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The US-China relationship is vital to global stability. Good thing it isn't doomed.

President Obama and China's incoming president Xi Jinping should meet to revalidate and re-energize the US-China relationship. Whether this relationship is vital and robust, or weak and full of suspicion, will affect the whole world.

Outgoing Chinese President Hu Jintao, right, and President Obama, left, take their places with other leaders for a photo during the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, June 18, 2012. Op-ed contributor Zbigniew Brzezinski says, 'America and China should very deliberatively not let their economic competition turn into political hostility.'

Carolyn Kaster/AP/File

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Today, many anxious voices fear that the emerging American-Chinese duopoly must inherently generate hostility and lead to inevitable conflict between the world’s two largest economies. However, I do not believe that wars for global domination are a serious prospect in what is now the post-hegemonic age.

Admittedly, the historical record is dismal. Since the onset of global politics 200 years ago, four long wars were fought over the domination of Europe: 1812-1815) due to Napoleonic ambitions; 1914-18 due to Germanic imperial frustration; 1939-45 due to Nazi madness; and from the late 1940s to 1991 due to worldwide Soviet ambitions. Each of these wars could have resulted in global hegemony by a sole superpower.

Yet several developments over recent years have changed the equation. Nuclear weapons make hegemonic wars too destructive, and thus victory meaningless. One-sided national economic triumphs cannot be achieved in the increasingly interwoven global economy without precipitating calamitous consequences for everyone. Further, the populations of the world have now awakened politically and are not so easily subdued, even by the most powerful. Last but not least, neither the United State nor China is driven by hostile ideologies.

Moreover, despite our very different political systems, both of our societies are, in different ways, open. That, too, offsets pressure from within each respective society toward animus and hostility. More than 100,000 young Chinese are students at American universities. It is fashionable for the offspring of the top Chinese leaders to study in the US.


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