2014 summit as it was publicly revealed that “Mr. Xi’s push for a ‘new type of great power relations’ . . . has clearly fallen out of favor with Mr. Obama and his aides.”11 Dismissing this phrasing altogether could have major negative consequences for this all-important relationship over the long term. In short, rejection of this concept may well imply to Chinese strategists that only Washington can develop overall concepts to govern the relationship, or worse: that Washington is quite comfortable with “new type” great power relations, even if that means rivalry and military conflict. These are the wrong messages to convey to Beijing and suggest that the relationship today is very far from set on a firm foundation, unfortunately. This book takes a different approach with the clear realization that one of the most basic principles of cooperation is the ability to listen and try to comprehend the other side’s ideas. Where the vision of “new-type major power relations” is presently lacking in specifics, this book has the considerable ambition to provide them in a forthright and succinct manner.

Relying on the evidence and ideas from a broad array of Chinese and American thinkers, this book seeks to provide the intellectual framework, in the form of concrete proposals, that is necessary to put this most vital of relationships on a solid footing for the twenty-first century and beyond. As such, the book, which surveys all major points of tension in the relationship—from currency practices to green technology development to the South China Sea issue—aspires to serve as a practitioner’s guide for a step-by-step strengthening of US-China relations.

Scholars are frequently reticent about making clear and specific prescriptions, preferring to emphasize positive description and value-neutral theorizing in order to answer puzzles in the study of international relations. This is often vital work, but the author’s experience in government and around decision makers reinforces the perception that what is required more urgently is the development of specific, actionable policy recommendations that are informed by rigorous political science analysis. In short, there is ample room for a normative treatment of US-China relations—that most critical of bilateral relationships to world order for the current century, and likely the ones that follow as well.

How to Respond to China’s Rise? The Debate

A major debate has been ongoing in Washington regarding how to respond to China’s rapid rise. Regrettably, US policy in Asia in recent years had seemed troublingly ad hoc and lacking a set of clear objectives, with accompanying resources and explicit bottom lines. Indeed, as one insider account of the ever-more-frequent crises in East Asia relates, “In reality, there’s no such thing as strategy. There are just a series of tactical decisions.”12 

The wide acceptance of the “rebalance to the Asia-Pacific” during the years 2011–12 seems to indicate the ascendance of those in the debate arguing that China’s influence needed to be balanced by that of the United States, not least in the military realm. Perhaps the most eloquent and logically argued of the exponents for a more forceful US approach in countering China is Aaron Friedberg and his book Contest for Supremacy (2012). This book has gained a major following in Washington because of the clarity of his argument and the specificity of his recommendations. Friedberg states emphatically that “China is too important to be left to the China hands,” suggesting that a “Shanghai coalition” made up of scholars and interests that receive material benefits or other “psychic rewards” from favoring engagement is “speeding the day when China will emerge as Asia’s preponderant power.”13 He concludes: “The ‘natural antagonism’ between a rising power and an established hegemonist has not been, and cannot easily be, extinguished. Nor can the ‘massive’ ideological differences between America and China be put aside.”14 Contemptuous of most attempts at cooperation with China, Friedberg warns, “Beijing wants to ease Washington’s anxieties and to dull its competitive reflexes, preventing or at least slowing a vigorous response to China’s growing power.”15 There are strengths and weaknesses to Friedberg’s important book. In the latter category, he seems to actually understate China’s growth in power. For example, he does not expect China’s economy to surpass that of the United States until midcentury, but most economists expect that event by 2020, if not before.16 As for strengths, his use of Chinese sources is impressive, especially because he is not a China expert.

A second virtue of Friedberg’s work, as suggested above, is that it proposes an actionable set of policy recommendations. With regard to economic policy, he makes the relatively uncontroversial suggestion that the United States must increase its savings rate, but he goes much further to also suggest that Washington should tighten its technology export controls as well as limit China’s role in the sensitive communications sector. Most of his policy recommendations relate to defense and deterrence, and the following list is not complete: disperse US forces and harden US bases; reinforce Chinese doubts about their own weapons and war plans; and develop and deploy long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles, arsenal ships, stealthy intercontinental bombers, and long-range conventional missiles, because “modern wars are not won on the defensive.” Friedberg advocates that the United States prepare in earnest to undertake a blockade of China if necessary. On the diplomatic side, he says that, though “an Asian equivalent of NATO” is not feasible at present, a “community of Asian democracies” could effectively balance Chinese power.17

A comprehensive critique of Friedberg’s book is offered in chapter 12, but for now, we may simply observe that many of his policy recommendations are being realized in the form of the present “rebalancing to Asia,” as well as the related “Air–Sea Battle” strategy developed by the Pentagon. A window into the Obama administration’s China policy is provided by Jeffrey Bader’s account Obama and China’s Rise (2012). Interestingly, that book makes no mention of “rebalancing,” or of the so-called pivot to the Asia-Pacific region, or of the Air– Sea Battle strategy. Bader seems to call, above all, for “balance” in Washington’s China policy, and he warns against falling “into the classic security dilemma” with Beijing. However, he suggests that the Obama administration was perfectly prepared to “push back . . . [by] . . . throwing around a few elbows ourselves.”18 Overall, the account gives a somewhat disturbing impression of an administration seemingly more concerned with its image and avoiding criticism. Bader is proud to have stamped out any possibility of “excessive accommodation,” and he even crows about reining in the president’s campaign-trail penchant for intensifying engagement with former US adversaries in East Asia.19 Indeed, with the full flowering of the rebalancing and of the Air–Sea Battle strategy since Bader’s departure, it is quite clear that a major reason why the political right has apparently not jumped on the administration’s Asia-Pacific policy is that the Obama administration has in fact largely endorsed the program advocated by those seeking to balance against China’s rise.20

