NEW YORK – The United States and China remain on a collision course. The new cold war between them may eventually turn hot over the issue of Taiwan. The “Thucydides Trap” – in which a rising power seems destined to clash with an incumbent hegemon – looms ominously. But a serious escalation of Sino-American tensions, let alone a war, can still be avoided, sparing the world the cataclysmic consequences that would inevitably follow.
There will always be at least some tensions when a rising power challenges the prevailing global power. But China is facing off against the US at a moment when America’s relative power may be weakening, and when it is committed to preventing its own strategic decline. Both sides are thus becoming increasingly paranoid about the other’s intentions, and confrontation has mostly supplanted healthy competition and cooperation. Both sides are partly to blame.