Into the Danger Zone

In February 2021, Joe Biden used the White House as a backdrop to declare a technological cold war on China. Just weeks after taking office, the president signed an executive order that mandated a top-to-bottom review of U.S. technological supply chains. The United States, the thinking within the administration went, would need secure sources of rare earths and other critical inputs in a protracted contest with Beijing; it required long-term investments to preserve its dominance in advanced semiconductors and other technologies.1 In the accompanying photo op, Biden squeezed, between his thumb and index finger, a microchip that an aide had procured that morning from a nearby plant. Across the river, at the Pentagon, Biden’s defense team was working to reboot a military that had spent two decades chasing terrorists. The PLA, as Pentagon leaders now put it, will be America’s “pacing challenge” for years to come.2

Since 2017, two U.S. administrations, one Republican and one Democratic, have called China the defining danger of the twenty-first century. American officials have been piecing together strategies to keep America ahead economically, militarily, and diplomatically. “Great-power competition” and “long-term rivalry” have become go-to catchphrases in D.C. policy circles; “marathon” metaphors are ubiquitous.3 Biden himself put the issue in generational terms: Future historians “are going to be doing their doctoral thesis on the issue of who succeeded, autocracy or democracy.” 4

But if American officials now understand the stakes of the competition, they don’t always grasp the urgency. During the Cold War, winning a long contest against the Soviet Union first required not losing the crucial early battles. To triumph in the struggle for the twenty-first century, Washington must once again withstand a strategic onslaught in this decade. Fortunately, many of the principles that helped America survive the early Cold War can help it thrive in a new danger-zone scenario today.

First, prioritize ruthlessly. A danger-zone strategy must deny China any easy escape from its economic and strategic problems by thwarting near-term successes that could radically change the balance of power. The most pressing matters are China’s efforts to forge a high-tech economic empire, spread digital authoritarianism, and shatter the geopolitical status quo by taking Taiwan. To be clear, Washington shouldn’t ignore other areas of competition; it will have to make long-term investments in innovation, the health of its own democracy, and the vitality of an international order that has served America well. But in the next few years, the United States must focus on issues where the dangers are acute and the consequences of failure would be felt for decades. When time is short and competition is intense, picking your battles wisely is just as important as fighting them well.

Second, don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good enough. A danger-zone strategy is a race against the clock, and the China threat is escalating faster than business-as-usual in Washington can keep up. Securing U.S. interests will require embracing second-best solutions, adapting old capabilities for new purposes, and assembling imperfect coalitions on the fly. Think of this as “strategic MacGyverism”—using the tools we have or can quickly summon to defuse geopolitical bombs that are about to explode.5

Third, playing defense requires a good offense. The United States cannot get through the danger zone without calculated risk-taking. It must be willing to anger China, bait it into strategic blunders, and selectively roll back its power. The CCP won’t abandon its lofty ambitions anytime soon, so Washington must focus on selectively degrading China’s capabilities and blocking its opportunities for aggrandizement. Seduction and integration are out; coercion and attrition are in. Yet American officials must also avoid backing China into corners where its only option is to lash out violently. Urgency, not stupidity, is the order of the day.

Finally, a danger-zone strategy is a way of getting to the long game—and ensuring that America can win it. The crisis-driven measures of the Truman years didn’t end the Cold War, but they did a great deal to determine its outcome by shifting the balance of power so markedly in the free world’s favor. In the same vein, America will still have far to go even if it deftly navigates the 2020s. But by taking the steps necessary to avoid disaster, America can simultaneously build the advantages and coalitions that will help it win in the end. Danger-zone strategies emerge in response to pressing perils. When done right, they can also create situations of enduring strength.


One such peril is China’s emerging high-tech empire. The United States doesn’t need to counter every Chinese infrastructure project around the world; doing so would be financially ruinous and strategically exhausting. It does need to prevent China from monopolizing what the Pentagon calls “critical” technologies, meaning those with the potential to produce massive economic and military gains, and using that dominance to ensnare nations around the globe.6

History shows that whoever dominates the critical technologies of an era dominates that era.7 Britain was able to build an empire on which the sun never set largely because it mastered steam, iron, and the telegraph before other nations. American hegemony today is due in no small part to U.S. superiority, first in steel, electronics, aerospace, and chemicals and more recently in information technology. Now China aims to use preeminence in artificial intelligence, telecommunications, quantum computing, and synthetic biology to leap ahead of its competitors and force other countries to do its bidding.

Permanently denying China a high-tech sphere of influence could take decades, involving long-term investments in American innovation and painstaking efforts to revamp the institutions (namely the World Trade Organization) that govern the global economy. Yet these initiatives won’t deliver results for years, if ever: China has demonstrated an impressive aptitude for stealing the fruits of American R&D and circumventing international trade agreements. It also has made clear that it won’t change its predatory economic practices anytime soon; subsidies and espionage are too central to its growth model.

For now, the United States needs to give up on trying to make Beijing play by the rules of a fair and open economic order, whether by browbeating it with tariffs or enticing it with new trade agreements. Instead, the thrust of U.S. policy should be sharper and narrower: weakening Beijing’s relative technological capabilities. That’s the path to thwarting an authoritarian empire in this era, just as America thwarted a series of authoritarian empires during the twentieth century.

