Book Description

After leading the world economy for a century, the United States faces the first real challenge to its supremacy in the rise of China. Is economic (or broader) conflict, well beyond the trade war that has already erupted, inevitable between the world’s two superpowers? Will their clash produce a new economic leadership vacuum akin to the 1930s when Great Britain abandoned its leadership role and a rising United States was unwilling to step in to save the global order?

In this sweeping and authoritative analysis of the competition for global economic leadership between China and the United States, C. Fred Bergsten warns of the disastrous consequences of hostile confrontation between these two superpowers. He paints a frightening picture of a world economy adopting Chinese characteristics in which the United States, after Trump abdicated much of its role, engages in a self-defeating attempt to “decouple” from its rival. Drawing on more than 50 years of active participation as a policymaker and close observation as a scholar, Bergsten calls on China to exercise constructive global leadership and on the United States to reject a policy of containment, avoid a new Cold War and instead pursue “conditional competitive cooperation” to work with its allies and China to lead, rather than destroy, the world economy.

C. Fred Bergsten is nonresident senior fellow and director emeritus at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, of which he was founding director from its creation in 1981 through 2012. He was also economic deputy to Dr. Henry Kissinger at the National Security Council, Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury for International Affairs, Chairman of APEC’s Eminent Persons Group and a Member of the President’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations. Bergsten was one of the most widely quoted think-tank economists in the world and was called “one of the ten people who can change your life” by USA Today. He is the author, coauthor, or editor of 46 books.

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Editorial Reviews

Americans may be uncomfortable with the lurch toward self-fulfilling Cold War thinking on China. But discomfort is not a plan. C. Fred Bergsten’s seminal new book draws on his five decades of experience as a leading global economic thinker and doer to outline the most compelling alternative in the economic sphere yet put forward.

Lawrence H. Summers, former Secretary of the Treasury and President Emeritus of Harvard University

In this masterful opus, Fred Bergsten explores the modus vivendi of the United States and China in the age of global leadership vacuum. He argues that liberal internationalism still serves the enlightened self-interest for both countries, as well as for the rest of the world. His vision is solidly anchored with geopolitical realism and pragmatic idealism.

Yoichi Funabashi

Escalating tensions between the world’s two largest economies have fuelled concerns of a repeat of the 1930’s disaster. Esteemed economist C. Fred Bergsten analyzes what’s at stake and brilliantly outlines policy options to avoid these risks. A must-read for all of us, and particularly those in government today.

Carla A. Hills, Chair & CEO, Hills & Company International Consultants

An outstanding work… If the US and China ever find a way out of their current conflict, the balanced analysis and policy recommendations in this book will have played a fundamental role.

Barry Naughton, University of California, San Diego

No one is better suited than Fred Bergsten to undertake this critical study of US-China economic competition. It will be the defining challenge of the 21st-century for both nations, and the prescriptions he lays down are well-suited to avoid a trade war neither side can win.

James Stavridis, Admiral, US Navy (Retired); Vice Chair, Global Affairs, The Carlyle Group; Chair of the Board of Trustees, the Rockefeller Foundation

An exceptional book by one of the world’s foremost experts on the global economy.

Robert B. Zoellick, Former President of the World Bank, US Trade Representative, and Deputy Secretary of State, and author of America in the World


List of Figures, Tables, and Boxes
PART I: The Setting
1 A New Global Economic Order?
2 Why Global Economic Leadership Matters
PART II: The Superpowers
3 China’s Capabilities
4 China’s Aspirations
5 America’s Capabilities
6 America’s Will to Lead
PART III: The Systemic Alternatives
7 The Leadership Vacuum: A G-0 World?
8 G-1 Chinese Economic Pre-Eminence
9 Effective Co-Leadership: A US-China G-2
10 Toward Conditional Competitive Cooperation

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