The United States has certain competitive advantages that China will find difficult to replicate, especially its set of alliances and partnerships; the speed and multifacetedness of its response to Russian aggression affirm the strength of that network. Meanwhile, China is increasingly central to the global economy — it is now the largest trading partner for over 120 countries â€” and is making massive investments to achieve greater technological self-reliance, which it regards as at least as much of a national security imperative as an economic one.

China’s mounting competitive difficulties, including demographic decline and an increasingly strained external outlook, challenge the judgment that it is on a glide path to global preeminence. Its significant competitive strengths, however, caution against the conclusion that it has entered a period of systemic decline. Instead, as the Lowy Institute explains in its new Asia Power Index, a strained coexistence between the two countries seems more probable, one in which China’s comprehensive national power may never match America’s: “Whether this uneasy cohabitation between unequal superpowers results in stability is an overriding regional and global concern. But what is clear is that a Sinocentric century is in arrested development.”

The likelihood of this outcome becomes even more apparent when one considers the extent of economic linkages between the two countries — US-China goods trade reached a record high last year — and the range of transnational challenges that will continue to entangle their economies and societies. Rather than asking whether the United States or China will prevail over the other, it would be more useful to consider how they will cohabitate.

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