John Mearsheimer: U.S.-China rift runs real risk of escalating into a nuclear war,

[…] Q: In “The Tragedy of Great Power Politics,” the book you published in 2001, you said there would never be a peaceful emerging of China and predicted the U.S.-China conflict. When do you think the critical turning point was for their bilateral relationship?

A: That’s a difficult question to answer, because it really started in the early 1990s when China began to grow. That’s when it started.

It was China’s rise in the unipolar moment that is driving the train in this process. And there were a number of events along the way that mattered greatly. Most importantly, it was China’s admission to the WTO in 2001, which really allowed the Chinese economy to accelerate, to the extent that you can pinpoint a date where the United States recognized that the rise of China was a problem and that China would have to be contained. […]

Now, contrast that with the situation in East Asia, which is the central flash point between United States and China, the three places where you could possibly have a war involve the South China Sea, Taiwan and the East China Sea. […]

Now, if China is losing, or if the United States is losing that military engagement, there will be a serious temptation to use nuclear weapons as the United States is committed to use nuclear weapons to defend Japan if Japan is losing a conventional war. And one might say, it’s unimaginable that the United States or China would use nuclear weapons.

But I don’t think that’s true, because you would be using those nuclear weapons at sea. You would not be hitting the Chinese mainland in all likelihood. And, therefore, it’s possible to think in terms of a “limited nuclear war,” with limited nuclear use.

So, I worry greatly that not only will we have a war between the United States and China, but also that there’s a serious possibility nuclear weapons would be used. And I think in a very important way, it was much less likely that would happen during the Cold War. […]

I was in China for 17 days in October 2019. And I talked to all sorts of Chinese foreign policy leaders. Almost everybody I talked to believes that it doesn’t matter whether Trump wins or loses in 2020 for U.S.-China relations. The Chinese believe that the Americans have their gun sight on China, and nothing is going to change that. I think they are correct. Läs intervjun