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This discussion paper was published by the Council on Foreign Relations Center for Preventative Action as a part of the Managing Global Disorder series, which explores how to promote a stable and mutually beneficial relationship among major global powers. Author Evan Medeiros is a convener of the U.S.-China Research Group on Managing Strategic Competition and a senior fellow with the Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues.

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April 29, 2021

Major Power Rivalry in East Asia

Author: Evan Medeiros

The U.S.-China relationship currently finds itself in a precarious state, and U.S.-China competition is intensifying: in particular, the relationship is assuming an overtly ideological dimension, which will only accentuate distrust and deepen the interest-based competition on both sides. Several immediate conflicts—including Taiwan and maritime disputes—could escalate. These issues also exist against the background of an accelerating arms race between the U.S. and Chinese militaries in the western Pacific. As U.S. and Chinese policymakers move into such terra incognita, they will need to embrace the daunting challenge of revitalizing the existing tools for managing distrust, reducing the risks of accidents and miscalculations, and generally curbing intensifying U.S.-China competition.

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