By contrast, the challenge of avoiding an escalation spiral toward the abyss of conflict in US-China relations will require a concerted and purposeful endeavor. The effort to propose a genuinely progressive alternative to current policies is, in large part, the purpose of the present book. Henry Kissinger’s On China offers a compelling vision of a cooperative future built on his deep understanding of Chinese strategic culture, which he developed over the course of decades as he interacted directly with Chinese leaders. His invocation of the 1907 Crowe Memorandum (an influential assessment of German aims and possible British responses that was written by a senior official in the British Foreign Office) is haunting:

The reader of the Crowe Memorandum cannot fail to notice that the specific examples of mutual hostility being cited were relatively trivial compared to the conclusions drawn from them. It was not what either side had already done that drove the rivalry. It was what they might do. . . . [Washington and Beijing] . . . need to ask themselves the question apparently never formally posed at the time of the Crowe Memorandum: Where will a conflict take us? Was there a lack of vision on all sides, which turned the operation of the equilibrium into a mechanical process, without assessing where the world would be if the maneuvering colossi missed a maneuver and collided?21

However, Kissinger’s fine book does not offer up specific policy proposals, recommending only that US and Chinese leaders must develop a “tradition of consultation and mutual respect.”22

Michael Swaine’s book, America’s Challenge: Engaging a Rising China in the 21st Century (2011), represents a crucial step in analysis of US-China relations, in that it raises the important possibility that “to maintain an effective strategy overall, US interests . . . might also need to change as China’s capabilities increase.” Examining a range of possible strategies that Washington could pursue in cooperation with China, Swaine concludes that a broad consensus supports a balance between hedging and engagement. However, he seems to break rather decisively with the current policy paradigm, calling for “alternatives to the current emphasis on predominance in the Western Pacific.” Indeed, he argues that asserting “US maritime predominance in the Western Pacific is probably unsustainable over the long term, . . . [and] attempts to sustain this predominance . . . are likely to prove . . . destabilizing.”23

Another new and extremely useful book is Strategic Reassurance and Resolve: US-China Relations in the 21st Century (2014), by James Steinberg and Michael O’Hanlon. The book shares many assumptions and recommendations with the present endeavor. The authors note that in various obvious scenarios, “the risks of serious US-China war could be far greater than many now appreciate.” In common with the present volume, Steinberg and O’Hanlon offer a large number of concrete proposals to mitigate US-China tensions. In using a methodology quite similar to the one employed here, they express the hope that “Washington can craft its own policies in ways that will call forth reciprocal, positive Chinese actions,” and they also advocate a “virtuous cycle of cooperative restraint.”24 Significantly, they emphasize that advocating cooperative approaches is frequently not popular, and, moreover, they assert that “there are powerful forces in the United States . . . that will tend to favor US policies that could accentuate . . . [the] rivalry between the United States and China. The same is true in key allied capitals, perhaps most notably in Tokyo.”25

However, there are also major differences between the present volume and the one by Steinberg and O’Hanlon. They put a high premium on maintaining America’s system of overseas bases in the Western Pacific, though it is argued here that this system should be reformed. And they may understate the vulnerability of that basing structure, underrate the pace of progress in Chinese military modernization, and overrate the pertinence of the United States’ experience with recent counterinsurgency wars for any major power war.26 Another significant difference is that Steinberg and O’Hanlon put the major onus on Beijing for improving the troubled bilateral relationship, whereas this book seeks a more equal, bilateral modus vivendi and even calls upon Washington, with its strength and maturity, to make the difficult first moves toward reconciliation in crucial areas of contention.27 Nevertheless, Steinberg and O’Hanlon have made a superb contribution to the debate, and their call for “nonmilitary responses” to counter Chinese actions in the East China Sea and South China Sea areas is particularly brave, sober, and significant.28

The recent book on US-China relations that comes closest to the present effort is Hugh White’s The China Choice: Why America Should Share Power (2012). White presents a disquieting picture of current US-China relations: “Active rivalry between America and China over their future roles in Asia is no longer a future risk, but a present reality.” He sees a collision as ever more likely, because both states appear to be seeking unachievable and conflicting goals: “The hope that America can maintain uncontested leadership in Asia is. . . as illusory as the fear that China will be able to dominate Asia in its place.” He might be quite correct in observing, moreover, that “the Chinese military has been preparing for war with the United States. Now the principal task of the US military is preparing for war with China.” In this most sober volume, he warns that “those who cannot imagine a catastrophe have no capacity to prevent it.”29 Where the present volume seeks to improve upon White’s incisive analysis, along with the analyses of the other books discussed above that have sought to elaborate a viable cooperative approach vis-à-vis China, is in both providing a much wider discussion of Chinese sources—and thus a firmer basis for cooperation—and also, more particularly, offering a series of specific, balanced, and sequential policy recommendations.

As suggested above, a major ambition of the present book is to take Chinese voices seriously—a shortcoming of all too much scholarship on China and US-China relations. Chinese foreign policy experts have reacted with alarm and dismay regarding the developments in bilateral relations during the last several years. Chen Jian, of People’s University in Beijing, wrote in mid-2012 that the “US seems to have undertaken hostile measures. . . . From 2012 to 2024 will be the most dangerous period for US-China relations. . . . The actions of small states could drag the United States and China into an armed conflict.”30 Another scholar, Pang Zhongying, also at People’s University, observed that “under the circumstances of the US strategic pivot, . . .‘East Asian cooperation’ confronts its greatest external attack.”31  Wu Xinbo of Fudan University concluded that “the Obama administration’s balancing strategy has already had an obviously negative impact on China’s security interests.”32 Although counseling patience, Shen Dingli, also of Fudan, wrote in late 2012 that no matter how hard the United States tries to “create trouble for China, . . . [and] maneuvers by various means to surround China, . . . this will not change the fact that the sun is setting on American superiority.”33

