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Is War Inevitable Between the US and China?

he United States and China are in the midst of a cold war. And while America’s Cold War with the Soviet Union was characterized by conflicting ideologies, this new war, Alfredo Toro Hardy GL’79 asserts, is based on perceptions of power on the world stage.

He explores the emerging conflict between the two countries in China Versus the US: Who Will Prevail? (World Scientific), and specifically, seeks to answer two questions: has China already overstepped in its relationship with the United States, effectively jeopardizing its status as a rival superpower?, and can the US contend with China’s newfound ascendency and maintain its status as a world leader?

In his twentieth book, Toro Hardy compares the comprehensive national power of both countries by measuring both hard and soft power. These include the countries’ economic, military and technological capabilities along with their aptitude in forming a coalition of other countries behind them and projecting their cultures and values globally.

China Versus the US: Who Will Prevail? by Alfredo Toro Hardy

Toro Hardy has studied both countries for several years and is a regular columnist for the think tank Observatory on Chinese Politics. In 2013, he wrote a book about the complex relations between China and Latin America. A native of Venezuela, Toro Hardy served in his country’s public service from 1976 until he resigned in 2017 in protest of the government’s authoritarianism. He served as Director of the Venezuelan Diplomatic Academy and was an Ambassador to the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, Brazil, Chile, Ireland and Singapore. Today, Toro Hardy is a permanent resident of Canada.

Deeply familiar with global politics, Toro Hardy questions whether war is avoidable as both nations see themselves as pinnacles within human history. “This generates a very delicate situation,” he said. In the book, he explores the likelihood of the United States making the first move to solidify its prevailing status, or China, the emerging aggressor, drawing first blood in an attempt to prove its power.

“It’s very dangerous,” Toro Hardy said of the growing tensions, explaining that whichever country is more efficient solving problems and exerting their available power could emerge in a stronger position. He argues that the United States’ current divisive culture is a major disadvantage.

“Its political system is becoming increasingly dysfunctional, and, hence, unresponsive to many of the challenges that it faces,” he said. “Partisan identities have … (generated) a tremendous polarization whereby two clear-cut, differentiated societies coexist side by side, demonizing each other.”

The handling of the coronavirus pandemic, he said, illustrates this point. Though China is to blame for initial lack of transparency about the virus, its authoritarian response “grossly contrasts with the botched response by a divided United States,” he said.

Though Toro Hardy doesn’t have a dog in the fight, he believes everyone should be concerned about the outcome.

“These are worries that are not circumscribed to the US or China, but the whole world is concerned about the possibility of war emerging,” he said, adding that he hopes his book brings clarity about the brewing conflict. “A cold war is here to stay for the long run, no matter who will inhabit the White House in a few months or who is in charge of Beijing.”