Meeting China Halfway

How to Defuse the Emerging US-China Rivalry

Lyle J. Goldstein

"Essential reading for anyone interested in US foreign relations or contemporary China."
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Though a US-China conflict is far from inevitable, major tensions are building in the Asia-Pacific region. These strains are the result of historical enmity, cultural divergence, and deep ideological estrangement, not to mention apprehensions fueled by geopolitical competition and the closely related “security dilemma.”

Despite worrying signs of intensifying rivalry, few observers have provided concrete paradigms to lead this troubled relationship away from disaster. This book is dramatically different in that Lyle J. Goldstein’s focus is on laying bare both US and Chinese perceptions of where their interests clash and proposing new paths to ease bilateral tensions through compromise. Each chapter contains a “cooperation spiral” —the opposite of an escalation spiral—to illustrate these policy proposals. Goldstein makes one hundred policy proposals over the course of this book to inaugurate a genuine debate regarding cooperative policy solutions to the most vexing problems in US-China relations.

Goldstein not only parses findings from American scholarship but also breaks new ground by analyzing hundreds of Chinese-language sources, including military publications, never before evaluated by Western experts. Meeting China Halfway, new in paperback, remains a refreshing and unique contribution to the study of the world’s most important bilateral relationship.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Reversing the Escalation Spiral
2. Bad Blood: The Legacy of History for US-China Relations
3. Imagine: The Taiwan Question and US-China Relations
4. Mutually Assured Dependence: Economic Aspects of US-China Relations
5. Toxic Embrace: The Environment and US-China Relations
6. “South–South” Pivot: The Developing World and US-China Relations
7. Persian Spring: The Middle East and US-China Relations
8. Bipolarity Reconsidered: The Korean Peninsula and US-China Relations
9. Keystone: Japan and US-China Relations
10. The New “Fulda Gap”: Southeast Asia and US-China Relations
11. Alter Ego: India and US-China Relations
12. Conclusion: Rebalancing the Rebalance: Mitigating Strategic Rivalry in US-China Relations


"Lyle Goldstein has written a timely and thoughtful book. . . . [He] impresses by making 100 proposals in all. Many of these are highly pragmatic. . . . This is a brilliant book, touching on all the critical issues shaping the most important bilateral relationship of our day. It should be read by leaders and policymakers on both sides."—Survival

"Presents an exceptionally clear and subtle analysis of the evolving U.S.-Chinese relationship. . . . He spells out in more detail than anyone else has yet. . . . His proposals for the early stages are intriguing."—Foreign Affairs

"Essential reading for anyone interested in US foreign relations or contemporary China."—H-Net

"The author brings a unique combination of expertise, conviction, and experience. . . . [He] deftly covers the history and the ever-growing, complex development in the bilateral relations. Whether one agrees with the central thrust of the book or specific policy steps, one will learn much from his work. Even if policymakers do not choose to follow the cooperation spirals, they will be better off being reminded of such potentials presented by this empirically grounded and passionately imaginative book."—Proceedings

"His identification . . . and analysis of what is at stake in each policy area are worth the price of the book, as they are exceptionally well informed and sophisticated."—Political Science Quarterly

"Remarkable . . . creatively challenges the confrontation ethos which appears to be taking over Washington."—Doug Bandow, Cato at Liberty

"Ambitious . . . Any China Watcher will get something out of [the] close reading of Chinese and English policy and military documents."—Joint Forces Quarterly

"Offers an interesting, though largely hypothetical, look at the steps both nations might take to build trust and work toward a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship. Academic in tone and scope, this timely book would appeal to scholars and laymen interested in its thoughtful proposals, along with an overview of the conflicts that both nations face."—Foreword Review

"A must read for anyone concerned about the current trajectory of US-China relations. . . . it puts forward constructive policy proposals about how these major powers might move on from an 'escalation spiral' in their relationship to a 'cooperation spiral.'"—Contemporary Southeast Asia

