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The Big Picture

The Sino-American Rift

Now that the Trump administration has designated China a "strategic competitor" and imposed sweeping tariffs on Chinese exports to the US, many observers are asking if the two countries are on the verge of a cold war. The answer to that question is likely to determine the trajectory of twenty-first-century geopolitics.

In this Big Picture, Brahma Chellaney argues that America‚Äôs new hard-line approach to China is long overdue, and will likely outlast the Trump administration. But Stephen S. Roach warns that a zero-sum conflict between the US and China cannot end well for either country, owing to their deep-seated economic codependency. Joseph S. Nye, meanwhile, points out that if the Trump administration wants to contain China, it will have to stop alienating America's regional allies.

But Ngaire Woods sees Trump's strategy as more narrowly defined, and expects that it will lead not to a cold war, but to a more chaotic fragmentation of the international order. Minxin Pei notes that, whatever the nature of the new conflict, it does not augur well for global efforts to combat climate change or drive economic development. And Michael Spence traces the conflict's long-term implications for the structure of the global economy.

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