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Peaceful Coexistence 2.0

Today’s Sino-American impasse is rooted in “hyper-globalism,” under which countries must open their economies to foreign companies, regardless of the consequences for their growth strategies or social models. But a global trade regime that cannot accommodate the world’s largest trading economy is a regime in urgent need of repair.

CAMBRIDGE – The world economy desperately needs a plan for “peaceful coexistence” between the United States and China. Both sides need to accept the other’s right to develop under its own terms. The US must not try to reshape the Chinese economy in its image of a capitalist market economy, and China must recognize America’s concerns regarding employment and technology leakages, and accept the occasional limits on access to US markets implied by these concerns.

The term “peaceful coexistence” evokes the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev understood that the communist doctrine of eternal conflict between socialist and capitalist systems had outlived its usefulness. The US and other Western countries would not be ripe for communist revolutions anytime soon, and they were unlikely to dislodge the Communist regimes in the Soviet bloc. Communist and capitalist regimes had to live side by side.

Peaceful coexistence during the Cold War may not have looked pretty; there was plenty of friction, with each side sponsoring its own set of proxies in a battle for global influence. But it was successful in preventing direct military conflict between two superpowers armed to the hilt with nuclear weapons. Similarly, peaceful economic coexistence between the US and China is the only way to prevent costly trade wars between the world’s two economic giants.