The Debate

The Coming Conflict With China Redux

While many argue conflict between the U.S. and China is inevitable, old arguments maybe wearing thin.

Harry Kazianis

Over the weekend, I thought it might be a prudent idea to move into a little bigger office space. While going through some old papers, notes, and moving my trusty desktop (yes…I still use a desktop), I discovered an old book I long thought I misplaced or threw out. Upon opening its pages, I was reminded that what was once old is yet new again..over and over…

The book in question, The Coming Conflict With China, written in 1997, argues, in the words of a Foreign Affairs review, “the United States and China are on a collision course. China’s goal is to dominate Asia, and America’s goal for more than a century has been to prevent any single power from dominating Asia.” China is “virulently anti-American” and has a “grand plan for the future.” Thus “an enemy looms on the Eastern horizon and America had better be prepared.”

I stopped dead in my tracks.

Suddenly, I felt the need to watch the movie Groundhog Day. After some convincing by my wife, I decided to continue the office move.

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While we can all argue the merits of such arguments – if China is or is attempting to dominate Asia- I felt a sense of sadness.

Since 1997, has the U.S.-China ‘inevitable clash’ debate moved at all? I felt like I could have been reading this book today. The evidence would be very different, but the arguments incredibly similar.

While it is clear there are many voices that contend China has no such intentions to dominate Asia, how much has the scholarship of the ‘anti-China’ school really changed?

Maybe Foreign Affairs said it best ,”This book is reminiscent of a number of those dealing with Japan-U.S. relations that appeared in the 1980s. The argument then was that Japan and the United States were on a collision course because of Japan’s intention to dominate Asia economically. Ten years later, it seems clear that those books were highly oversimplified. It is unfortunate. A more nuanced warning about the risks in U.S.-China relations and the ways to avoid a worst-case outcome would surely be welcome. So would a book with a less sensational title.”

I will have to dig out my copy of The Coming War With Japan during my next office move.

What do you think?

Comments below are welcomed…