"With an approach based not just on Western scholarship but studies of hundreds of Chinese-language resources, including military publications, Meeting China Halfway offers a powerful focus no study of Chinese/US relations should be without."—Donovan's Literary Services

"Lyle Goldstein is one of the foremost analysts in America today of the growing US-China security competition. This book presents a detailed and perceptive assessment of the forces driving this competition and offers what will undoubtedly become a highly controversial set of recommendations for mitigating it. Although some observers will likely take issue with many of Goldstein’s proposals, they cannot avoid consideration of his fundamental argument regarding the need to develop far-reaching, practical means of mutual reassurance in this crucially important relationship. This work should stimulate a much-needed debate."—Michael Swaine, senior associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

"Libraries are filled with history books, ancient and modern, describing the ‘road’ to wars. Here is a book that maps an altogether different road, one that just might help avoid needless conflict. What makes Lyle Goldstein’s achievement so impressive is the specificity of his prescription. Bold and imaginative, his analysis is also concrete and actionable. If Washington and Beijing give Meeting China Halfway even half the attention it deserves, the result will be to reframe the Sino-American relationship."—Andrew J. Bacevich, professor of history and international relations emeritus, Boston University

"In this important book, Lyle Goldstein provides a clear and detailed argument for how the US and China can move into a more cooperative relationship and avoid the very real danger of inadvertent conflict. . . . Moving far beyond sterile debates about whether to contain or engage China, Meeting China Halfway represents one of the most sophisticated accounts of East Asian international relations to appear in recent years. An essential book for anyone wishing to understand and influence how the US-China relationship might evolve in the future."—David C. Kang, University of Southern California

"Lyle Goldstein's book on China delivers a bracing synthesis on the dangers the United States faces and the options it has in the face of China's military rise. It will be required reading for Asia specialists."—Robert Kaplan, author of Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific and chief geopolitical analyst for Stratfor

"Goldstein proposes a bold call for the US—accommodate China's interests in Asia instead of clinging to the status quo. Based on his thorough research in Chinese writings, Goldstein proposes mutual compromises to set in motion a spiral of cooperation. This valuable book will frame the China policy debate for years to come."—Susan Shirk, Chair, 21st Century China Program, UC-San Diego

"The most consequential dyad in an increasingly polycentric world is the Sino-American relationship. But this relationship is strategically and intellectually in irons and drifting toward possible shipwreck. Goldstein offers a gale of fresh thinking to redirect it toward mutually advantageous problem solving. He addresses apparently intractable problems with meticulous research and uncommon ingenuity, drawing on Chinese as well as American sources. His recommendations balance suggested actions by both countries. Meeting China Halfway is thus a very thought-provoking manual for the re-imagination of engagement between America and China. Its proposals are clear and specific and invite those inclined to inaction to come up with better alternatives."—Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.), Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs

"If one foresees the future of this key bilateral relationship to be a protracted negotiation, Goldstein’s proposal of spirals of cooperation lays out a plausible way to take constructive steps. His ideas merit serious thought and discussion."—Joseph Prueher, (USN, Ret.)

"This book is admirable for both breadth and depth, examining an exhaustive spectrum of the issue areas that both drive and condition rivalry between the United States and China. The author does a remarkable job at driving home his urging for a ‘cooperation spiral’. A sensible and practicable guide away from making conflict a viable choice."—Zha Daojiong, professor, School of International Studies, Peking University

"The downward spiral in US–China relations is the most dangerous trend in international politics. Preventing it from ending in crisis, miscalculation, and war should be the highest priority. Lyle Goldstein brings not just punditry but genuine expertise on China to the problem, and applies impressive energy to finding a way out. His ambitious exploration of 'cooperation spirals' will be controversial, should provoke sharp debate about options for conflict avoidance, and deserves attention because it is among the few optimistic approaches that engage the obstacles to peace rather than dismissing them."—Richard Betts, director, Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, Columbia University

