The overarching question imparting urgency to this exploration is: Can U.S.-Russian contention in cyberspace cause the two nuclear superpowers to stumble into war? In considering this question we were constantly reminded of recent comments by a prominent U.S. arms control expert: At least as dangerous as the risk of an actual cyberattack, he observed, is cyber operations’ “blurring of the line between peace and war.” Or, as Nye wrote, “in the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user.”
In 2019, the world witnessed the curtain rise on a U.S.–China bipolar rivalry quite different from the U.S.–Soviet Union bipolarity of the Cold War. The fundamental difference between the current bipolar rivalry and that during the Cold War is that ideology is no longer the main engine driving international competition; rather a new digital dimension of strategic competition is emerging between the United States and China. The Cold War mentality and digital mentality will have mixed impacts on policymaking in the digital age: interactions between the states whose foreign policy is simultaneously influenced by both mentalities will shape the emerging international order into an era of “uneasy peace,” where there is no direct war and few proxy wars. Rather than vie for global supremacy through opposing alliances, Beijing and Washington will largely carry out their competition in the economic and technological realms.
Yan Xuetong is one of China’s leading experts on China’s foreign policy, national security, and U.S.-China relations. He is Distinguished Professor at Tsinghua University, where he is also Dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations. Yan serves as Secretary-General of the World Peace Forum and President of the Carnegie–Tsinghua Management Board.
A well-known academic in the Chinese foreign policy community, Yan is vice chairman of both the China Association of International Relations Studies and the China Association of American Studies, and is a member of the Consultation Committee of China’s Ministry of Commerce. He is an adjunct professor of the National Defense University and a senior research fellow of National Security Committee. Yan is editor-in-chief of the Chinese Journal of International Politics and serves as an adviser to several leading academic journals, including The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, Journal of Chinese Political Science, World Economics and Politics, Contemporary World, Chinese Journal of European Studies, Southeast Asia Studies, Journal of Strategy and Decision-Making. Yan also serves on several boards, including those of the China Association of Arms Control and Disarmament, China Diplomacy Association, China Association of Peaceful Unification, and the China Association of Foreign Friendship.
Yan has written several books, including Analysis of China’s National Interests, winner of the 1998 China Book Prize, and Ancient Chinese Thought, Modern Chinese Power. He has published more than a hundred of papers and articles on international Relations. Dr. Yan received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley in 1992; his M.A. in international relations from the Institute of International Relations in 1986, and a B.A. in English from Heilongjiang University in 1982.