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The Master Plan: How to Avoid a Dangerous U.S.-China Rivalry

Author: Mira Rapp-Hooper
May 27, 2014
National Interest


James Steinberg and Michael O'Hanlon's recently released volume is hardly the first analysis of the U.S.-China power transition, but it is one of the most important to date. In Strategic Reassurance and Resolve: US-China Relations in the Twenty-First Century, Steinberg and O'Hanlon offer an approach to limiting competition and reinforcing strategic cooperation between the United States and China. Free of the teleological fatalism common to most structural power transition arguments, as well as the unguarded optimism of interdependence-based analyses, the authors begin with the premise that in the 21st century, US-China conflict is possible, but not ineluctable. Theirs is a scholarly, accessible effort to lay out proposals to help Washington and Beijing avoid arms racing and crisis instability by providing reassurance about each state's strategic goals, mitigating potential security dilemmas. The analysis makes no a priori assumptions about Beijing or Washington's long-term intentions, but persuasively contends that the two powers may nonetheless be able to avoid counterproductive hedging and persistent rivalry.

The authors are uniquely positioned to conduct this analysis. Steinberg, a former Deputy Secretary of State and Deputy National Security Advisor, now Dean of Syracuse's Maxwell School, has extensive experience conducting diplomacy with Beijing and is intimately acquainted with the most sensitive issues in the US-China relationship. O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is a leading analyst of operational and strategic issues. The authors' expertise combines to produce a work that is systematic and rigorous, while being clear and pragmatic.

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