The U.S. and China: Cold War, or hot air?


This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with Ali Wyne, a policy analyst at the Rand Corporation, about the big picture in U.S.-China relations. Are we already in a cold war? Wyne gives a spirited argument that we’re not — and makes the case that the interconnectedness between China and the U.S. can still serve as effective ballast in the relationship.

What to listen for on this week’s Sinica:

5:13: Ali begins the conversation by elaborating on his argument against the use of a “cold war” trope in the modern U.S.-China context, which he wrote about in a conversation he spearheaded on ChinaFile.

13:27: Jeremy suggests alternatives to the cold war framing: “The decoupling? The freeze? The small ice age?” U.S.-China relations have undoubtedly shifted dramatically over the past two years, but how should China-watchers go about characterizing the shift? Kaiser, Jeremy, and Ali discuss, among other things, the November 2018 Hoover Institute publication, Chinese Influence & American Interests: Promoting Constructive Vigilance.

22:58: Ali describes what could happen if further deterioration in U.S.-China relations occurs: “Decoupling is not a fait accompli…but what I worry about is that trade interdependence has been one of the few phenomena that has introduced some stability in a relationship between two countries that organically have little, if anything, in common. One of the few similarities between the United States and China, which actually amplifies their differences, is that both countries are convinced of their exceptionalism.”

33:27: Jeremy observes: “A few years ago, shortly after Xi Jinping came to power, Kaiser started calling it the ‘new truculence,’ which was a word we used on the show for many years, but it just doesn’t seem right anymore because it’s no longer ‘new,’ it’s more like China has gone full honey badger and just doesn’t give a f*** what the West thinks.” Jeremy and Ali discuss Beijing’s newfound confidence, and its potential geopolitical ramifications.

40:50: Ali cites an article by Samuel Huntington from the Winter 1988/89 edition of Foreign Affairs, The U.S. – decline or renewal?, where he urges the U.S. away from trying to “out-China China,” and encourages using this moment to push the U.S. to become a “more dynamic version of our best self.”


Jeremy: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, by Samin Nosrat. Particularly useful for returning expats from China who have forgotten how to cook.

Kaiser: “What Donald Trump and Dick Cheney got wrong about America,” an article about American exceptionalism in The Atlantic.

Ali: The November/December 2018 issue of Foreign Affairs, with essays focused on nuclear weapons, and Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony, by Kori Schake.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.