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China faces a similar predicament. It has to cope with a superior U. Belt and Road may contribute to this strategy by facilitating the integration of neighboring economies in Eurasia.

Belt and Road infrastructure is also becoming indispensable for them to access markets in the region and beyond. Indeed, the rift that it caused with the West encouraged Moscow to increase the technological sophistication of its military exports to Beijing, and to endorse Belt and Road, which provides Russia with international legitimacy, lowers its reliance on the West, and fortifies its flailing Eurasian Economic Union. These trends could have important security implications. These trends ought to be worrisome for Washington.

Additionally, some of the most proactive and geographically expansive forms of engagement that Washington has adopted in Eurasia in the past led to disasters such as the Vietnam and Iraq wars, incurring enormous costs in blood, treasure, and reputation. Moreover, a less systematic opposition to China may ease bilateral tensions and help advance other American objectives, such as economic development and counter-terrorism. Nevertheless, China has had some success steering other countries in its preferred direction.

Similarly, economic pressures convinced Turkey to restrict the activism of its Uyghur community, which had created concerns in China. For instance, many African and Latin American states tend to align with Beijing at the United Nations, while Taiwan has lost almost a quarter of its diplomatic partners since Beijing has already leveraged U. But current trends could constrain the mobility of U. Over time, Belt and Road could heavily impact security dynamics in the Indo-Pacific, the main flashpoint of the U. Additionally, its withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in February will allow the United States to upgrade its ground-based missiles, and to expand its firepower across Asia.

Prospects for US-China Relations in 12222

Leading scholars have argued that most local leaders will continue to align with the United States due to the threat posed by China, the path-dependence created by past agreements, and the fact that far-flung sea hegemons often seem more benign than continental neighbors. Balancing carries with it significant political and financial costs and can hinder strategic autonomy, while domestic strains can stymie its execution.

However, recent U. Indeed, while the United States must honor commitments across the globe, Beijing only has to concentrate on its own geographic region. The U. The Congressional Budget Office itself calculates that defense expenditures could fall to 2.

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Beijing does not have an easy path ahead. From that standpoint, some recent trends are concerning.


Most regional states, including the Philippines, have leaned closer to China since India rejected Belt and Road but despite ambitious projects such as the co-development of the Iranian port of Chabahar, it has struggled to offer any alternatives. Despite severe U. Finally, despite expressing reservations, the European Union, Germany, and France themselves still intend to engage Beijing, including on Belt and Road. It may take decades to parse the strategic consequences of the Belt and Road Initiative.

It might even unravel. Yet, its coherence, potency, and resilience should not be underestimated. If Beijing can make enough adjustments to optimize returns, nurture partnerships, and sustain economic growth, Belt and Road could have far-reaching implications. Some of them may serve American interests. Washington must develop an ambitious response to Beijing. The first step is to restore a sense of domestic bipartisanship, recognizing that a divided America will struggle to maintain credibility and prestige abroad. At home, American leaders must boost investments in infrastructure, healthcare, education, and research.

They should tighten technology transfer restrictions and ramp up counter-intelligence and cyber defense capabilities.

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Moreover, although occasional operations will always be required, U. Having freed up those resources, Washington should project its geoeconomic power more ambitiously. It must re-endorse multilateralism, join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, resume negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and stop pressing allies on commercial issues.

It should also more actively exploit the leverage provided by the shale gas revolution without neglecting environmental reforms , boost foreign infrastructure financing, and shore up the economies and political systems of key allies, partners, and pivotal states. Similarly, improving relations with Russia and Iran — even to a limited extent — would help exploit their underlying competition for influence with China.

However, Washington must also recalibrate some aspects of its China strategy toward greater conciliation. It ought to maintain its overall military superiority, support its allies, and deter misbehavior. These moves may appear to be signs of decline, but combined with the aforementioned geoeconomic measures, they would boost U.

An aggressive zero-sum-game approach, on the other hand, could increase the risk of war and disincentivize other leaders from high-end collaboration with the United States. Furthermore, while some aspects of the Belt and Road Initiative must be steadily opposed, U. A more open stance may yield Chinese concessions on debt, job creation, and environmental questions, and open up more business deals for American companies. By contrast, systematic attempts to portray Belt and Road as a predatory scheme are likely to isolate the United States.

To be sure, Washington must continue to be vigilant. However, moderation and a keener grasp of the limits of American power would reduce the risk of catastrophic escalation, unlock cooperation opportunities, and maintain the theoretical possibility of a modus vivendi in Asia. These adjustments would help chart a more sensible and sustainable U.

He would also like to thank Monica Toft for her support. Thomas P. He writes on U.

(PDF) Symbiotic Competitors – The Nature of Sino-US Relations | Jan Fichtner -

He was also a Fox Fellow at Yale. Cavanna is currently working on a book on the Belt and Road Initiative and U. John Ikenberry, Charles A. Blackwill and Jennifer M. On the diminishing returns of military power, see Daniel W.

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Michael Wills, Ashley J. Thomas J. Since the Communist Party under Deng Xiaoping initiated a process of economic reforms in the late s, the Chinese economy has grown with an annual average of over nine percent, the fastest growth rate for a major economy in recorded history. Measured by official exchange rates, China at present is the fourth largest economy in the world — having superseded Italy, France and Great Britain in the last two years. China has also become the third largest trading nation after the US and Germany. If current growth rates were to be sustained, China would have overtaken Germany, Japan and the US by the middle of this century to become the largest economy in the world Nye, Although this might look very impressive at first sight, it has to be noted that China will have to face enormous challenges in order to accomplish rising to the pinnacle of the international economic system.

The Chinese environment is already severely polluted, several hundred million people in rural China lack access to clean drinking water. Desertification is expanding drastically in the northern and western parts of the country. China's banking system faces major problems, because the government uses it to keep money-losing state-owned enterprises afloat. Another huge problem are the ailing state-owned enterprises themselves.

Most of them are not competitive on the world market, but nevertheless employ a great number of workers. If closed down, millions would be added to the large pool of unemployed people. The growing number of migrant workers leaving their rural communities — who are not entitled to permanent residency in the cities — already amounts to between and million individuals.

Furthermore, corruption of local and provincial cadres of the Communst Party is high. This is causing a rising number of protests by peasants and workers against expropriation of land or against layoffs, often perceived as unfair.