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Avoiding War with China: Two Nations, One World, Amitai Etzioni

Reviewed by James Steinberg

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Amitai Etzioni's new book is an important contribution to the burgeoning literature on the future of Sino-U.S. relations. Like many other recent entries in this sweepstakes, Etzioni is concerned by the deteriorating relations between the world's two dominant nations. However, unlike those whom he terms “adversarians,” he contends that the friction is less a consequence of long-term Chinese plans to supplant the United States (Michael Pillsbury, China’ Secret Strategy to Replace the United States), or the structural tensions inherent in the relations with an established a rising power (Graham Allison's Destined for War), and more a result of misguided policy choices that are creating unnecessary friction and a downward spiral to conflict.

Etzioni's diagnosis of the current state of tensions is based on two broad propositions: first, the “adversarian” camp, which he believes dominates U.S. policy thinking, is too quick to label Chinese behavior as aggressive and destabilizing, and second, as a consequence, the United States has adopted a set of policies—what he terms “multifaceted containment”—that unnecessarily stoke a zero-sum competition with China. In support of the first proposition (laid out in Chapter 3, “How Aggressive Is China?”), Etzioni draws a distincti

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