China doesn't have to be our next great enemy

Advocates of a new Cold War with China will surely roll their eyes at these assertions. They will say that China has wiggled out of trade commitments, repeatedly violated agreements on climate, used espionage to steal intellectual property, and is building a military designed to inflict harm on the United States and its allies.

But it is logical for an emerging great power like China to make plans for its defense, including potential conflict with the United States. It’s also worth remembering that China is deeply intertwined with the U.S. and global economy. It holds more than a trillion dollars’ worth of American debt in the form of U.S. Treasury securities, benefits from the cumulative effect of U.S. investment in China and needs access to foreign markets. All of these realities shape its behavior just as much as the possibility of a future confrontation with the United States. Russia, by contrast, is constrained only by how far Mr. Putin is willing to go.

Rather than cast China as our next great enemy, American security would be better served by the realization that Russia’s behavior only highlights the ways that China and the United States remain bound to each other despite their tensions. We should nurture rather than endanger these ties, which are crucial for both countries to remain prosperous, stable and secure. We should also not allow our dislike of China’s domestic system to be the basis of how we engage a country whose centrality to the global system is second only to ours.

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