"Although Beijing and Washington have agreed to build a new model of big power relations to free China and the US from the so-called 'Thucydides trap' with the established power and the emerging power colliding inexorably, their strategic mistrust continues to worsen and the rivalry has intensified. Lyle Goldstein is in a unique positon to witness firsthand in both Washington and Beijing the rising distrust and produced this unique book to explore the new paths of US–China relations leading toward the cooperation spirals and avoiding escalation spirals. A timely and compelling work, must read for anyone interested in the most important bilateral relations and great power politics in the 21st century."—Suisheng Zhao, director, Center for China–US Cooperation, editor of the Journal of Contemporary China, University of Denver

"Meeting China Halfway is a serious and thoughtful attempt to guide the US-China rivalry away from militarized and zero-sum confrontation and toward policies that would be helpful not only bilaterally but more generally to East Asia and the world. Goldstein is a senior analyst of Chinese maritime policy who is well known for his familiarity with Chinese writing on security and environmental issues. He brings both a wealth of Chinese sourcing to the project and, more importantly, a respect for China as an intelligent counterpart with distinctive perspectives."—Brantly Womack, professor of foreign affairs and C.K. Yen Chair, the Miller Center at the University of Virginia, author of China among Unequals: Asymmetric Foreign Relations in Asia

"Creative thinking, innovative ideas. . . . While one may not agree to everything Lyle Goldstein wrote in this imaginative book, he did a great job in broadening our scope in thinking about how to build toward a new type of major power relationship between China and the United States. Mutual compromise, mutual adaptation, mutual accommodation, those steps he recommended are not easy for both sides, but if taken, the end result would be win-win."—Wu Xinbo, professor and director Center for American Studies, Fudan University

"Lyle Goldstein takes the debate about US–China relations in a quite new and vitally important direction. Combining deep scholarship with a keen sense of practical policy, he offers a detailed plan for the two powers to step back from escalating rivalry through mutual accommodation. Sooner or later, if America and China are to stay at peace, they will have to take steps very much like those Goldstein proposes. And the sooner the better."—Hugh White, Australian National University

"This important new book pulls it all together: the forces that drive United States and China toward a war; the facts that reveal that these two nations have many shared interests and few valid reasons to confront each other; and specific and valuable suggestions about moves both sides can make to pull away from a major catastrophic confrontation. Well written and thoroughly documented. A book for academics, policy makers, and concerned citizens alike."—Amitai Etzioni, University Professor at George Washington University and author of Security First: For a Muscular, Moral Foreign Policy

"In this painstakingly researched book, Dr. Goldstein provides valuable insight into the often overlooked Chinese point of view on a range of important issues facing the bilateral relationship today. His 'cooperation spirals,' concrete policy recommendations, provide specific steps through which Washington and Beijing could come to a better understanding on many key issues from regional relationships to the environment, ultimately leading to a more stable and peaceful world. Dr. Goldstein’s approach highlights the range of cooperative steps that could be taken to build trust and transparency on both sides. Wherever one falls on the debate over how to shape US-China relations, this book is an important and unique addition to the China field, and it should be considered by policymakers in both Washington and Beijing."—Kirsten Gunness, senior policy analyst


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About the Author

Lyle J. Goldstein is an associate professor in the Strategic Research Department at the US Naval War College (NWC). He was also the founding director of the NWC's China Maritime Studies Institute. He is the coeditor of numerous volumes including China, the United States, and 21st Century Sea Power, the author of Preventive Attack and Weapons of Mass Destruction, and a regular contributor to The National Interest.

400 pp., 6 x 9
10 figures
ISBN: 978-1-62616-160-3
May 2015

400 pp., 6 x 9
10 figures
ISBN: 978-1-62616-634-9
May 2015

400 pp.
10 figures
ISBN: 978-1-62616-162-7
May 2015

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