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Blair

The Clash of Historical Memory: The “Century of Humiliation” vs. the “Post-WWII Liberal World Order”

The U.S. and China share many fundamental interests. Their economies are so tightly inter-twined that any disruption would be extremely painful to both sides. There are no substantial, quantifiable disagreements between the two countries — meaning that there are no direct territorial disputes and neither country would gain by directly threatening the other’s vital interests. With so little to gain, and so much to lose, one might conclude that the probability of armed conflict between them would be negligible. But, it is not reassuring that the current disputes are not about “real” resources. Arguments about what are ultimately relatively small assets could be settled by economic agreements and compromise. The current disputes between the U.S. and China are more dangerous than they first appear because they are driven by each nation’s elite and public core beliefs, which were learned from key national historical experiences.

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