Welcome to the World Without the West

It’s become standard practice for U.S. officials to describe the future of Sino-American ties as the central drama of international politics. In early November, just ahead of President Obama’s summit with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, Secretary of State John Kerry told an audience in Washington that, “The U.S.-China relationship is the most consequential in the world today, period, and it will do much to determine the shape of the 21st century.” National Security Adviser Susan Rice took to the Twittersphere shortly after touching down in Beijing in September to reiterate the oft-repeated phrase that, “Most major global challenges of 21st century cannot be addressed effectively without U.S. and China working together.”

This isn’t just diplomatic courtesy; it’s a core signal of how American foreign-policy makers see the world. The dominant framing in Washington is that the United States and China will in the final analysis sink or swim together, and carry most of the rest of the world with them. If the two powers manage to get their relationship right and cooperate effectively, things go well; if they don’t, then the coming decades will be difficult to navigate for just about everyone. Continue reading