U.S.-China relations: The search for a new equilibrium
The paper examines four major structural discontinuities that have put the relationship on a steep decline. First, both countries have grown dissatisfied with the previous regional security status quo. Second, China’s emergence as a global rule-maker has heightened tensions. China arguably is the first non-Western power in the post-World War II era with the weight and the ambition to seek significant adjustments to international rules, norms, and institutions to better suit its interests. (While the Soviet Union posed its own challenges to the international order, it did not actively seek to change the existing order on a magnitude corresponding to China’s ambitions today, nor did it have the capabilities to do so.) Third, China’s rise from a low-wage manufacturing hub to a technology power has introduced friction into the economic relationship, as both economies increasingly move from being complementary to competitive with one another. And fourth, unresolved questions about the nature of ideological or systems competition are fueling tensions.