Is The US-China Rivalry More Dangerous Than The Cold War?

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Zachary Zeck via The Diplomat,

The prominent realist international relations scholar John Mearsheimer says there is a greater possibility of the U.S. and China going to war in the future than there was of a Soviet-NATO general war during the Cold War.

Mearsheimer made the comments at a lunch hosted by the Center for the National Interest in Washington, DC on Monday. The lunch was held to discuss Mearsheimer’s recent article in The National Interest on U.S. foreign policy towards the Middle East. However, much of the conversation during the Q&A session focused on U.S. policy towards Asia amid China’s rise, a topic that Mearsheimer addresses in greater length in the updated edition of his classic treatise, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, which is due out this April.

In contrast to the Middle East, which he characterizes as posing little threat to the United States, Mearsheimer said that the U.S. will face a tremendous challenge in Asia should China continue to rise economically. The University of Chicago professor said that in such a scenario it is inevitable that the U.S. and China will engage in an intense strategic competition, much like the Soviet-American rivalry during the Cold War.

While stressing that he didn’t believe a shooting war between the U.S. and China is inevitable, Mearsheimer said that he believes a U.S.-China Cold War will be much less stable than the previous American-Soviet one. His reasoning was based on geography and its interaction with nuclear weapons.

Specifically, the center of gravity of the U.S.-Soviet competition was the central European landmass. This created a rather stable situation as, according to Mearsheimer, anyone that war gamed a NATO-Warsaw conflict over Central Europe understood that it would quickly turn nuclear. This gave both sides a powerful incentive to avoid a general conflict in Central Europe as a nuclear war would make it very likely that both the U.S. and Soviet Union would be “vaporized.”

The U.S.-China strategic rivalry lacks this singular center of gravity. Instead, Mearsheimer identified four potential hotspots over which he believes the U.S. and China might find themselves at war: the Korean Peninsula, the Taiwan Strait and the South and East China Seas. Besides featuring more hotspots than the U.S.-Soviet conflict, Mearsheimer implied that he felt that decision-makers in Beijing and Washington might be more confident that they could engage in a shooting war over one of these areas without it escalating to the nuclear threshold.

For instance, he singled out the Sino-Japanese dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, of which he said there was a very real possibility that Japan and China could find themselves in a shooting war sometime in the next five years. Should a shooting war break out between China and Japan in the East China Sea, Mearsheimer said he believes the U.S. will have two options: first, to act  as an umpire in trying to separate the two sides and return to the status quo ante; second, to enter the conflict on the side of Japan.

Mearsheimer said that he thinks it’s more likely the U.S. would opt for the second option because a failure to do so would weaken U.S. credibility in the eyes of its Asian allies. In particular, he believes that America trying to act as a mediator would badly undermine Japanese and South Korean policymakers’ faith in America’s extended deterrence. Since the U.S. does not want Japan or South Korea to build their own nuclear weapons, Washington would be hesitant to not come out decisively on the side of the Japanese in any war between Tokyo and Beijing.

Mearsheimer did add that the U.S. is in the early stages of dealing with a rising China, and the full threat would not materialize for at least another ten years. He also stressed that his arguments assumed that China will be able to maintain rapid economic growth. Were China’s growth rates to streamline or even turn negative, then the U.S. would remain the preponderant power in the world and actually see its relative power grow through 2050.

In characteristically blunt fashion, Mearsheimer said that he hopes that China’s economy falters or collapses, as this would eliminate a potentially immense security threat for the United States and its allies. Indeed, Mearsheimer said he was flabbergasted by Americans and people in allied states who profess wanting to see China continue to grow economically. He reminded the audience that at the peak of its power the Soviet Union possessed a much smaller GDP than the United States. Given that China has a population size over four times larger than America’s, should it reach a GDP per capita that is comparable to Taiwan or Hong Kong today, it will be a greater potential threat to the United States than anything America has previously dealt with.

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LetThemEatRand's picture

Fucking Neo-Con propaganda bullshit if I ever saw it.  

nope-1004's picture

When's the war going to start you say?  How about this perspective:  Tell me when it ends!!

Just because we're not firing missles from drones at their mobile scuds doesn't mean a major dispute isn't happening in real time.  Look at the gold movement and that's all you need to know about China's intentions going forward.


