I have spent the last few days in Beijing, attending meetings and dinners. The single most striking thing I have encountered is the response to a speech U.S. Vice President Mike Pence delivered at the Hudson Institute in October. Many people interpreted the speech as an indication that the United States has decided to significantly deepen its dispute with China, moving from economic issues to a general confrontation some likened to a new Cold War. There was also an expectation that, during a meeting scheduled between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump at the G-20 summit later this month, some paths to accommodation might emerge.
I was surprised by the idea that the U.S.-China dispute is deepening. From my point of view, it was already deep, considering their many issues over trade and the South China Sea. I found Pence’s speech unexceptional. It criticized China on grounds the Chinese have heard many times before and ended with several paragraphs on the n