Less moderate voices are also evident in Chinese discourse, for example, Chinese Air Force general Chao Liang. He stated explicitly in a mid-2013 interview that China must “rebalance” against the US “rebalancing policy,” calling, among other steps, for China to greatly enhance its “strategic power projection,” including both nuclear and long-range conventional strike capabilities.34 Likewise, Chinese admirals call openly for measures “with respect to near sea areas to control firmly, control well, control strictly, and to eliminate near seas threats, confirming [China’s] sovereignty, . . . and that it will not accept invasion and encroachment.”35  Another important Chinese admiral called in mid-2014 for enhanced 积极长远的力量运用规划 (plans for the active wielding of long-range power) or what might be termed simply “power projection” as a means to cope with perceived threats to China’s maritime security.36 There is also open discussion in 2014 within Chinese foreign policy journals about a perceived imperative to “undermine, weaken, or destroy” alliances that are viewed as hostile to China.37 A question often asked in the course of 2014 has been whether Beijing might be studying the lessons of the volatile Ukraine Crisis that has dominated headlines in that year. Indeed, preliminary evidence is that, not only is President Vladimir Putin much admired in China, but also that Chinese strategists have observed that “Russia does not fear.” As one Chinese senior colonel explains in an interview: “[A US] aircraft carrier group daring to enter the Black Sea . . . would be akin to a person locked inside a house.”38 For the moment at least, the study of key Mandarin-language sources seems to reveal that cooler heads still prevail, and that China is not seeking to follow the belligerent and risky Russian model. The overall guidance in Beijing with respect to US-China relations still seems to be 斗而 不破 (struggle, but do not break).39 Nevertheless, it is quite evident that Chinese discourse regarding the United States has become more bellicose, even as a similar trend has developed in the United States, reflecting a clear and dangerous evolution toward intensified rivalry. Chinese voices are not unknown in the West. However, much more can and must be done to understand Chinese perspectives on US-China relations and the new global order—in part, through a close analysis of Mandarin-language texts.

Therefore, embedded within each chapter that follows is a lengthy analysis of a variety of writings on the key issues by leading Chinese scholars. To the maximum extent, this book draws upon direct translations of the key passages from these writings. The concept is to allow Western readers direct access to these Chinese assessments—which heretofore were almost completely inaccessible to Western analysts. It is crucial to state that by quoting from this expansive variety of Chinese thinkers on key subjects, the author emphatically is not implying endorsement of these assessments. On the contrary, some of these Chinese assessments are highly subjective and even spurious. Yet it would be a mistake to ignore these viewpoints or dismiss them altogether. The tendency to scorn one’s adversary’s ideas as “propaganda” is all too common in the practice of international diplomacy. Such an approach not only smacks of xenophobia but is also likely to feed the tendency toward “misperception” and enhanced subjectivity in policy judgment. Recently, in fact, a mark of the quality and openness of Chinese writings on foreign affairs and defense matters has been a new tendency toward self-criticism and demand for accountability, as in a 2014 Chinese article that criticized Chinese assessments of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, suggesting that these appraisals were critically weakened by group-think and a lack of diverse perspectives.40 The failure to adequately consult a wide variety of Chinese-language materials can create cultural blindness to actual opportunities for cooperation and the peaceful resolution of difficult issues. In sum, this book seeks to improve on its predecessors by analyzing hundreds of important Chinese writings that have not been evaluated by Western scholars. It is hoped that a better understanding of Chinese viewpoints may facilitate enhanced US-China cooperation on critical issues of mutual concern.

Cooperation Spirals

In addition to the commonsense methodological approach of surveying a wide body of Chinese-language writings, this book also presents the conceptual innovation of “cooperation spirals,” in order to provide bilateral policy “moves” for achieving substantive progress in US-China relations across a range of difficult issues. A cooperation spiral may be considered the precise opposite of an escalation spiral—which is frequently interpreted as the result of fear and misperception when leaders confront security dilemmas.41 In a cooperation spiral, trust and confidence are built over time through incremental and reciprocal steps that gradually lead to larger and more significant compromises. To be sure, these proposed steps will be difficult—and thus their related challenges are fully analyzed in the chapters that follow—but their gradual, evolutionary, and reciprocal nature make them a feasible guide for practitioners.

Unfortunately, the leading journals in East Asian international relations, such as Asian Survey and International Security, appear to neglect the issue of how to foster US-China cooperation.42  Alternatively, academic journals that do take international cooperation as their focus, such as Conflict Management and Peace Science, have tended to disregard the issue of China, and US-China relations in particular. A veritable intellectual chasm has therefore seemed to open up with respect to fresh scholarship on how Beijing and Washington might cooperate in the twenty-first century.

Nevertheless, a number of relevant insights from the quite extensive theoretical debate—which generally pits “neoliberals” against “neorealists”— regarding the nature of cooperation in world politics are summarized here. Two pioneers in the study of international cooperation, Robert Axelrod and Robert Keohane, warn at the outset that “achieving cooperation is difficult in world politics, . . . [where] cheating and deception are endemic.” They highlight the importance of the “mutuality of interests,” as expressed in “payoff structures,” the “shadow of the future,” and the number of actors involved. Each of these issues is pertinent to the prospects for US-China cooperation, given that one may evaluate whether Beijing and Washington indeed prefer “mutual cooperation” to “mutual defection,” because that cannot be assumed. They emphasize, moreover, that the “mutuality of interests is not based simply on objective factors, but is grounded upon the actors’ perception of their own interests. Perceptions define interests.” These scholars evaluate both the possibilities and risks of “issue linkage” in facilitating cooperation, and also the likely constraints posed by domestic politics. They appear to offer strong support for the proposed cooperation spiral model, when they assert that “a strategy based on reciprocity—such as tit for tat—can be remarkably effective in promoting cooperation, . . . even among pure egoists.” Still, even these foremost advocates of cooperation are quite cognizant that attempts at reciprocity can devolve into “acrimonious and frustrating patterns of bargaining,” but also that the most effective motive for cooperation between rivals in world politics has generally been the “activities of a third power.”43 Cheating and the problem of relative gains also pose significant challenges for policymakers that seek mutual accommodation by employing cooperation spirals. Nevertheless, Asia specialists are still very much intrigued by the possibilities for reinvigorated engagement, as one scholar explained in the summer of 2013 in the leader article of Global Asia: “Engagement invites reciprocity, thus setting in motion a succession of positive changes in policy and outlook quite opposite from the ladder of escalation that characterizes all too many international conflicts.”44

