Ali Wyne Profile picture
18 Oct, 21 tweets, 3 min read
THREAD: Per an earlier tweet, I wanted to share some questions about great-power competition (GPC) that were inspired by this rich set of responses.…


Cc: @LKnightPolity
What makes a power "great"?

Is GPC a condition of geopolitics, a principle to orient U.S. foreign policy, a means of achieving vital U.S. national interests, or a strategy for advancing those interests?  Some combination thereof?

Can, does, and should U.S. foreign policy have an organizing principle?

To what extent does the United States require an external competitor or set of external competitors to discipline its foreign policy and imbue it with purpose?

Accepting a GPC-centric framework, over what and for what is the United States competing? In what functional domains is competition most acute? In which geographic regions?

How unique is the contemporary phase of GPC?  In competing with China, what lessons should the United States take from the run-up to World War I, the interwar period, and the Cold War?  What lessons should it not take?  Ditto for Russia.

To what extent does GPC effectively denote systemic competition with China?  How should the United States think about Russia within a GPC-centric framework?

What are China's long-run strategic objectives?  What material capabilities can it bring to bear in the service of those objectives?  What are its principal competitive assets and liabilities?  Ditto for Russia.

How should observers assess whether a given great power is rising, declining, or plateauing relative to others?

How are the sources of state power and influence evolving?

How does the shift of power from state to nonstate actors figure in a GPC-centric framework?

When and where should the United States compete with China?  When and where should it not?  How should it decide whether to respond to a given action on China's party?  Ditto for Russia.

In competing with China, on what issues, and to what extent, will the United States be able to make common cause with allies and partners?  How does the answer vary by issue?  Ditto for Russia.

How will the actions of middle powers affect the course of GPC?

What policies should the United States adopt to manage a deepening Sino-Russian rapprochement?

What would a U.S. victory in GPC look like?  A defeat?  If that binary does not obtain, and competition is instead permanent, what are some plausible-cum-sustainable steady states?

What are the strategic requirements for competitive cohabitation with China?  Ditto for Russia.

What cooperative spaces remain between the United States and China?  Which ones might reemerge? Ditto for Russia.

How should the management of GPC and the management of transnational challenges relate to one another in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy?

How will America's domestic challenges affect the capacity of U.S. policymakers and the willingness of the U.S. public to engage in GPC?


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More from @Ali_Wyne

2 Jul
THREAD: This illuminating piece by @davelawder affirms the need for deep dives that explore what "decoupling" between the United States and China would mean in practical terms and how, if at all, it'd be achieved.…

Despite the growing frequency with which the term is used, it's not often defined beyond broad brushstrokes, if at all.

One reason it's analytically limited is that it gives the impression of describing a binary phenomenon (that is, the U.S. and Chinese economies are either coupled or decoupled).

Read 10 tweets
19 Apr
THREAD: Many observers have ventured that America's response to the coronavirus pandemic could streamline China's path to replacing the United States as the world's preeminent power.

It's important, though, to assess both Beijing's capacity and its willingness to do so.

Beyond confronting a poor demographic outlook and an increasingly inefficient growth model, China is surrounded by highly capable democracies, has only transactional partners, and confronts growing global disquiet.

Regardless of how maximalist China's objectives may be, such obstacles, internal and external, will constrain its trajectory.

It's worth dwelling a bit on the last of these (that is, growing global disquiet).

Read 11 tweets
10 Apr
THREAD: The United States and China are both incurring significant reputational damage, albeit for different reasons.

Middle powers such as Taiwan and South Korea, by contrast, continue to be exemplars for the rest of the world.

A U.S.-China power transition seems unlikely, for while Washington is in relative decline, it maintains significant strengths; and while Beijing has undergone an extraordinary resurgence, it possesses critical liabilities.

I try to explain here.…

While China has grown more vocal in expressing its dissatisfaction with the U.S.-led order, it has yet to propose a fully developed alternative, let alone promulgate one that would command widespread traction.

Read 9 tweets
19 Mar
THREAD: I contributed an essay to the new issue of @TWQgw that weaves together several thoughts I've been trying to develop on formulating a more sustainable U.S. approach to China, and I wanted to outline them in this thread.…

The piece is part of a package, "Decoupling Global Order?", that features an essay by @Joe_Nye and another by @AaronFriedberg and Charles Boustany.

I'm very grateful to @atjlennon for helping me refine my thinking and for permitting me to flesh out my thoughts at length.

The piece argues that the abstract desire to get tougher on China shouldn't distract from deciding what long-term modus vivendi the United States would like to achieve with its foremost competitor and articulating what strategies it might pursue to get there.

Read 15 tweets
15 Mar
THREAD: Here are some books I'm looking forward to reading over the coming months, arranged in ascending chronological order:

@CooleyOnEurasia and @dhnexon, "Exit from Hegemony: The Unraveling of the American Global Order" (4/1)…

.@kylelascurettes, "Orders of Exclusion: Great Powers and the Strategic Sources of Foundational Rules in International Relations" (4/3)…

Stephen D. Krasner, "How to Make Love to a Despot: An Alternative Foreign Policy for the Twenty-First Century" (4/7)…

Read 25 tweets
31 Jan
THREAD: Question for the Twitterverse: what major reports have been published in the past year or so that aim to articulate a new U.S. strategy towards China?

Here are the ones I have on my list so far:

.@elyratner et al., "Rising to the China Challenge: Renewing American Competitiveness in the Indo-Pacific" (Washington, DC: Center for a New American Security, 2020)…

Leah Bitounis and @JonathonD_Price (eds.), "The Struggle for Power: U.S.-China Relations in the 21st Century" (Washington, DC: Aspen Strategy Group, 2020)…

Read 6 tweets

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