Is time more on America’s or China’s side?

Though the wording may vary between “containing”, “deterring”, “decoupling” or “de-risking”, the Washington consensus is that China represents the pre-eminent threat to America. Changes of administration scarcely matter on this point. In 2019 Joe Biden slammed Donald Trump, then the president, for threatening to impose tariffs on Chinese imports, only to impose some stiffer ones himself in May. The China challenge has prompted a barrage of punditry; since March at least two books have been published whose titles declare a “new cold war” with China.

All the chatter makes the challenge of offering a unique and coherent take all the harder. But “World on the Brink” is a breezy and mercifully jargon-light book and an excellent source for the layman. Dmitri Alperovitch, chairman of Silverado Policy Accelerator, a think-tank in Washington, and Garrett Graff, a journalist, neatly sketch the relevant history and current predicament, quote intelligently from a range of top “China hands” and suggest a number of prescriptions. Some of these are already happening, such as controlling the export of chip technology, diversifying and securing supply chains and funding research in artificial intelligence. Others are not.