Skeptics are likely to counter that the “cooperation spirals” confer a distasteful moral equivalence to the developing rivalry between the United States and China. From that perspective, the nature of the conflict between these two powers over the Asia-Pacific region is not so much the inevitable structural result of an increasingly bipolar system, but rather is determined by the alleged nationalism and “inherent aggressiveness” of the contemporary Chinese regime. Many in the West, as Friedberg contends, consider the Chinese regime to be “evil,” and thus inherently untrustworthy. Numerous Western analysts have pointed to “Chinese nationalism” as a major driver of future conflict, whether in the South China Sea or elsewhere.45 Undoubtedly, the contemporary Chinese regime leans on Chinese nationalism to retain its governing legitimacy. Likewise, the state-controlled media is able to stifle dissenting opinions, including voices promoting compromises.46  Nevertheless, this book does not take up this major theme of the connection between China’s form of polity and its predisposition (or not) toward armed conflict, chiefly for two reasons. First, books that closely examine the internal workings of the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party are quite common in the West.47 Second, my view is that this book can have more of an impact on the “rivalry dynamics” aspect of US-China relations, rather than seeking more ambitiously to bring about fundamental change in Beijing. In my estimate, the reform of China’s governing apparatus is a job best left to the Chinese people.

The cooperation spiral model, as applied in this book across a wide variety of difficult policy dilemmas in US-China relations, draws on all major traditions in international relations theory. From the constructivist tradition, the model relies on the conception that ideas and norms have force unto themselves, and therefore creative diplomacy and focused leadership can potentially break divisive deadlocks and prevent the tragedy of great power conflict. From the liberal tradition, the model adopts certain precepts related to processes, and specifically to those institutions that can guide expectations and behavior—thus building trust and enabling further cooperation. Finally, though in somewhat obvious contradiction to realist predictions of rivalry, the cooperation spiral also takes certain realist principles as essential, including the principles that cooperative measures must be consistent with state interests, must accord with tendencies in the balance of power, and must also be reciprocal in nature to the extent possible. Therefore, the proposed model also represents a realist form of cooperation. Stimulating a wider discussion of alternative steps within the proposed cooperation spirals would constitute, in itself, a major contribution to this field. After all, this author hardly purports to be Moses with a Hundred Commandments. The twin key points of this approach are that reciprocity is necessary and that practical first steps must be found. The endpoints only seem utopian in the absence of the accomplishments that result from climbing the earlier steps, and even if the endpoints remain out of reach, each step represents a significant advance. For instance, the European Union could not have emerged except at the end of a path of cooperation that began with small and tentative cooperative efforts that proved themselves intrinsically useful.48

Turning from the proposed model of the cooperation spiral to the logic of this book’s argument and the progression of its chapters, it is suggested at the outset that this book is built on the premise that history cannot be overlooked or papered over. Therefore, chapter 2 draws upon the findings of a number of cutting-edge historical treatments of East Asia—both Western and Chinese. The central issues of Taiwan and of economic relations are, respectively, the subjects of chapters 3 and 4. These chapters introduce the concept of the cooperation spiral—a pattern that continues throughout the rest of the book. Chapter 5 highlights the rather significant progress that has been achieved in the environmental domain, but it also puts a purposeful focus on the all-important issue of climate change. Chapter 6, on US-China interactions in the developing world, naturally follows the prior discussions regarding economic and environmental relationships. A turn toward geopolitics on the world stage is made in chapter 7, where the Middle East is discussed as a region beset by instability for which US-China strategic cooperation offers significant promise. From a wider discussion of the global possibilities for US-China cooperation, the book then turns to the key issues that have roiled the politics of East Asia in the last decade—threatening the region’s new prosperity, which has so dazzled and impressed the rest of the world in the current era. Thus, collaborative US-China cooperation cycles are promoted to cope with the ongoing crisis on the Korean Peninsula (chapter 8), the dangers of China/Japan enmity (chapter 9), and new tensions that have recently escalated in Southeast Asia (chapter 10). With a nod toward a future world where India’s role may come to approximate that of contemporary China, chapter 11 develops possibilities for an India-US-China triangular relationship that might promote stability and peace instead of the current course toward escalating great power rivalry.

Chapter 12, the conclusion, develops a number of key linkages among issue areas (e.g., Taiwan and the Korean Peninsula) and also presents the final cooperation spiral, which focuses on the key security dimension of the overall US-Chinese relationship. Crucially, the conclusion also discusses in some detail three major critiques that may undermine the promise of cooperation spirals for US-China cooperation. The first critique concerns China’s record on human rights. Should the United States seek active cooperation with a rising power that does not share its most cherished values? The second critique holds that a Group of Two (commonly referred to as the “G-2”) condominium in world decision making is inherently unfair and also likely premature in many respects. What will be the reaction of other major powers (e.g., Japan), not to mention those small states seemingly squeezed between the two whales? And finally, the third critique is the most iconic of all arguments made against enhanced US-China engagement: the charge of “appeasement.” If China’s security concerns are to be accommodated to a significant extent, as recommended in this book, will Beijing not 得寸进尺 (given an inch, take a yard) and demand ever more concessions? Full answers to these wholly reasonable critiques are given in the book’s conclusion, but here it is enough to assert that China’s human rights situation and the vital question of relations with “third parties” would both benefit substantially from the stabilizing impact of the development of a genuinely cooperative bilateral relationship between the two emergent superpowers. As for the charge of appeasement, this book is likely to incense nationalists in Beijing as much as or perhaps more than it will infuriate hawks in Washington, because it calls for mutual accommodation or concessions in equal measure from both sides—the only realistic way forward, because neither side can now hope to impose its will on the other.

