Strategic competition between the United States and China has come to dominate U.S. foreign policy debates. That competition is multifaceted, but it may turn on a basic question: Which country has a more sustainable concept of national influence?
Tensions between Washington and Brussels may be helping China find a more receptive audience for its Belt and Road initiative. One of the central challenges for the United States and Europe will be to forge a more united approach to China's resurgence.
Observers of world order focus inordinately on intensifying strategic competition between the United States and China. Less examined, but no less important, is how their competition is affecting geopolitics outside of the two countries.
When competing with China, what role should U.S. alliances, especially the transatlantic relationships the United States has with its European partners, play? This question is potentially decisive for whether or not any strategy adopted by the U.S. to compete with China will succeed or fail.
To achieve its goals of national rejuvenation, China needs to become a true world power. But a softening economy and political gridlock make it seem less and less likely that Beijing will realize all of its objectives.
There are several key reasons why current U.S. policy toward China may not help advance America's competitiveness or enlist much support abroad. Most notably, the administration has yet to explain what it ultimately hopes to accomplish.
The best long-term outcome for U.S.–China relations may be one in which inexorably intensifying competition coexists with occasionally fruitful cooperation. It is not the most inspiring result, to be sure, but it is preferable to unconstrained antagonism.
After two decades of setbacks abroad, it's time to ask whether the decline in American influence is irreversible. Ultimately, neither China nor Russia is responsible for these difficulties. Washington's failures have been self-inflicted, the result of flawed policy rather than any decisive shift in the global balance of power.
Politics loves its historical analogies and today, perhaps, there is no more common a comparison to the Trump presidency than the Reagan administration. Reagan's tenure was marked by his successful competition with the Soviet Union. Does Reagan provide a blueprint for triumphing over modern Russia?
By leveraging the efficiencies of globalization and cultivating ties with prosperous partners, Russia could increase its economic potential and improve living standards for its people. And by engaging more positively with the world, it could gain influence in the forums that matter, such as the G20 and multilateral institutions.
Today's world order is increasingly defined by competition between the United States and a host of major powers, especially China and Russia. Who is America's principal competitor and over what is it competing? What is America’s ultimate objective? And how will it prepare its economy and its society for infinite competition of an indefinite nature?
The United States occupies the central role in a world order that, while under growing duress, remains a central organizing framework in world affairs. There are many trajectories along which U.S.-China relations might evolve if China aims to displace the United States for global pre-eminence.