"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Fareed speaks with Joseph Nye, the former dean and now a professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and Noah Feldman, a professor of international law at the Harvard Law School, about U.S. ties with China.
Noah, you say that relations between China and the United States are almost destined to get cooler, perhaps worse.
Feldman: The fact is that the U.S. remains the sole global superpower. And it’s not in China's interests, in the long term, for that to be the case in the future. China wants, at least within Asia, for itself to be the regional superpower. At the same time, what separates this from heading for a Cold War direction is that we’re deeply cooperative with China. We still need them to buy our debt and they still need us to buy their goods. And that’s going to continue to be the case going forward. So we’re both cooperating and competing at once.
Joe, this is a kind of strange new world, in that, if you think about the Cold War, we had no trade relations with the Soviet Union. We actually sanctioned them. So can you imagine a situation with the world’s two great trading partners also ending up with an adversarial military relationship?
Nye: It could happen, but on the other hand, there are strong incentives to keep it under control. Because there’s such interdependence between the two countries, I think there’s a strong interest on both sides to keep this from getting out of control. We’re going to be able to manage this relationship if we don’t succumb to neuroses and paranoia, and if the Chinese don’t succumb to hubris.
It’s not rising in a vacuum and it’s not rising in the Western Hemisphere, which was a kind of relatively calm place. It’s rising in Asia. And every time it rises, the Japanese get scared or angry. The South Koreans, the Vietnamese, the Philippines, the Indians – even the Australians. What does that look like?
Feldman: Well, I think the relevant strategic question is can those countries do anything about the fact that they’re threatened by China? And, you know, with the possible exception of a future Japan that armed itself in a more serious way, none of those countries really has anything like the military capacity to stand up to China. They are reliant upon us to stand up to China.
And here’s where things get tricky, because the cyber attacks that have been such a topic of discussion, both presumably in the summit and more broadly, have really shown that you can close the military technology gap much faster today than you could have 25 or 50 years ago. So in that world, where they can really close the gap with greater speed, the countries in Asia have really little choice but to look to us. And that does put us on a potentially confrontational footing. I will also just add that those other countries still have close economic ties to China. And in many ways, their ties are getting closer to China than they are to us. So they’re in a paradoxical position, too. And that’s what a cool war looks like, where those countries are tied to us for security, but increasingly tied to China for their economies.