In political science the stability- instability paradox is much discussed (paper with game-theoretic analyses). The reliance on nuclear weapons, supposed to enhance stability in the world order, is rather driving the instability making conventional wars even more likely. Michael Beckley argues that containment of China’s expansionary policies is needed to avoid even more disastrous confrontations (Foreign Affairs, 2023 Nr.5).
Different from the German cold war doctrine “Wandel durch Annäherung” Beckley argues that commerce has not brought US and China closer together, but it is actually driving them further apart. After decades of trade imbalances with China the economic power of China can be felt as overwhelming. But there are multiple risks to its economic model and strategic interests to secure raw materials from across the world. Aging of China is another economic and social fallacy difficult to overcome with short-term measures.
We are about to witness another couple, triangular or more relationship to establish as “enduring rivals”. This may last for centuries rather than decades, although the French- German couple has managed quite successfully to turn such rivalry into an “entente” relationship of importance to the whole European continent. The shift in emphasis of US foreign policy is going to be significant. Containment with Russia has worked, so why should it not work with China as well. The likely answer is demographics again. The size of the internal market of China is sufficiently large to continue a splendid isolation after heavy one-sides trading is over. State control of the internet and social scoring of the population is also a powerful tool to suppress the formation of free will and independent opinions. After all, instability in external relations might even be used to ensure internal stability. Such strategies are common to all political systems. The stability- instability paradox is staying with us and this is rather stable even if the discussion changes continents. (Image: Comical battlefield Map 1854, by Berendsohn shown at Waterloo, Museum 2018)