U.S. and Chinese Scholars Launch New Book on Strategic Competition in U.S.-China Relations
The relationship between the United States and China is now defined as a “strategic competition,” which many scholars and analysts have likened to the Cold War. To more thoroughly analyze the nature of the bilateral relationship, on September 27 leading experts from both sides of the Pacific shared their views on the deterioration of U.S.-China relations and the implications for world politics.
The downturn in U.S.-China relations since 2016 has raised the specter of a new cold war. The Georgetown University Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues has sponsored several workshops with leading U.S. and Chinese scholars to address the peace and security implications of the new constellation. In April 2019, Professor Evan Medeiros, Penner Family Chair in Asian Studies at the School of Foreign Service and senior fellow with the Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue, and Professor Dennis Wilder, senior fellow and the then managing director of the initiative, along with Professor Wang Jisi of Peking University, convened a group of top scholars and experts in Washington, DC, for a two-day research dialogue. Their work later evolved into the joint book project Cold Rivals: The New Era of U.S.-China Strategic Competition, which was published in August 2023 by Georgetown University Press.
The panelists, including contributors to Cold Rivals, convened in Riggs Library to launch the book. Evan Medeiros, editor of the book; Rick Waters, managing director of Eurasia Group's China practice; and moderator Kurt Campbell, coordinator for the Indo-Pacific on the U.S. National Security Council, participated in person. Wang Jisi, president of the Institute of International and Strategic Studies at Peking University, and Wu Xinbo, dean of the Institute of International Studies and director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, joined the discussion remotely.
School of Foreign Service Dean Joel Hellman provided opening remarks and emphasized the importance of this book for American and Chinese international affairs in academic circles. In a candid and constructive conversation, the five scholars generally agreed that “strategic competition” or “a new Cold War” is an accurate description of the dynamics between the United States and China at the moment. They further highlighted the multilevel interdependence between the two countries that distinguishes contemporary U.S.-China relations from the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.
The Thucydides Trap
The scholars evaluated the concept of the Thucydides Trap, a hypothesis put forward by Harvard University political scientist Graham Allison, which contends that conflict between the United States, a declining power, and China, a rising power, is inevitable. All five scholars argued that the hypothesis is flawed. They expressed reservations about the characterization of the United States as a declining power and elaborated on the nuances in evaluating the power of China.
While all the participants recognized the necessity and positive implications of continued bilateral cooperation, the Chinese and American scholars disagreed on the connotation of cooperation, especially its conditionality and whether cooperation should cater to the interest of one side.
The event concluded with an audience Q&A session that addressed topics such as the reciprocity of diplomatic engagements and the U.S. official policy on Taiwan.