Flashpoints in the US-China Relationship

A conversation between Bonnie Glaser and Dr. Jean-Pierre Cabestan discussing flashpoints in the Indo-Pacific that could result in military conflict between the United States and China. The content pulls heavily from Dr. Cabestan's recent book titled Facing China: The Prospect for War and Peace.
February 20, 2024

Many books about US-China strategic competition have been published in recent years. This episode will focus on Facing China: The Prospect for War and Peace, which examines various flashpoints in the Indo-Pacific that could result in military conflict.

There are several reasons why this book stands out: First, it includes an examination of debates within China about China’s national interests; Second, it focuses not only on the challenges of major wars, but also on China’s gray-zone strategy of deliberately pursuing its interests in ways that stay below the threshold that would trigger a US military response. And finally, it assesses the applicability of the Thucydides Trap to the US-China relationship. The Thucydides Trap concept was coined by Graham Allison who examined historical cases in which a rising power threatened to displace a ruling power in his book Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? Allison concluded that in the majority of historical cases the outcome was war.

This book is especially interesting because it is written by a European expert who has deep knowledge of Taiwan, mainland China, and the United States: Jean-Pierre Cabestan. He is an emeritus senior researcher at the French Center for Scientific Research in Paris and an emeritus professor political science at the Department of Government and International Studies at Hone Kong Baptist University, and a visiting senior fellow at GMF.

Episode Highlights:

[02:07] Revisiting the Thucydides Trap

[03:53] Why was China fascinated by this concept?

[05:26] Reasons for the Risk of War Increasing

[06:33] The US-China Cold War and its Characteristics

[09:03] China’s Gray-Zone Activities

[10:53] Where has China’s gray-zone strategy been the most successful?

[12:37] Unifying Taiwan with China through Gray-Zone Activities

[14:42] Chinese Use of Force in the Taiwan Strait in the 2020s

[16:17] China’s Ambitions in the International Arena

[17:40] Future Overseas Operations of the PLA