The US needs a better middle road on China

Two recent open letters from academics and policy analysts have staked out positions for the future of US-China relations that seem diametrically opposed. In fact, both camps rehearse older approaches, and neither offers what the United States, China and the world now need from the relationship: both common ground and confrontation, rooted in human values and focused on shared global problems.

The first letter says that "China is not an enemy" and advocates returning to the engagement policy of the past four decades. I signed this letter, whose points are eminently sensible, whatever you think of China, because the alternative - demonisation of China - is dangerous. But I agree with critics of this approach who argue that for decades "engagement" sidelined human rights in the name of trade, without assuring progress in either.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2019, with the headline 'The US needs a better middle road on China'. Print Edition | Subscribe