A few additional caveats must be stated at the outset. Regarding the rather extensive employment of Chinese sources throughout the chapters that follow, a couple of methodological issues may be considered. First, which Chinese sources are examined, and how is their credibility evaluated? A weakness of some other studies in this field is a tendency to rely exclusively upon a single set of sources. As much as possible, therefore, this book relies on the widest possible array of sources, prioritizing academic writings above magazine-type articles, but hardly dismissing the import of the latter. Second, why does the book focus almost exclusively on Chinese and US sources? For example, Taiwanese sources are not generally examined for the chapter on Taiwan, Korean sources are not considered for the chapter on Korea, and so on. On one hand, this reflects a simple limit on the scope of the project and the difficult requirements of restricted space in a book covering such a broad range of topics. On the other hand, the reader will also quite correctly discern a certain “G2” (Group of Two) aspect to the prioritization of American and Chinese sources, vice those of “third parties.” In defense of this approach, one may say first that the views of Seoul, Tokyo, Manila, Taipei, Canberra, Jakarta, New Delhi, and so on are quite well represented among the Washington foreign policy elite. To take but one obvious example, in the last decade the Tokyo-based English-language magazine The Diplomat has become a leading forum for American strategic thinking about the Asia-Pacific region’s security. True enough, it is not quite fair to prioritize Chinese and American perspectives over those from other nations, but then international affairs is also not quite fair either. It is, moreover, suggested in this book that a substantial amount of the tension in the Asia-Pacific region today results from a failure to create decision frameworks that are in accord with the genuine balance of power, and its obvious tendencies. This book reflects the fact that ultimately peace and stability will flow, first and foremost, from a carefully negotiated consensus among the two leading superpowers that is then shaped and further modified by the other powers and lesser states. The new balance of power in the world dictates such a structure and process for the emerging world order. This book conforms to this new reality of world politics.

Two additional assumptions that need to be addressed at this point include the key foreign policy concepts of “linkage,” on one hand, and that of “spheres of influence,” on the other hand. Each of these concepts is critical to the book’s argument. At the most basic level, the term “linkage” in a foreign policy context simply implies that issues are related in various ways. Most fundamentally, for example, a whole variety of issue areas can benefit from the general strengthening of a given relationship. Intuitively, it seems quite plain that a leadership summit between two rivals can serve to break through a series of policy logjams because the leaders are seen to value the overall relationship above the minor costs of mutual accommodation on any given issue. During the Cold War the term “linkage” first came into vogue during the 1970s, as the Nixon administration attempted to link progress in arms control and economic issues with Soviet behavior in the developing world. Paradoxically, the opposite policy currently seems to be fashionable in US-China relations— “delinkage,” perhaps dating from the 1990s, when the Clinton administration prudently chose to delink economic cooperation from the sensitive human rights issue. Within the conceptual framework of “delinkage,” there are certain issues on which the United States and China remain deadlocked or engage in strategic competition, while simultaneously pursuing robust cooperation in other areas where US and Chinese interests closely align. I do not dismiss the value of isolating certain issues in order to make progress where possible. Indeed, the discussion of environmental cooperation in chapter 5 showcases the considerable success of that tactic. However, the general approach adopted here is that there are real limits to delinkage, and, moreover, that progress on the most substantive and difficult questions presently dividing Beijing and Washington would benefit not only from a general improvement in the relationship but also, in particular, from the linking of certain critical issues. For example, there could be a mutually advantageous linking of the Taiwan and Korean Peninsula issues, as discussed in the book’s concluding chapter.

A second key theme that emerges in the chapters that follow is that of “spheres of influence.” Going against the grain of much contemporary commentary regarding international relations in the twenty-first century, my analysis accepts spheres of influence as an integral and natural organizing principle of world politics that follows from the continued deep relevance of geography to almost all interactions in international affairs—not least those of a strategic nature. The Ukraine crisis that developed in the spring of 2014 seems to have shown that spheres-of-influence principles may substantially trump those of universalist principles, even within the comparatively stable and prosperous European context. The larger point is that the general phenomenon of states, and often great powers, seeking a larger voice on issues that are immediately proximate to them cannot be ignored or wished away. Alternatively, it is also conceivable that spheres of influence can play a stabilizing, and indeed positive, role in global politics. As conceptualized in this book, the immutable process of the diffusion of global power, or “multipolarization,” will of necessity involve a greater salience for spheres-of-influence-type diplomacy. Although Americans, imbued with a liberal internationalist ideology, are prone to deep suspicion regarding spheres of influence, Christopher Layne recently reminded us that this concept was a key part of George Kennan’s crucial theorizing during the early Cold War, and that a closer adherence to this conception during that long struggle might well have saved the United States considerable blood and treasure.49  Similarly, Steinberg and O’Hanlon observe that American strategists during the Cold War “recognized the need to develop a modus vivendi with the Soviet Union to limit the dangers of inadvertent conflict or the escalation of peripheral conflicts to a direct confrontation between the two nuclear powers themselves, . . . [and they were]. . . willing to tolerate . . . Soviet spheres of influence.”50

