Why is this G2 unlike all the Gs that have come before…?

Want the best illustration of a challenging and intriguing relationship that will be centrally important to Barack Obama? Take one of the truly momentous changes that’s come out of the past three weeks’ travel: the emergence of the United States and China as the acknowledged G2 of the world. In the past the G2 and ...

586531_090421_USCHINA2.jpg
586531_090421_USCHINA2.jpg

Want the best illustration of a challenging and intriguing relationship that will be centrally important to Barack Obama? Take one of the truly momentous changes that's come out of the past three weeks' travel: the emergence of the United States and China as the acknowledged G2 of the world.

In the past the G2 and the G8 were primarily comprised of like-minded nations, culturally and ideological similar. G8 counterparts became close, there was a glue of affinity that helped the group work. China and the United States are culturally and ideologically very different and there is little personal affinity between the leaders of the governments in anything like the way there has been between the United States and Europe (or even the United States and their counterparts in the former Soviet Union). We need to cooperate with China on everything. We have never had such an important single partner in virtually all policy matters...and this one is also a rival with a different worldview. Warmth is not a bad place to start such a relationship...but the challenges it will be pose this administration are clearly going to be enormous and it is going to take something like a major new diplomatic initiative to begin building the diplomatic infrastructure and policy positions such a partnership-rivalry will demand. 

Want the best illustration of a challenging and intriguing relationship that will be centrally important to Barack Obama? Take one of the truly momentous changes that’s come out of the past three weeks’ travel: the emergence of the United States and China as the acknowledged G2 of the world.

In the past the G2 and the G8 were primarily comprised of like-minded nations, culturally and ideological similar. G8 counterparts became close, there was a glue of affinity that helped the group work. China and the United States are culturally and ideologically very different and there is little personal affinity between the leaders of the governments in anything like the way there has been between the United States and Europe (or even the United States and their counterparts in the former Soviet Union). We need to cooperate with China on everything. We have never had such an important single partner in virtually all policy matters…and this one is also a rival with a different worldview. Warmth is not a bad place to start such a relationship…but the challenges it will be pose this administration are clearly going to be enormous and it is going to take something like a major new diplomatic initiative to begin building the diplomatic infrastructure and policy positions such a partnership-rivalry will demand. 

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

David Rothkopf is visiting professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His latest book is The Great Questions of Tomorrow. He has been a longtime contributor to Foreign Policy and was CEO and editor of the FP Group from 2012 to May 2017. Twitter: @djrothkopf

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