LetThemEatRand's picture

And CFR member Mearsheimer is peddling the threat of hot war to solve the problem.   That's what they do.  "Hey guys, country X is threatening our privately owned banking cartel strangehold on the world.  Let's bomb them or at least convince the public they are ready to bomb us."

IridiumRebel's picture

Hey, whatever gets the MIC their trillion pounds of flesh.

LetThemEatRand's picture

Exactly, and of course the Fed and its owners profit from the MIC.   The war rhetoric is ratcheting up because China is hoarding gold.

suteibu's picture

It's all the same people. 

Ignatius's picture

The 'Cold War' never ended.

The battle for resources and markets never ends.

Raymond K Hessel's picture

If we do go to war, it will be over Africa, not Taiwan.

suteibu's picture

I agree.  Not Taiwan.  Not Korea.

kliguy38's picture

You're starting to miss the point again.......its NOT US going to war.....its THEM sending us to a conflict to generate massive debt and they control that AND the profit from the MIC........THEY OWN the MIC........THEY OWN THE BANKS.......and they OWN YOU...Africa is only another EXCUSE for conflict. We don't give a chit about Africa......THEY do....if it means war

TruthInSunshine's picture

John Mearsheimer is a righteous dude, brilliant scholar and is spot on his analysis.

He was chased out of The University of Chicago, as was Stephen Walt from Harvard, by AIPAC, Alan Dershowitz, the ADL & Abe Foxmann, and a bunch of other batshit crazy ultra-Zionist Jews, for the crime of publishing an essay (with Walt) that DARED TO QUESTION WHETHER THE RIGHT WING JEWISH LOBBY IN THE U.S. HAS UNDUE AND DISPROPORTIONATE INFLUENCE OVER AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY, TO THE DETRIMENT OF AMERICANS.

How dare he!


LetThemEatRand's picture

Seems like this piece is an effort to get back into the fold.

Handful of Dust's picture

The China-USA "heat" is nothing more then rhetoric. After all, most of those top politicans there plan to retire to Kalifornia McMansions. No need to rock the boat too hard...just enough to give appearances to the masses.

Savyindallas's picture

agreed  -I can't believe all the negative comments about Mearsheimer. He andd Stephen Walt are brave patriots who courageously took on the Israeli Lobby. Mearsheimer is simply talking US National interest   -meaning the U.S. -Americans   -not the neocons and Zionists whose allegiance lies with their tribesmen (and not America and Americans) and who are running this country into the ground. 

LetThemEatRand's picture

Explain to me how pushing the idea of impending military conflict with China is Pro-U.S. citizen.  Bear in mind that some of us don't think the Zionest Jews control the world, and that it has more to do with long-standing generations-old Western royalty and oil-rich Arabs (also useful idiots to the old Western money) that use zionists as a front to achieve their broader objectives.   And feel free to comment on why the King of Saudi Arabia wanted the United States to invade Syria and almost succeeded.

TruthInSunshine's picture

In case you didn't notice - and it's clear that you didn't - he's in no way "pushing the idea of impending military conflict with China."

He's warning that the statistical odds of an actual hot war with China are now greater than they ever were with the Soviet Union, and that the odds of such a hot war with China increase proportionally with Chinese economic growth (for the specific reasons he cites in easy to read and understand format).

Finally, he's sensibly opining that it would be very prudent, given this dynamic, for the U.S. to focus like a laser beam on maintaining absolute military superiority relative to China, not for offensive purposes, but in order to ensure it is always able to effectively defend its citizens, allies and global economic and military interests.

What, exactly, don't you understand and/or agree with regarding this?

LetThemEatRand's picture

What, exactly, I don't understand and/or agree with regarding this is the idea that China could threaten the United States and its thousands of ICBMs.  It's a ridiculous proposition that China poses any military threat whatsoever to a country that could lay waste to the world with its nuclear arsenal.  This whole idea of nuclear armed nations fighting each other with conventional arms is disproven by history, or perhaps you can give me an example since 1945.  China will not engage in a direct military conflict with the United States and vice-versa.  To suggest otherwise is to push an agenda.   This guy is smarter than that, therefore he's a fucking liar with an agenda.

TruthInSunshine's picture

Why do you assume a potential military conflict or war would necessarily be of a type where ICBMs would be deployed or even of any deterrent effect?

Full-fledged nuclear war with ICBMs is probably the least likely type of modern war to be fought given advances in technology and want we've co e to learn about game theory.

