In “Awkward Embrace,” Phillip Swagel applies his experience at the Treasury Department to show the reader why America’s economic relationship with China has been a beneficial one and details what needs to happen for this trend to continue. Daniel Blumenthal, a former official specializing in Asia at the Department of Defense, is far less optimistic when examining the military, diplomatic, and security ties the United States has—or lacks—with China. China’s overall view of the West—and especially of America—is one of hostility and suspicion. Furthermore, China has engaged in military, diplomatic, and human rights actions that are objectionable to a nation such as the United States, which seeks to encourage the establishment of responsible government worldwide.
The tension here is real: how can the United States manage this relationship in a way that keeps its economic engagement with China on a steady course but likewise protects its national security interests? Blumenthal and Swagel offer three possible paths for the U.S.-China relationship. In all of them, they strive to demonstrate how internal forces are shaping China’s interactions with other nations, and, furthermore, how U.S. leaders can attempt to attain a world order that includes a strong China that contributes positively, while nonetheless preparing for the worst-case-scenario of China engaging in more assertive and destabilizing behavior.