The United States vs. China: The Quest for Global Economic Leadership
By C. Fred Bergsten
Polity, 2022, 384 pp.
Many observers despair of the prospects for broad economic cooperation between the United States and China. Not Bergsten. He offers a vision of “conditional cooperation” between the two countries, in which their governments jointly lead the global economic order. Washington would acknowledge Beijing’s co-leadership; in return, China would accept the responsibilities accompanying such a position. The two countries could then collaborate on issues of systemic importance, such as maintaining an open global economic order. Doing so will require decoupling the economic dimension of their relationship from other, more contentious subjects, such as security. Bergsten recommends that the countries join one another’s regional trade arrangements and rehabilitate the World Trade Organization and advocates that China be granted a louder voice in the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The two countries can best work together in areas where no clear rules and institutions exist, including climate change, cybersecurity, and international investment. Some readers may dismiss these recommendations as unrealistic in the present geopolitical climate. But Bergsten makes a compelling case that the risks associated with a leaderless global economy, or worse, one where China and the United States are at each other’s throats, should get the two governments to pursue his agenda.