Thus, readers should not be surprised in the chapters that follow to see a considerable willingness to accord Beijing a sphere of influence in the Asia-Pacific region. As is discussed in much greater detail throughout the book, this judgment is premised not only on the realities of the evolving global and regional balances of power but also on a reasonably positive outlook with respect to Chinese intentions. It is important to recall that China has no military bases abroad; nor has it resorted to a large-scale use of force for more than three decades. Whether this quite remarkable restraint continues without exception is less important than the overall trend, which is clearly favorable. Connecting the themes of linkage and spheres of influence, one might crudely summarize the book’s general thesis to suggest that bestowing or even deputizing Beijing with a larger role in the Asia-Pacific region, and especially in its backyard, will yield a higher degree of successful bilateral cooperation across a whole gamut of global issues, from nuclear proliferation to climate change. Is this not how London courted Washington so that the two could put their long history of militarized rivalry and contentious squabbling behind them to become effective partners on the world stage?51 In effect, making room for China on the global stage, but especially within the Asia-Pacific region, will actually benefit both US prosperity and US national security. 

A somewhat perverse impression, however, can result, and this is the notion that the United States is giving up distinctly more within each cooperation spiral than is Beijing. Although none of the related spirals call upon the United States to reduce its military outlays more than China does, many American readers are sure to be uncomfortable with the fact that the various spirals proposed in this book call for drawing down certain of the US forces deployed to the Western Pacific. Elsewhere, the spirals call for reduced US military surveillance in areas close to China (chapter 10) and also for halting US drone attacks in Pakistan (chapter 11). It is quite true that Beijing is not asked in this book to decrease its presence at various far-flung bases, nor to halt drone attacks. However, China’s national defense posture is quite different than that of the United States: There are no far-flung bases (or any overseas actually); nor are there any drone strikes (at least not yet). Given these asymmetrical postures, it is only natural that the scope and scale of measures to reach accommodation in each would be quite different. Put another way, if China maintained bases in Cuba, Mexico, and other areas proximate to the United States, then such deployments would quite obviously also be part of a package negotiation, but China’s posture is already quite defensive. As Ambassador Chas Freeman explains, “We seem to think that if we Americans don’t provide it, there can be no balance or peace in Asia. . . . [However, the]. . . bottom line is that the return of Japan, South Korea, and China to wealth and power and the impressive development of other countries in the region should challenge us to rethink the entire structure of our defense posture in Asia.”52 American readers should also keep in mind that the cooperation spirals described herein are, in fact, also quite exceptionally demanding from a Chinese perspective. In each of the extremely sensitive territorial disputes on China’s maritime flank, Beijing is asked to significantly adjust its current and long-held positions: reforming the so-called nine-dash line in the South China Sea, adopting the median line in the East China Sea, and renouncing the use of force on Taiwan. Indeed, the book has been designed such that the author expects to be equally unpopular in both Beijing and Washington. But that is the nature of asking statesmen to “meet halfway”—to take the long view for the sake of future generations and thus make brave and hard choices for peace.

Thucydides Trap

More than two thousand years ago, Thucydides explained how the Peloponnesian Wars resulted from the rapid growth of Sparta and the fear that this growth precipitated in Athens.53  Quite remarkably, this important historical analogy is now apparently being considered by the most senior Chinese foreign policy decision makers.54 From the experience of Athens and Sparta, as well as a plethora of other rivalries in history, the dominant realist paradigm has been developed to explain why major wars have accompanied the rise of new great powers. This theory has been justly criticized from a variety of perspectives, perhaps most effectively by David Kang, who characterizes realist theorizing as ethnocentric—that is, as overly based on the European experience and thus quite inapplicable to contemporary East Asia.55 Other intellectual traditions, including obviously various strands of liberal theorizing, call into question the dire realist prediction regarding China and the inevitable rivalry that it predicts. Even realist theorizing itself, on the margins at least, may provide some possibilities for mitigated power competition through enhanced security and deterrence. And yet the undercurrents of rivalry in US-China relations are deep and actually intensifying.

Confronted with intensifying rivalry, the United States faces certain stark choices. It can either seek to preserve the status quo of American global hegemony—necessitating a massive arms buildup and requiring more active and risky “brinkmanship” to hold rising powers firmly in check. Or it can assume the much more rational and practical vision of its original founders: preserving first and foremost its own security and the liberties of its citizens, adopting a demeanor that is slow to anger, and steadfastly refusing to go “abroad in search of monsters to destroy.”56 Indeed, such monsters or dragons as lurk among the reefs and shoals of China’s proximate waters are actually no more worthy than those that haunt the footpaths of obscure valleys in Afghanistan. Those calling for the United States to maintain the utmost vigilance against challengers and to take up arms at the slightest affront must understand that the United States today is in a manifestly different position than was Britain when it was confronted with the aggressive Nazi regime in the late 1930s. In fact, the United States is immensely strong and has an almost unassailable strategic position. From this position of strength, Washington can afford to take the lead, demonstrating its maturity and taking brave risks for the sake of peace. As theorists who have considered the problem of “power transition” in world politics have concluded, “The goal is to embark on a long-term process of rapprochement that will eventually succeed in fostering the mutual attribution of benign character.”57 Such a process will benefit American security and prosperity most directly. The November 2014 Obama-Xi Summit in Beijing may hint at a positive turn in the relationship. The numerous agreements that emerged from that meeting suggest that both sides emphatically decided to prioritize pressing global problems such as climate change above petty and ultimately nonsensical disputes over reefs and shoals. Such farsighted statesmanship should be applauded and will hopefully initiate a much-needed trend in managing US-China relations.

