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HKS Authors

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Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor, Emeritus


When economists describe US-China interdependence, they tend to focus on the welfare benefits of growing trade and investment. They argue that, while the effects can be negative for particular groups within countries, the gains from trade make interdependence a positive sum game at the national level. Strategists, on the other hand, tend to focus on relative gains and their effect on the distribution of national power: while both countries may have made absolute gains, China has gained more in relative terms over the past two decades. As Vice President Mike Pence put the case in 2019, “over the past 17 years, China’s GDP has grown more than nine-fold; it has become the second largest economy in the world?…?As President Trump has said many times, we rebuilt China over the last 25 years.” While disavowing any policy desire to “decouple” from China, Pence pointed out that the president’s 2017 national security strategy “now recognizes China as a strategic and economic rival.” Gone is earlier administrations’ positive rhetoric about engagement, and many observers argue that decoupling has already begun. President Trump’s tariffs on China are seen as the first step.


Nye, Jr., Joseph S. "Power and Interdependence with China." The Washington Quarterly 43.1 (January 2020): 7-21.