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

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4.7 Taking stock

In Section 3, you were introduced to a diagram that provided a visual representation of positive, negative and zero-sum games, which is repeated as part of Activity 8 below. If you need to refresh your memory of these terms, or the explanation of the diagram, take another look at Section 3.

Activity 8

Consider the areas of interaction outlined above the diagram below. Then click on the three areas of the diagram – zero-sum, positive-sum and negative-sum – to discover different interpretations of the interaction areas. (You'll need to click on all three areas of the diagram to proceed to the next interaction area and there are three in all.)

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The concepts of positive-sum and zero-sum games are important tools in evaluating these different areas of interaction. By working through contemporary issues like this you also build up a more general picture and evaluation of the overall tenor of China–United States relations. Remember positive-sum games are where the total gains from interaction are positive. Possible candidates here might be the development of extensive channels of communication and negotiation between China and the United States in managing North Korea. Even though territorial disputes are usually key examples of zero-sum interactions, there may be positive gains to be had if compromise solutions could be found, reducing regional tensions. Possible cases of zero-sum interactions could arise from any competitive military build-up by either the United States through its ‘pivot’ or by China’s advancing military technology.