In order to shift the daunting intellectual tide against rivalry and toward cooperation in pursuit of “peaceful systemic change,” scholars must climb down from the ivory tower and enter the realm of subjective argumentation and normative judgment. And they cannot do this armed only with elegant models and esoteric analyses. Rather, it is imperative for them to develop an academically defensible set of proposals—here presented in the form of “cooperation spirals.” In the pages that follow, ten separate cooperation spirals are elaborated, each with a graphic figure and text explaining the recommendations. The author readily admits that certain proposals require greater specificity, although this has been provided to the extent possible here, given space limitations. Also, the author in no way believes that just one set of steps should constitute these cooperation spirals, or that they should be limited to just a hundred steps in ten issue areas. Issue area experts are certainly welcome to propose superior cooperation spirals, with greater specificity, realism, and thus promise to improve the relationship. The book is thus intended to spark a debate and perhaps further research about how such spirals should be correctly structured—above all, to incorporate the principles of gradualism, reciprocity, fairness, and enforceability. The aim is to move bilateral diplomacy in this most crucial relationship beyond the red-faced wagging of fingers and the bland and seemingly useless recitation of well-worn talking points. A creative dialogue among scholars and strategists on both sides of the Pacific may seek to perfect these cooperation spirals with the ambitious goal of moving the relationship to a better place—enabling a modus vivendi built on the principles of negotiation and compromise that will undergird global peace and development in the decades and centuries to come.


1. This paragraph is drawn from Martin Russ, Breakout: The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Korea 1950 (New York: Penguin, 1999), 1–2, 31.

2. US Department of Veterans Affairs, “America’s Wars,”

3. Russ, Breakout, 2–3.

4. See, e.g., 郑明 [Zheng Ming, PLA Navy Admiral (ret.)], “钓鱼岛, 黄岩岛事件: 或可成为我国制定和实施海洋发展战 的一个切入点” [The Events Related to the Diaoyu and Huangyan Islands: How They Might Become Defining Points for Laying Out and Realizing Our Country’s Maritime Development Strategy], 现代舰船 [Modern Ships], September 2012, 12–17: or more recently 何雷 [He Lei, PLA general] “反思甲午战争历史教训凝聚强军胜 战智慧力量” [Reflections on Historical Lessons of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95 and on Concentrating Wisdom Concerning Strengthening the Military for Gaining Victory] 中国军事科学 [China Military Science] (March 2014), 53.

5. See, e.g., John Patch, “Regain ASCM Standoff: Improve the Harpoon,” United States Naval Institute Proceedings, June 2010, 78–80.

6. Edward N. Luttwak, The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012), 270.

7. Kenneth  Lieberthal  and  Wang  Jisi,  Addressing  US-China  Strategic  Distrust (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2012), xi, 13, 22.

8. “The Summit: Barack Obama and Xi Jinping Have a Chance to Recast This Century’s Most Important Bilateral Relationship,” The Economist, June 8, 2013, 11.

9. On Chinese studies of great power rivalries, see, e.g., Andrew S. Erickson and Lyle Goldstein, “China Studies the Rise of Great Powers,” in China Goes to Sea: Maritime Transformation in Comparative Historical Perspective, ed. Andrew S. Erickson, Lyle Goldstein, and Carnes Lord (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2009), 401–25.

10. Patrick M. Cronin, “How to Deal with Chinese Assertiveness: It’s Time to Impose Costs,” National Interest, December 4, 2014,

11. Jane Perlez, “China’s ‘New Type’ of Ties Fails to Sway Obama,” New York Times, November 9, 2014 /chinas-new-type-of-ties-fails-to-sway-obama.html.

12. Jeffrey A. Bader, Obama and China’s Rise: An Inside Account of America’s Asia Strategy (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2012), 141.

13. Aaron L. Friedberg, A Contest for Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia (New York: W. W. Norton, 2012), 197–99, 269.

14. Ibid., 141.

15. Ibid., 183; see also 167.

16. Ibid., 35. See, e.g., Malik Singleton, “OECD Report Says China’s Economy Will Overtake the US by 2016,” International Business Times, March 13, 2013, available at; and “Rancho Eclipse: We Invite You to Predict When China’s Economy Will Overtake America’s,” The Economist, June 6, 2013,

17. Friedberg, Contest, 271–82.

18. Bader, Obama, 113, 116, 149–50.

19. Ibid., 29, 79.

20. Bader states that criticism of the Obama administration by Republicans was muted and attributes that to his “thorough grounding in US national interests”; Bader, Obama, 141. Further evidence of the right-wing turn in administration policy toward China is, e.g., a Heritage Foundation analyst heaping praise on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s approach to the South China Sea. See Walter Lohman, “Secretary Clinton’s Asia Trip: Keep the Pressure on South China Sea,” September 4, 2012, secretary-clintons-asia-tour-keep-the-pressure-on-south-china-sea/.

21. Henry Kissinger, On China (New York: Penguin Press, 2011), 522–27.

22. Ibid., 529.

23. Michael  D.  Swaine,  America’s  Challenge:  Engaging  a  Rising  China  in  the Twenty-First Century (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2011), 8, 15, 352.

24. James Steinberg and Michael O’Hanlon, Strategic Reassurance and Resolve: US-China Relations in the 21st Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014), 47, 148, 157.

25. Ibid., 71–73.

26. Ibid., 88, 93, 99, 183, 188.

27. Ibid., 203.

28. Ibid., 142–49.

29. Hugh White, The China Choice: Why We Should Share Power (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 6, 55, 116–18, 127.

30. 陈建  [Chen  Jian],  “讨论新型大国关系”  [A  Discussion  of  New-Type Great Power Relations], 国际问题研究 [International Studies], November–December 2012, 11, 13.

31. 庞中英 [Pang  Zhongying],  “‘东亚合作’向何处去?  论东亚地区秩序的困境与中国的战略选择” [Where Is “East Asian Cooperation” Heading? On the Challenges Facing the East Asian Order and China’s Strategic Choice], 中国外交 [Chinese Foreign Policy], November 2012, 43.

