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A nation must think before it acts.
President Bill Clinton’s awkward performance at his October press conference with Jiang Zemin shows that the United States still has not designed an intellectually coherent policy toward post-Mao China. ’ Historically, the United States has relied for its security on a world order led by itself or an alliance of Western nations roughly in accord with its interests and values. In the second quarter of the twentieth century, this world order was threatened by Japan and Germany. After they were defeated and absorbed into it, the world order was menaced by the rise of communism in Eurasia. Today it is challenged by a revitalized China uncomfortable with both the leading position of the United States in world affairs and the Western model of modernity as a combination of capitalism and democracy. International relations in the twenty-first century will focus on the tension between China’s national ambitions and America’s projection of its military and diplomatic power abroad to form a coastal belt surrounding Eurasia by stretching from Japan through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to the Middle East and NATO. How should the United States manage this tension in order to protect its vital interests and pursue its traditional ideal of a moral foreign policy concerned with the well-being of all nations?