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Accommodating China Is Unavoidable

"Absolute national security" might have been a reasonable goal for the US when the country stood at the helm of a unipolar world order. But in today’s world, attempting to “contain and confront” those with different values or systems, rather than negotiating a new global compact that accommodates them, is a recipe for conflict.

HONG KONG – In their latest communiqué, NATO leaders declared that China presents “systemic challenges to the rules-based international order.” The response from China’s mission to the European Union was clear: “We will not present a ‘systemic challenge’ to anyone, but if someone wants to pose a ‘systemic challenge’ to us, we will not remain indifferent.” Such a tit-for-tat rhetoric is unnecessary, and most of the world’s population probably does not want it to escalate. Yet escalation is becoming more likely every day.

That is largely because China is one of the few policy areas where US President Joe Biden has largely upheld the approach of his predecessor, Donald Trump: compete fiercely, cooperate when needed, and confront when necessary. So, as China’s response to the NATO communiqué implies, it has adopted its own three-pronged response: don’t look for a fight, don’t be afraid to fight, and fight when necessary.

NATO is hardly the only forum where Biden is pushing the US approach. At the recent G7 summit and during his meeting with EU leaders, Biden also sought to convince America’s allies to form a united front against China (and Russia).

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