China is NOT an irrational nation-state that would be inclined to engage in some sort of mutually assured destruction.

LetThemEatRand's picture

So you agree that this whole concept of war between US and China is bullshit?  If not, what laser beam of conventional warfare do we need to focus on in order to prevent the non-existent threat of war?  And why are you defending this guy who plainly says otherwise?  Which U.S. state do you think they could invade before nukes came into play?   This is Neo-Con bullshit you're reading.  There is as much chance of China or any country invading and/or declaring war on the U.S. as Yellen tellin' us why the Fed does what it does.

TruthInSunshine's picture

No. The possibility of military conflict between the U.S. & China is very real, especially given China's very strained relations with Japan & Taiwan over territorial and other claims, in light of our treaties with those two nations obligating us to defend them.

And I think you completely miss the mark on Mearsheimer; he's anything but a neocon or hawk. He's actively railed against U.S. Military campaigns in Vietnam and the Middle East.

That he states what he does about the U.S. relationship with China in the military capability context is born out of a desire to stave off a future conflict, not to position for inducing one.

KickIce's picture

A couple of things which I think pertain to almost every country at this point.   (1) As economies deteriorate they might not want war but they do NEED war.  Besides, what better way to solve the high youth unemployment then to send them to the front lines against one another.  (2) I think you’re overestimating the sociopath’s ability to remain reasonable during the upcoming shit storm.  We’re obviously dealing with huge egos, huge amounts of money printed and limited resourses.

Re the cold war you can probably argue that the same unsustainable debt that brought the Russians down is now happening to the US.  The shoe is now on the other foot.


0b1knob's picture

The Chinese leadership has always feared the chaos of war.   More importanrly they fear that war might lead to them being displaced.   

Why should they go to war with Japan now?   All they have to do is wait.   The demographic collapse of Japan will only accelerate.   Japan get weaker and China gets stronger with each passing year.  Eventually the conquest of Japan will just be a small scale operation involving a "humanitarian" occcupation (for the natives own good of course) to do a little nation building of a depopulated radioactive third world country called Japan which used to be important for some reason no one but historians will remember.

LetThemEatRand's picture

Fucking China bots are out now.   Fuck all of you.   The United States was once the island of Freedom and opportunity in a world of despots.  Hopefully we will be again.   And hopefully the rest of the world will join us and stop sucking the ball sacks of the oligarchs.

new game's picture

and i add;its the econ/money stupid. he clearly states that we are empowering the enemy with the transfer of intellectual property and manufacturing. our fascist leaders have sold out to short term greed. pegging the yuan is the key and nafta.  sold out. corp tax law could have prevented this transfer to the lower wage populations(add vietnam, cambodia to the list). congress uses tax manipulation as a basis for manipulation>basically an ongoing transfer from majority to top 10 percent.

these fucks can live anywhere and will vanish if conflict breaks out. They have already won. 

see, it is about a .001 percent contolling the fiat/lifeblood of econ backed by force.  why would they fuck with that? of course it can spin to war. but really are they(bankers and ceos-including billionaires from china) that stupid? maybe.

the club has mutual interests. isn't china buying merica for cheap, manipulated currency they have gamed from us by our consumer driven econ with debt that they suported by purchase. we handed them the keys to control(treasuries), our achilles heal. so whos interest do these fucks have?

i would suggest, any conflict is these .001 ers against the rest. all else is an illusion of control...

applelover's picture

Your point is hard for him to understand cause there isn't enoug hatred in it for him.

TBT or not TBT's picture

Nukes on both sides mean no direct war. Proxy wars, yes, direct wars no. Just like the NATO vs USSR "cold" war rivalry. I put scare quotes there because lots of third world folks can tell you it was warmer than reported.

suteibu's picture

They already have massive debt.

The point is, there is no use getting worked up over places like Taiwan or Korea (when talking about conflict between the US and China).


Sudden Debt's picture

China shouldn't be seen as the enemy.

They've got bigger problems domesticly.

Millions of expats and immigrants, a massive muslim problem and unemployment. And than there's the pollution problem.

I'm thinking more of a implosion and a breakup of China like Russia at the end of the cold war when they where broke.

TBT or not TBT's picture

Yes, and don't forget the hangover from their forty year war on fertility: a demographic implosion composed of rapid aging and too many men per woman*.

