China and the United States are locked into the “world’s most consequential bilateral relationship,” the International Crisis Group’s Ali Wyne tells me in the latest edition of The Pivot podcast. The future of U.S.-China relations, Wyne says, is “going to have an inordinate impact on the lived experiences of not just Americans and Chinese,” but also those of “citizens around the world.”

Listen to this episode of The Pivot on Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Audacy, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Pocket Casts, RadioPublicSpotify, TuneIn Radio, or YouTube Music.

Wyne argues that the two superpowers “have crossed a certain rubicon in the relationship.” Both the U.S. and China “have very publicly now and very repeatedly made clear their assessments of each other’s intentions.” While U.S. public officials have repeatedly said that China wants to “become the world’s preeminent power,” Chinese leader Xi Jinping asserts that Washington would like to hold Beijing back and contain it.

In Wyne’s view, “you can’t put those genies back into bottles.” But he cautions the U.S. from overestimating China’s strengths and underestimating its own. Beijing, he argues, is an “enduring, but constrained competitor” — one to take seriously, but one with some key limitations. It’s not on a “glide path toward global hegemony.”

Wyne advises U.S. policymakers to devote their efforts toward enhancing America’s inherent strengths, including our systems of higher education and “ecosystems of innovation.”


Episode Description

Ali Wyne, a senior advisor at the International Crisis Group, joins host Arif Rafiq to discuss the implications of Taiwan’s recent elections, how China is responding to the results, the risks of a U.S.-China war over Taiwan, and the broader challenge of managing a rising China.

The discussion is wide-ranging, covering President Xi’s strategy for taking over Taiwan to what a second Trump administration policy toward China might look like.

Guest Bio

Ali Wyne is a senior research and advocacy advisor on U.S.-China relations at the International Crisis Group. Previously, Wyne worked at the Eurasia Group, the RAND Corporation, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harvard Kennedy School, Ali is a security fellow with the Truman National Security Project, a former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a former David Rockefeller fellow with the Trilateral Commission.

Follow Wyne on X (formerly known as Twitter).

Books by Ali Wyne

Wyne is the author of “America’s Great-Power Opportunity: Revitalizing U.S. Foreign Policy to Meet the Challenges of Strategic Competition.” The Washington Post’s David Ignatius says Wyne’s core argument — that the U.S. “must rebuild itself at home and reposition itself abroad” — is “timely and correct.” Ana Palacio, the former foreign minister of Spain, hails the book as “clear-eyed, incisive, and elegantly written.”

He’s also the co-author of “Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States, and the World,” which was listed as a CNN “Book of the Week” and features a foreword by the late Henry Kissinger. Fareed Zakaria says, “If you are interested in the future of Asia, which means the future of the world, you’ve got to read this book.”

Wyne’s Book Recommendations

1. “A Life in the American Century,” by Joe Nye

Wyne says Nye’s memoir is a “fascinating and often poignant account of his personal, intellectual, [and] professional evolution” that concludes with “nuanced and important commentary on China” and contemporary geopolitics.” The book provides an “incredible” look into the “experiences that shaped a scholar-practitioner who is far and away one of the most influential” in shaping our views of geopolitics.

2. “U.S.-Taiwan Relations,” by Ryan Hass, Bonnie Glaser, and Richard Bush

Wyne says the coauthors of this book are “some of the very best scholars” on the subject of U.S.-China relations. They “consistently” deliver “nuanced” and “rigorous, dispassionate analysis.” The “upshot of their analysis is that China’s challenge does not inevitably have to lead to a crisis.” Rightly managed, a “crisis over the Taiwan Strait can yet be averted.”

3. “Debating China: The U.S.-China Relationship in Ten Conversations,” edited by Nina Hachigian

While Hachigian’s edited volume was published a decade ago, Wyne says he greatly appreciates the book’s impetus and structure. Hachigian “picked ten thorny issues in the bilateral relationship” and ” and I imagine that today we could probably expand that list from 10 to 20 or 30 or 50 but she picked sort of 10 kind of contentious aspects of the relationship and she “invited high-profile U.S. and Chinese scholars to write letters to one another,” producing a work of rigorous debate.

Arif Rafiq is the editor of Globely News. Rafiq has contributed commentary and analysis on global issues for publications such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the New Republic, the New York Times, and POLITICO Magazine.

He has appeared on numerous broadcast outlets, including Al Jazeera English, the BBC World Service, CNN International, and National Public Radio.


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