Relations between United States and China seem to keep getting worse. On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that genocide was the precise description for China’s treatment of the Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang Province. Two weeks ago, in the first meeting between Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, each diplomat sharply derided the other country’s behavior. Earlier in March, Microsoft revealed that China had recklessly hacked into Microsoft Exchange servers on an extraordinary scale since last year. With the tension between these disputes and the close U.S.-Chinese trade ties, how should the new Biden administration confront the challenges of an increasingly powerful, authoritarian China?

For General Wesley K. Clark, the former NATO supreme allied commander, the smartest move for the U.S. on China would be to create a new political and economic partnership with Europe. As Clark sees it, America’s main goal should be to get China to join the rules-based international order, and the best way to accomplish that is by speaking to China with a single, unified voice from the United States and the countries of Europe. Clark proposes a new treaty among the U.S., the U.K., and the EU, to lay out unified regulations on climate change, labor standards, privacy, and the rule of law. U.S. President Joe Biden has promised to hold a summit of the world’s democracies during his first year in office, but the prospects for a new treaty are murky. The treaty would require two-thirds’ approval in the gridlocked U.S. Senate, while Europe is struggling with nascent autocracies in Hungary and Poland. And powerful U.S. corporations are eager to pounce on lucrative investments in China.

Michael Bluhm: In your new article for the Washington Monthly, you write that China is endeavoring to replace the United States as the world’s indispensable power and to replace the postwar institutions that the U.S. helped create. Of course, China is a competitor to the United States, and yet China and the U.S. are each other’s largest trade partners, so their relationship is both competitive and cooperative. In your proposal, what are your strategic goals regarding China? What are you trying to accomplish?

Wesley Clark: The fundamental goal is to help manage the ascent of China to an even more powerful global power. China should be an active and faithful participant in a rules-based international order. It’s to China’s interest as well as everyone else’s. But right now, China doesn’t see that. In order to help China see that, we must have the support of allies, who [help] convince China that participating in and adhering to the rules-based order is more advantageous than trying to smash it and reform it, to put China at the center.

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