In Washington, there is a growing fatalism that a confrontation with China is unavoidable—and perhaps even necessary. What does success look like in a world where the United States is reflexively countering China’s every move? Is catastrophic conflict the only acceptable destination?
Jessica Chen Weiss, a professor of China and Asia-Pacific studies at Cornell University, believes today’s debate over how best to deal with China is far too narrow. She recently completed a yearlong post working on the Policy Planning Staff at the State Department as a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow, a program for tenured international relations scholars. She observed that in policy circles in Washington, debate is often stifled as no one wants to appear “soft” on China. As she writes in the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs, the result is that “the instinct to counter every Chinese initiative, project, and provocation remains predominant, crowding out efforts to revitalize an inclusive international system that would protect U.S. interests and values.”
We discuss how U.S.-Chinese relations have become especially fraught, the potential consequences of zero-sum competition, and what the costs are to American democracy.
“The China Trap” by Jessica Chen Weiss
“The Outsiders” by Stacie E. Goddard
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“The Foreign Affairs Interview” is produced by Kate Brannen, Julia Fleming-Dresser, and Markus Zakaria; original music by Robin Hilton. Special thanks to Grace Finlayson, Nora Revenaugh, Caitlin Joseph, Rafaela Siewert, Asher Ross, and Gabrielle Sierra.