Project Syndicate: In August, you wrote that the chances of a Sino-American cold war – or even actual war – were “far higher” than they were at the start of the year, largely because the Chinese government has lately “embraced a more assertive path at home and abroad.” You noted that this may be partly an attempt to take advantage of America’s preoccupation with the COVID-19 crisis. If today’s election results are challenged, how might Xi capitalize on political instability in the US? What other foreign-policy risks would such an outcome pose, both in the short term and with regard to America’s global standing?
Richard Haass: Any political crisis in the US triggered by a disputed 2020 presidential election outcome would leave the country even more divided and distracted than it already is. Such a development would also come against the backdrop of a US foreign policy that, in recent years, has raised mounting questions about the country’s reliability as an ally and willingness to sustain the use of military force.
In such circumstances, there is the risk that China might be tempted to take coercive actions against Taiwan that would expose Taiwan’s vulnerability and bring it more under the sway of the mainland. One could also imagine increased Chinese military activities vis-à-vis India and Japan, and in the South China Sea.