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China and the USA: cooperation or conflict?
China and the USA: cooperation or conflict?

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3 Analysing cooperation and conflict

In the previous sections, you have read overviews of the evolving relationship between China and the United States and some of the contending views on each side of that relationship as to the potential for cooperation and conflict. You will have noted a range of terms used to describe this relationship: win–win, zero-sum, interdependent, unipolar, hegemonic and so on. These words are part of the language of international relations and appear in both everyday international political discourses and in more abstract academic debates about international politics.

This section changes pace somewhat and takes a more analytical look at the evolving areas of cooperation and conflict between China and the United States. It begins to unpick some of those debates by taking a closer look at the kinds of international relationships that exist in the world, by characterising those relationships as different ‘forms of interdependence’. This is not the only way in which you can analyse China–United States relations or international relations more generally and it proceeds by making a number of assumptions about how to understand the world, some of which you may come to question. Nevertheless, this is an important approach to international relations and one that is closely connected, as you have already seen, to real-world political debates.