China's Triangulation Gambit
America's rapprochement with China, 50 years ago this month, isolated the former Soviet Union at a time when its economic foundation was starting to crumble. Today, there can be little doubt that China has revived triangulation as a strategic gambit – or that this time America is the one being triangulated.
NEW HAVEN – History’s turning points are rarely evident with great clarity. But the February 4 joint statement of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping as the Winter Olympics opened in Beijing may be an exception – signaling a new turning point in a new Cold War.
Triangulation was America’s decisive strategic gambit in the first Cold War. Richard Nixon’s rapprochement with China, 50 years ago this month, isolated the former Soviet Union at a time when its economic foundation was starting to crumble. As Henry Kissinger put it in his opus, On China, “The Sino-US rapprochement started as a tactical aspect of the Cold War; it evolved to where it became central to the evolution of the new global order.” It took time for the strategy to succeed. But, 17 years later, the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union imploded.
Never one to ignore the lessons of history, China is opting for its own triangulation gambit in a nascent Cold War II. A China-Russia tandem could shift the global balance of power at a time when America is especially vulnerable. This points to a worrisome endgame.