Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
April 4, 2022
Kevin Rudd is a well-seasoned political leader in Australia with a clear understanding of China. His advice is not perfect, but both the US and China should take it seriously. A few comments:
- Perhaps the word “war” has been overused or generalized already. By and large, the US and China are waring states already: trade war, culture war, cold war, threat to national security…Of course we understand that Kevin means military conflict between the US and China should be avoided by all means. Further, a military conflict between the US and China would mean a full-scale confrontation, there is no limited warfare scenario.
- Basically, Kevin’s suggestion is an unprecedented G2 managed global pollical system. As such, multinational organizations including UN, WTO, IMF, G7, G20 etc. will have to be scaled back. Specifically, forget about globalization. The most serious challenge for this G2 system is that G#1, the US, will have to accept such responsibility and work with G#2, China in the future. As of now, the US is leading the “free world or likeminded nations” challenging China in almost every front.
- The G2 managed system, if it were to become a reality, needs a visionary match maker with an unbiased mindset. Kevin must think he is uniquely qualified for such a role. However, before Kevin start his matchmaking task for the US and China, he should first settle the hostility between China and Australia, his native country.
- The challenge for Kevin’s peacemaking effort between the US and China, is the complete lack of trust between these G2. The US and China, under Biden Administration, have had several rounds of high-level exchanges already. Most of the time, each side just repeated “its bottom lines,” delegation from each side just do not seem to understand each other, not to mention accept these positions or coming up with comprises.
- Thus, if Kevin starts the peacemaking job, he must rebuild the trust between the US and China first. One challenge would be the two different political systems, China is very much centralized, and the government does speak for China. One does hear any comment from any national congressman or any state governor about US-China relation at all. But in the US, any senator, congressman, state governor, can criticize the President of the US. More often, US politicians also criticize foreign leaders from DC directly. Often the President of the US makes one foreign policy statement, then few senators and/or congressmen would offer very different opinions. These US lawmakers are used to debunk their President. But in terms foreign policy, who speaks for the US?
- US holds many elections, during the election, candidates have an open season and make public all kinds of positions, especially on foreign policy. US voters do understand these campaigning languages mean nothing. But now a days, with all kinds of IT, any piece of information/statement gets worldwide attention instantly. What are the consequences of these loose talks on US foreign relation?
- During the Obama administration, after the 2008 global financial crisis, the US and China established the Strategic and Economic Dialogue (SAED.) It was well managed with a Chinese Vice Premier as a chair along with the Secretary of State and Secretary of Treasury as US chairs. Annual meetings were held in DC and Beijing respectively, many bi-national subprograms were developed including the US-China Eco-Partnership. Unfortunately, by the end of Obama administration, the US initiated the Pivot to Pacific strategy, SAED disappeared. After Trump took the US Presidency in 2016: all bets were off. Biden is still stuck with Trump’s tariff war against China. So, Kevin does not have to come up with any new US-China “dedicated matching of cabinet-level senior officials on both sides.” A new version of the US-China SAED should suffice.
- Both the US and China should take Kevin seriously, he may be the only one can save the world. Good luck, Kevin!
A U.S.-China War Would Dwarf the Destruction in Ukraine. Both Sides Must Act Now to Avoid It
Kevin Rudd Mon, April 4, 2022, 5:30 AM
The world’s attention is rightly focused on the unfolding horror in Ukraine. Images of destruction and death wrought across that nation, and the harrowing experiences of refugees fleeing in their millions, testify to the tragic reality of war. And in the capitals of Europe, something once thought an impossibility—a large-scale 21st century war on the continent—has now become all too real, awakening once idealistic nations to the hard truth that such senselessness violence has not been eliminated from our modern, globalized world.
The scenes in Kyiv and Mariupol should serve as an abrupt wakeup call to those public figures who have talked loosely about inviting open warfare in our world. Most of them have never seen war themselves, or borne witness to its human cost.
In this grim moment it is important to think through, and coldly reassess the dangers presented by other potential conflicts that could be sparked by today’s geopolitical tensions. The most significant among these is, without doubt, the possibility of a war between the U.S. and China. It is a prospect that we must now acknowledge is no longer unthinkable.
Were such a conflict to begin, whether over a crisis in the Taiwan Strait, in the South China Sea, or any number of other unpredictable flashpoints, such a war would almost certainly be many times more destructive than what we are seeing in Ukraine today. It would be a conflict with vast scope for escalation across every domain, from the seas to space, and likely to draw in many other countries across the world, including America’s allies in the Pacific. Such a conflict would be a catastrophe for both countries—and for us all.
War between the United States and China is not inevitable. But U.S.-China relations continue to spiral downward, their strategic relationship adrift and buffeted by growing global crises. Muddling through will be wholly insufficient to avoid conflict. To avoid sleepwalking into a war, both countries must construct a joint strategic framework to maintain the peace—and quickly.
In my new book, The Avoidable War: the Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict between the US and Xi Jinping’s China, I offer one such framework, which I call “managed strategic competition.” The idea is relatively simple.
First, the United States and China must have a clear, granular understanding of each other’s irreducible strategic redlines in order to help prevent conflict through miscalculation. Each side must be persuaded to conclude that enhancing strategic predictability advantages both countries, strategic deception is futile, and strategic surprise is just plain dangerous. This will require a focused, detailed diplomatic understanding on Taiwan.
Second, both countries must then embrace the reality of their competition—that is, to channel their strategic rivalry into a competitive race to enhance their military, economic, and technological capabilities. Properly constrained, such competition can deter armed conflict rather than tempt either side to risk everything by prosecuting a dangerous and bloody war with unpredictable results. Such strategic competition would also enable both sides to maximize their political, economic, and ideological appeal to the rest of the world. The strategic rationale would be that the most competitive national system would ultimately prevail by becoming (or remaining) the world’s foremost superpower and eventually shaping the world in its image. May the best system win. And I’m confident which one I’d bet on.
Third, this framework would create the political space necessary for the two countries to continue to engage in strategic cooperation in the areas where their national interests align. These spheres include: climate change, preventing the next pandemic, and maintaining global financial stability.
Finally, for this compartmentalization of the relationship to have any prospect for success, it would need to be carefully and continuously managed by a dedicated matching of cabinet-level senior officials on both sides. For the U.S., this also means any such framework would need bipartisan buy-in so it could withstand the turbulence of domestic politics. For a priority this important, this should by no means be impossible.
This approach will face criticism in both Washington and Beijing for not being sufficiently sensitive to each side’s national interests. To some in Washington, it will smack of appeasement. This is false: cold, realistic deterrence is at the core of any comprehensive strategy toward China. Meanwhile many in Beijing will argue it doesn’t sufficiently account for China’s core interests on Taiwan, and broader national pride. But as Moscow just learned in Ukraine, war and economic devastation would suit China’s interests far less.
Ultimately, my challenge to critics of managed strategic competition, and putting guardrails to the U.S.-China relationship, is simple: Come up with something better. There is little time to waste.
I have long studied, lived in, and come to deeply respect both the United States and China. The prospect of war between the two nations would be catastrophic. And, watching the destruction in Ukraine, I cannot help but recall the memory of marching as a small child in our annual ANZAC Day parade—the Australian equivalent of Memorial Day—in our tiny country town with my father, who had fought in World War II, alongside elders who had fought in World War I.
The world managed to sleepwalk into the slaughter of that first Great War, which claimed more than 15 million lives. With our eyes now wide open, we will have no excuse if we fail to avoid walking into yet another global catastrophe today.