May 14, 2020

The Great Decoupling

Source: Foreign Policy

Journalists: Keith Johnson, Robbie Gramer

The U.S. ambassador on the spot in an Asian economic powerhouse put it bluntly in a cable to the secretary of state in Washington: Don’t cut them off. Give them some “economic elbow-room,” or they’ll be forced to carve out an economic empire of their own by force. But Washington was in the grip of economic nationalists battling a historic economic downturn. The White House, consequently, was deaf to the Ambassador Joseph Grew’s pleas from Tokyo in 1935.

Within a few years, the United States ramped up economic pressure on Japan, culminating in a trade and oil embargo. Six years after Grew wrote his dispatch, the two countries were engaged in total war.

Today, American policymakers are consumed by the economic and geopolitical confrontation with another Asian heavyweight. And, as in the 1930s, economic decoupling is all the rage.

Read the full article and more in Foreign Policy.


  • Ashley Feng

    Former Research Associate, Energy, Economics, and Security Program

    Ashley Feng is a former research associate for the Energy, Economics, and Security program at the Center for a New American Security. Her research interests include U.S.-Chin...