Limits to Alliances: In China, the United States and Its Allies Are Just Not Aligned

September 7, 2021



  • National interests in China are determined by the relative importance of four main factors: China’s significance as a market, as a supplier, as a competitor, and as a geopolitical rival.
  • U.S. interests in China are increasingly dominated by competitiveness and geopolitical concerns, whereas most of the world sees China primarily as a market and/or supplier. Only India shares U.S. interests along all four dimensions—for now.
  • This fundamental misalignment of interests explains why the United States often receives a sympathetic hearing but little significant action when it appeals to allies in Europe and Asia for help in reining in China.
  • Fortunately, America’s triumphs over previous economic challenges from the Soviet Union and Japan suggest that alliances are much less important than what the United States does for itself.
  • The most important priority for the United States is to get its own house in order by closing the gap between its corporate and national interests. This should be a key part of the Biden administration’s Build Back Better agenda.
  • If America’s friends and allies see the United States revitalizing itself, they are much more likely to follow its lead in meeting the challenge of today’s rapidly rising China.