On Conflict

I have been toiling in the trenches of the US-China relationship for over 25 years — initially as a Wall Street chief economist who transitioned into the Hong-Kong based Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia and, then, starting in 2010 as a faculty member at Yale developing new courses on China and Japan. This Substack is a repository for my commentary and analysis that draws on this rich experience as a practitioner and a professor, bringing a Wall Street perspective to the challenges faced by the most dynamic region of the world.

My latest book, Accidental Conflict: America, China and the Clash of False Narratives, offers the most up-to-date example how I work. The book stresses an almost paradoxical assessment of conflict escalation. I still have great admiration for the Chinese people and for the miraculous transformation of China’s economy over the past 45 years. I refuse to buy the western consensus that China’s development miracle was always doomed to failure. I am highly critical of the outbreak of a virulent Sinophobia that portrays China as America’s most dangerous adversary since the former Soviet Union.

At the same time, I am steadfast in my view that China faces serious structural growth challenges in the years ahead. I worry increasingly that barring new and imaginative policies and reforms, China is at risk of falling into a Japanese-like quagmire. The urgency of China’s policy challenge cannot be under-estimated.

Conflict is the lens that brings many of these seemingly disparate strands together. My core thesis is that this oiutbreak of superpower conflict is the manifestation of a relationship problem that afflicts both the United States and China. It has become polticallly expedient for both nations to blame each other for a rich array of self-inflicted problems. The US, for example, blames China for its trade deficit rather than accept responsibility for a chronic shortfall of domestic saving. China blames America’s policies of containment for a growth problem that suffers from the lack of safety-net reforms that might spur consumer-led rebalancing. I continue to believe that US-China codependency offers a recipe for conflict resolution that would be in the best interest of both superpowers.

My views are not without controversy — both in the United States and most recently in Greater China. I learned from my Wall Street days that strong opinions are not for the faint of heart. This Substack, Conflict, is an attempt to bring the increasingly contentious Sino-American debate to life. In doing so, my agenda will remain analytical, not political.

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My posts include weekly blog dispatches, op-eds in major newspapers, and longer articles and research papers — all of which are tied to realtime and prospective developments in the continuum of Sino-American conflict escalation. By subscribing to this Substanck you will never miss an update—every new post is sent directly to your email inbox. For a spam-free, ad-free reading experience, plus audio and community features, get the Substack app.

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My hope is to attract like-minded individuals who recognize the critical importance of superpower conflict — not only what it portends for the United States, China, and the world at large but also what it has to say about a way out, a path for conflict resolution. By subscribing to this Substack you wil be joining a community of people who share your interests, concerns, and hopes. I urge you to participate in the comments section, and/or support this work with a subscription.

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Can the US and China avoid accidental conflict?

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Former Chief Economist and Asia Chair Morgan Stanley, Yale Faculty since 2012, author most recently of "Accidental Conflict: America, China, and the Clash of False Narratives"