Unbridled competition between America and China has serious consequences for regional and international order. These two countries command the world’s largest economies, strongest militaries, and most advanced industrial and technological bases. Their relationship is going to determine the shape of world order in this century, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. A military clash between these titans would be calamitous and tragic for the region, if not the world. Even a cold war would be seriously damaging and certainly forestall the possible evolution of China toward more Democratic forms of governance.
America and China have every good reason to live in harmony and benefit themselves and the world by doing so. No territorial disputes divide them the way they did other great power rivalries that led to war. Neither power believes the other to be intent on attacking it. They disagree on many substantive issues, but none that should cause a rupture, and none whose effects cannot be addressed or softened, or even resolved, by goodwill and effective diplomacy. Yet, in both capitals, there are officials and pundits who think that the two most powerful countries of the twenty-first century are on a collision course. Why is this so and what can be done about it?