On 8 September 2020, RSIS co-organised with Hinrich Foundation a webinar titled “Will Deteriorating US-China Relations Precipitate Serious Military Conflict in Asia?” The webinar featured a panel comprising Dr Alan Dupont, Research Fellow, Hinrich Foundation and Chief Executive Officer, Cognoscenti Group; Dr Amy Searight, Senior Associate for Asia, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC; Prof Zhu Feng, Professor of International Relations and Executive Director, China Center for Collaborative Studies of the South China Sea, Nanjing University; and Prof Joseph Liow, RSIS Research, Adviser Tan Kah Kee Chair in Comparative and International Politics, and Dean, College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. The session was moderated by Dr Andrew Staples, Director, Outreach and Research, Hinrich Foundation.
The panellists ruminated at length over the “New Cold War” label that has been popularly circulated in the recent discourse over the intensifying US-China tensions. While parallels with the post-1945 Cold War between the West and Soviet bloc were observed, panellists agreed that there were crucial contextual differences characterising US-China relations today. In particular, these included the economic interdependence between the two contending major powers, as well as globalisation.
It was noted that smaller and weaker states have agency in their strategic choices, and are not necessarily driven to take sides with either China or the United States. Finally, the panellists examined the prospect of a military conflict between China and the United States. A war between the two powers is believed to be possible, despite the low likelihood. Globalisation and economic interdependence, the panellists pointed out, may have reduced the likelihood of war but could not completely rule out the potential of it happening. Miscalculation and misjudgement by the political and military leaders of both sides, they contended, could still result in accidental conflict between the two.
Catch it here on the RSISVideoCast YouTube channel: