Averting the Grandest Collision of all time
|As relations between the US and China have declined to their worst state since Henry Kissinger and Zhou Enlai met in Beijing 50 years ago, the question many have been asking is: “What would Thucydides say now?” |
As I answered at Davos in January when this question was posed, my bet is that he would say this is a classic Thucydidean rivalry in which the two parties are right on script, each competing to show which can best exemplify the typical rising and ruling power—leaving him on the edge of his seat anticipating the grandest collision of all time.
In the linked piece published in The Straits Times and at the Asia Research Institute, I argue the US and China need a “rivalry partnership,” an ancient Chinese concept that describes the relationship between the rival Song and Liao kingdoms.
“Rivalry partners” sounds like a contradiction. But the US and China are locked in conditions defined by two contradictory imperatives: to compete in the greatest rivalry of all time, and to cooperate for each to ensure its own survival.
For both nations, creating a grand strategy that combines competition and cooperation will require extraordinary strategic imagination. As policymakers in both nations are wrestling with this assignment, clues from the “rivalry partnership” that gave the Song and Liao 120 years without war can be instructive.
If you have reactions, I’ll be interested to hear from you.