In This Review

Between Friendship and Rivalry: China and America in the 21st Century
Between Friendship and Rivalry: China and America in the 21st Century
By Peter W. Rodman
Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom, 1998, 101 pp

This short volume is neither unduly alarmist nor unjustifiably optimistic. The author, a member of the Nixon-Kissinger foreign policy team and later a deputy national security adviser in the Reagan administration, argues that there is a "drift toward strategic rivalry" between China and the United States, but that it can be slowed or reversed if the two sides find common ground on such strategic issues as Korea, Pakistan, regional stability, and the Asian economic crisis. China's military buildup should not be exaggerated because it starts from a small base and is nowhere near matching American capabilities. Yet it is aimed at projecting power in the region around its periphery -- where up to now the United States has enjoyed a monopoly of power. China is already the world's second-largest economy and its market reforms promise a successful future. Yet there are many weaknesses -- including a near-bankrupt banking system. China is still governed by a repressive political system, but much of the centralized state apparatus has been dismantled, and there is a degree of institutional pluralism and individual initiative. Also political ferment, in the form of officials and individuals calling for democratization, is building, probably well beyond the intentions of the reformist leadership. The persuasive conclusion is that the United States is in a pivotal position in Asia as the one power with which all others seek a relationship as insurance against their neighbors. Washington needs to be prepared to confront China if it challenges the regional balance of power. But short of that, it should maintain its links with all the world's important powers.