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October 17, 2018

CHANGE: Signs mount of a fundamental shift in US-China ties.

With efforts to resolve the tit-for-tat tariff battle in limbo, Vice President Pence this month served public notice that the US sees trade as just one grievance among many against China’s economic, military, geopolitical, and human rights policies. And he explicitly questioned a core assumption of US policy over the past two decades: that support for modernization in China and its integration into the world economy would temper Chinese leaders politically and provide the basis for a relationship of cooperation. Mr. Pence said, in effect, that ship had now sailed.

A new cold war, if that’s what it becomes, will likely look far different from the first. The Soviet Union was an underdeveloped country with an outsized military and a fearsome nuclear arsenal. China is also a nuclear power, and has been gradually building up its military reach in recent years. Yet with China, the root source of competition and of steadily growing friction has been an economic one. More specifically, it’s about how China has been using its growing economic might.

It’s interesting that Ned Temko should bring up the Soviet Union’s lack of economic might, when for decades we had been assured (always by the Left) that the Soviets were on the brink of overtaking us — if they already hadn’t. Given China’s debt explosion and coming demographic implosion, you have to wonder if they’re as economically mighty as so many people think they are.