Financial TimesFinancial Times

US-China relations have entered a frightening new era

By Martin Wolf

25 Apr 2023 · 4 min read

Editor's Note

Yellen and von der Leyen have set out plans for "constructive engagement" with China. But can this approach work? Not likely, argues FT columnist Martin Wolf.

The relationship between the US and China is likely to determine humanity’s fate in the 21st century. It will determine whether there will be peace, prosperity and protection of the planetary environment, or the opposites. Should it be the latter, future historians (if any such actually exist) will surely marvel at the inability of the human species to protect itself against its own stupidity. Yet today, happily, we can still act to prevent disaster. That is true in many domains. Among these is economics. How then are economic relations to be best managed in the increasingly difficult future we confront?

Janet Yellen, US Treasury secretary, and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, have both recently made thoughtful statements on this topic. But do they set out a workable future? On that I am, alas, doubtful.

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