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Image credit: Aïda Amer/Axios

This item first appeared in the Axios China newsletter. Subscribe here.

For those of you who like to look at things from both sides, you'll likely enjoy the latest book by Singaporean former diplomat Kishore Mahbubani.

The big question: "Has China Won? The Chinese Challenge to American Primacy" (Public Affairs, March 2020) starts with a question no U.S. politician dares address publicly: "What strategic changes will America have to make when it no longer is the world's dominant economic power?"

Key takeaways: Mahbubani examines both China's and America's biggest strategic mistakes.

  • Mahbubani says China's biggest error in its dealings with the U.S. was alienating the U.S. business community, once China's loudest supporter in Washington, through years of predatory practices such as forced technology transfer.
  • And America's biggest mistake was launching a geopolitical contest with China "without first working out a long-term strategy."

Flashback: I asked Mahbubani what he thought the Obama administration's biggest mistake was.

  • He said it was the "prevalent belief that a country like the U.S., that is less than 250 years old and has less than a quarter of the population of China, could transform a country the size of China with a 4,000-year history."

Go deeper

Aug 26, 2020 - World

U.S. targets Chinese individuals, companies over escalation in South China Sea

Fishing vessels are seen in the South China Sea Photo: Artyom Ivanov/TASS via Getty Images

The Department of Commerce on Wednesday blacklisted 24 Chinese firms for "helping the Chinese military construct and militarize the internationally condemned artificial islands in the South China Sea."

Why it matters: The move comes as the Trump administration continues to ramp up pressure on Beijing amid escalating tensions in the disputed region.

Tom Cotton accuses Biden of aiding China's rise for 50 years

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) attacked Joe Biden's foreign policy record in his speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday, arguing that the former senator and vice president has "aided and abetted China’s rise for fifty years with terrible trade deals."

Why it matters: Cotton, a hardline conservative and China hawk, is widely seen as a potential 2024 Republican candidate for president. The Trump campaign and Biden campaign have gone back and forth in accusing each candidate of being soft on China.

Senate confirms retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as defense secretary

Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

The Senate voted 93-2 on Friday to confirm retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense. Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) were the sole "no" votes.

Why it matters: Austin is the first Black American to lead the Pentagon and President Biden's second Cabinet nominee to be confirmed.