32  . 吴心伯 [Wu Xinbo], “论奥巴马政府的亚太战略” [On the Obama Administration’s Asia-Pacific Strategy], 国际政治 [International Politics], September 2012, 90.

33. 沈丁立  [Shen  Dingli],  “中国无需担忧‘再平衡’”  [China  Need  Not  Be Anxious regarding “Rebalancing”], 东方早报 [Oriental Morning Post], November 22, 2012.

34. 乔良  [Gen.  Qiao  Liang,  PLA  Air  Force],  “洞察美国’2013年中国军力报告” [A Clear View regarding the US “2013 Report on Chinese Military Power”], 航空知识 [Aerospace Knowledge], August 2013, 26.

35. See, e.g., 段昭显 [Duan Zhaoxian, PLA Navy Admiral], “论建设海洋强国 的战略目标” [On the Strategic Objective of Building China into a Maritime Power], 中国军事科学 [China Military Science], March 2013, 14.

36. 蒋伟烈  [Jiang  Weilie,  PLA  Navy  Vice  Admiral],  甲午海战的历史启示 [Historical Implications of Naval Battles During the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95], 中国军事科学 [China Military Science] (March 2014), 60.

37. See, e.g., 刘丰 [Liu Feng], “分化对手联盟: 战略, 机制与案例” [Splitting Up Alliances: Strategy, Mechanism, and Cases], 国际政治 [International Politics], March 2014, 37–48.

38. 房兵 [Fang Bing, PLA Senior Colonel], “战还是和? 俄乌克里米亚地区军事局势分析” [War or Peace? An Analysis of the Military Situation in the Russia-Ukraine Crimea Area], 兵工科技 [Ordnance Science and Technology], no. 7 (2014): 10; and also on Putin, see 马国川[Ma Guochuan], “王缉思: 中美应 ‘共同进化’”[Wang Jisi: The US and China Should ‘Evolve Together’], 财经 [Finance and Economics] (June 2014), 37.

39. 张任荣   [Zhang   Renrong],   “美国的世界领导地位与中国的战略定力” [America’s Position of World Leadership and China’s Strategic Self-Control],学习时报 [Study Times], June 9, 2014.

40. 牛新春  [Niu  Xinchun],  “集体性失明:  反思中国学者对伊战,  阿战的预测” [Collective Blindness: Recollecting the Predictions of Chinese Scholars with Respect to the Iraq and Afghan Wars], 现代国际关系 [Contemporary

International Relations], April 2014, 1–9.

41. Regarding inadvertent escalation and security dilemmas, the most classic work is by Robert Jervis, Perception and Misperception in International Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976).

42. The author’s survey of articles published in the prestigious journal International Security in the years 2006–11 yielded not a single China-related article with “cooperation” in the title.

43. Robert Axelrod and Robert Keohane, “Achieving Cooperation under Anarchy: Strategies and Institutions,” in Neorealism and Neoliberalism: The Contemporary Debate, ed. David A. Baldwin (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), 85–89, 101, 103.

44. Mel Gurtov, “Engaging Enemies: Fraught with Risk, Necessary for Peace,” Global Asia, Summer 2013, 8–9.

45. See, e.g., Michael Yahuda, “China’s New Assertiveness in the South China Sea,” Journal of Contemporary China 22, no. 81 (2013): 454–55.

46. However, it should be stated clearly that in every chapter of this book, one can readily find Chinese voices supporting compromise. Therefore, it seems unlikely that such voices are being censored generally.

47. See, e.g., Andrew Nathan and Bruce Gilley, China’s New Rulers: The Secret Files (New York: New York Review of Books, 2003); and Richard McGregor, The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers (New York: Harper- Collins, 2010).

48. The author thanks an anonymous reviewer for these insights and reflections on the proposed model.

49. Christopher  Layne,  “The  Global  Power  Shift  from  West  to  East,”  The National Interest, May–June 2012, Another scholar, reflecting on the differences between the “Long Peace” between the USSR and the US during the Cold War, observes that “whatever the reason, it is the case that the US and the USSR managed their relationship in such a way as to respect the lines drawn around their spheres of influence.” Peter Shearman, “The Rise of China, Power Transition, and International Order in Asia,” in Power Transition and International Order in Asia, ed. Peter Shearman (New York: Routledge, 2014), 15.

50. Steinberg and O’Hanlon, Strategic Reassurance, 52.

51. See, e.g., Lionel Gelber, The Rise of Anglo-American Friendship: A Study in World Politics, 1898–1906 (Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1966), 136–40.

52. Chas Freeman, Interesting Times: China, America, and the Shifting Balance of Prestige (Charlottesville, VA: Just World Books, 2012), 24.

53. On the applicability of Thucydides’ writings to US-China relations, see Graham Allison, “Thucydides Trap Has Been Sprung in the Pacific,” Financial Times, August 21, 2012.

54. See,  e.g.,  王毅  [Wang  Yi],  “坚定不移走和平发展道路,  为实现民族复兴中国梦营造良好国际环境” [Adhere to the Path of Peaceful Development and Foster a Favorable International Environment for the Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation], 中国外交 [Chinese Foreign Policy], March 2014, 4. Wang is currently foreign minister of the People’s Republic of China.

55. David Kang, China Rising: Peace, Power, and Order in East Asia (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 37.

56. President John Quincy Adams, July 4, 1821.

57. Charles A. Kupchan, “Conclusion: The Shifting Nature of Power and Peaceful Systemic Change,” in Power in Transition, ed. Charles A. Kupchan, Emanuel Adler, Jean-Marc Coicaud, and Yuen Foong Khong (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2001), 171.

Image: White House/Flickr.