June 18, 2020

How to Prevent a War in Asia

By Michèle Flournoy

Amid all the uncertainty about the world that will follow the pandemic, one thing is almost sure to be true: tensions between the United States and China will be even sharper than they were before the coronavirus outbreak. The resurgence of U.S.-Chinese competition poses a host of challenges for policymakers—related to trade and economics, technology, global influence, and more—but none is more consequential than reducing the risk of war. Unfortunately, thanks to today’s uniquely dangerous mix of growing Chinese assertiveness and military strength and eroding U.S. deterrence, that risk is higher than it has been for decades, and it is growing.

Neither Washington nor Beijing seeks a military conflict with the other. Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump both undoubtedly understand that a war would be disastrous. Yet the United States and China could all too easily stumble into conflict, sparked by a Chinese miscalculation of the United States’ willingness or capability to respond to provocations in disputed areas such as the South China Sea or to outright aggression against Taiwan or another U.S. security partner in the region.

Read the full article in Foreign Affairs.

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