The Magazine

Friendly Rivals?

The Chinese challenge to American power.

Sep 5, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 47 • By GARY SCHMITT
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What results is a general reticence by policymakers to do anything that might disrupt that process, and a propensity to overlook longer-run trends that potentially are more significant. What this means, in practice, is that it provides Beijing with leverage to threaten to withdraw from that engagement process if it deems any hedging measures (such as selling modern weapons to Taiwan) as going too far. In short, while you can shove two words together to coin the term “congagement,” they remain two distinct policies that rest uneasily with each other. As Friedberg himself admits, “squaring this circle” will not be easy.

A Contest for Supremacy is a rigorous and comprehensive account of the state of U.S.-China strategic relations, and by far, the most thoughtful and serious book to date on the topic. Predictably, many (if not most) Sinologists will pick at various points and object to its conclusions. But as Friedberg notes, “The truth is that China is too important to be left to the China hands.”

Gary Schmitt is director of the American Enterprise Institute’s Program on Advanced Strategic Studies.