*they "abort" girls disproportionnaly in China, scare quotes because without a sonogram, we are talking about very very late term, or what in the west we would label "murder" or "criminal neglect with intent to kill").

Skateboarder's picture

It's the scramble for Africa part deux. More fighting, more guns, now with drones! Join us next week on EARTH!

Anusocracy's picture

Timely quote from an appropriate time:

"Whether the mask is labelled Fascism, Democracy, or Dictatorship of the Proletariat, our great adversary remains the Apparatus—the bureaucracy, the police, the military. Not the one facing us across the frontier or the battlelines, which is not so much our enemy as our brother's enemy, but the one that calls itself our protector and makes us its slaves. No matter what the circumstances, the worst betrayal will always be to subordinate ourselves to this Apparatus, and to trample underfoot, in its service, all human values in ourselves and in others."
— Simone Weil, Politics, Spring 1945

"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that numbers of people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. . . Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem."
—Howard Zinn

new game's picture

just say fuck you-go fight the war you started-oh, and i got a yellow ribbon on my cock-gently untie it and suck away!

TBT or not TBT's picture

Howard Zinn might say a dozen truths and make an impassioned conclusion out of it once and a while, but his overall intent is EVIL. Fuck Howard Zinn and his fellow travelers.

IridiumRebel's picture

This fucker on a MSM story today was trying to say that America has been suckered into playing world police. Lightning shot outta my fingers as I typed my response. Yeah. We bomb for the children.

Ignatius's picture

Now stand and salute the flag.

TBT or not TBT's picture

Show me where Obama or the Dems have exhorted anyone to salute the flag in the last few decades. What's that? Oh it's crickets. In fact it's a hard thing for him to stick a flag on his lapel or salute his marines well or any such thing. And yet he nevertheless is a pretty nasty warmonger. Just not a patriotic one. Like a very troubling proportion of the modern Dem party, and a lesser but still fucking high proportion of the R's. Take Paul Ryan, please.

IridiumRebel's picture

"One might counter that they still cannot attack across the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans and reach the shores of the United States. True, but if a distant great power were to dominate Asia or Europe the way America dominates the Western Hemisphere, it would then be free to roam around the globe and form alliances with countries in the Western Hemisphere that have an adversarial relationship with the United States." (Mearsheimer, 6)

John J. Mearsheimer, “America Unhinged,” The National Interest, No. 129 (January/February 2014), pp. 9-30.

LetThemEatRand's picture

It reminds me of the Mob discussing a rival gang.  Oh right.  Because that's exactly what it is.   And We the People are paying protection money to our local Mob.

Fedaykinx's picture

you're right, that's exactly what it is.  now extend the analogy a bit further and explain to me why you don't understand TIS's point about maintaining conventional superiority over the chinese mob as a legit priority.  not really trying to be a smartass either.

Anusocracy's picture

Exactly the type of person that is an enemy to civilization.

401K of Dooom's picture

He's a graduate of the long, grey line and never saw combat in Vietname?  The Phrigging Pussy!  He's on my black list now!

The Chief's picture

Its likely that Boeing, Lockheed and Pratt have given last years' secrets to China to keep us in a race. We are living in a nightmare. Somebody wake me up when we've been taken down to parade rest competely. We need to start over. A reset as a nation.

Urban Redneck's picture

Mearsheimer is some "scholar" and yet he can't understand why the Reich Sklaven would not be opposed to some country increasing in stature to combat German hegemony.

So did the cracker really find his PhD in a Crackerjack box, or is this one his "Strategic" lies?

Overfed's picture

The Chinese don't want a shooting war with the US under any circumstance. We're their biggest export market by a huge margin, and a land invasion of the US is completely fuckin' impossible. The only way we (royal we) go to war with China is if we (royal we) provoke it. The new owners can post all the warmongering shit they like, but you can count on the commenters here to keep 'em honest.

IridiumRebel's picture

I read the financial articles. These shits I go straight to comments.

satoshi911's picture

The Chinese are entreprenures they have work to do, money to make.

They don't need to steal, they already bought Africa and South America, and soon the Chinese will buy the USA.


strangewalk's picture

I can't believe you're quoting that discredited a**hole Mao...he was 200% wrong about everything and -200% right

The.Harmless.Who's picture



The gold movement isn't China's war against America. 


It is the US Govt and their Zionist Fed's war against the American people.