The best way of doing this is to forge an informal economic alliance that excludes and outcompetes China. The gold standard for such cooperation occurred during the Cold War, when the United States gathered the world’s most economically advanced democracies together, country-club style, in an exclusive trade and investment network. Members shared technology, pooled R&D funds, and integrated their supply chains, allowing each member to specialize in areas of comparative advantage. They coordinated export controls to curtail the Kremlin’s access to strategic commodities and high-tech goods. The sum of these collaborative efforts far exceeded what America could have achieved alone, and the Western alliance left the Soviets in the dust. “Globalization was not global,” the political scientists Stephen Brooks and William Wohlforth note, “it took sides in the Cold War.”8

Today, the United States needs to reestablish a free-world economic bloc, this time aimed at China. This is not a sweeping call for de-globalization; bloc members would still trade with China in most sectors and could reduce tariffs on low-value Chinese goods.9 Nor is it a call for the sort of economic unilateralism the Trump administration often practiced. Rather, it entails re-globalization—deepening integration among the United States and its allies—to blunt Chinese economic leverage and pursue a strategic, multilateral decoupling in the technologies and resources that matter most.10

To make this strategy work, U.S. officials first need to forget about universalism. In an ideal world, members of the free-world bloc would unanimously adopt common trade and investment standards, many of which have already been developed in existing accords such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), and the EU-Japan economic partnership agreement. They would thereby revive the aspiration of the post–Cold War era—a seamless, liberal economic order—this time with China on the outside. In reality, there’s no time for this, and even a patchy collection of mini-lateral agreements would build multilateral resilience against Chinese pressure by reorienting strategic supply chains away from Beijing. America can still promote a global rules-based trade system as a distant aspiration, but its immediate focus should be on power politics.

This also means accepting that small can be beautiful. Over the long term, the United States should seek to bring as many countries as possible into this bloc. But the collective-action challenges of big clubs can be paralyzing, so for now, Washington should start with a small but powerful group. If the United States can enlist just seven countries, all of which are close treaty allies—Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom—it would have a potent economic alliance. These countries collectively outspend China on R&D, account for nearly a quarter of the global economy, and produce most of the choke-point technologies that the United States does not already dominate.11 Such a vibrant core could also attract other partners in the future.

At the same time, the United States and its partners need to put function ahead of form. This informal alliance would not become a full-fledged “economic NATO” where members sign a formal, binding treaty pledging to defend each other from Chinese economic coercion. Instead, it would have a network-based structure that allows members to create flexible, issue-based partnerships. For example, a semiconductor coalition would ideally include Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United States—countries that comprise almost the entire manufacturing supply chain of advanced chips. A quantum computing and next-generation encryption coalition could be spearheaded by the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. At the level of operations, a free-world economic alliance would really be a set of overlapping power blocs that coalesce around key challenges.

Succeeding in these areas, in turn, requires running faster and slowing the opponent down.12 Each ad hoc coalition would pursue the positive goal of outpacing Beijing in critical technologies by engaging in collaborative R&D and setting international technical standards.13 At the same time, these coalitions would kneecap Chinese innovation, imposing strict export and investment controls that deny Beijing access to cutting-edge technologies (members would be free to sell China older models) and the money that has too often fueled companies in cahoots with the CCP.14 In essence, the coalitions would act as mini-CoComs, tailored versions of the Cold War–era Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls, which embargoed advanced technology to the Soviet bloc. The United States and its allies have already crimped China’s access to advanced semiconductors and related manufacturing equipment, with devastating effects on Huawei’s ability to fulfill its telecommunications contracts. Similar multilateral embargos are needed to hobble Beijing’s momentum in other areas—cloud computing, advanced robotics, machine learning, and many others.15

As all this indicates, digital anti-imperialism involves attacking the core of Beijing’s techno-bloc as well as competing at the periphery. To date, much of the U.S. policy debate has focused on how to prevent countries, particularly in the developing world, from adopting Chinese technology in 5G telecommunications. The challenges here are real: When Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told one international gathering not to rely on Chinese tech in 2020, a rejoinder from the audience—“Are you offering an alternative?”—drew laughter and applause.16

The United States has recently notched some victories by offering financial incentives for regional powers such as Ethiopia to jilt Huawei.17 If a free-world bloc can multi-lateralize this approach, while also developing cheaper, good-enough alternatives to Chinese products, it may be able to fight a selective rearguard action in developing countries where price is the decisive factor. But it will be hard to win a worldwide subsidy war against a mercantilist CCP, especially when the battlefield—in regions from Southeast Asia to Latin America—is densely populated with corrupt leaders and regimes. The more proactive approach is to go to the source by using the blend of offensive and defensive measures we advocate to keep Beijing from dominating key industries in the first place.

China certainly will bristle at these attacks. And to some degree that’s a good thing, because it provides opportunities to bait Beijing into strategic blunders. Recall what happened in March 2021, when the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, and Canada sanctioned four Chinese officials for human rights abuses in Xinjiang. The sanctions were slaps on the wrist, but they triggered a self-defeating wolf-warrior outburst: Beijing unleashed a tirade of vituperative statements and sanctioned four EU entities and ten EU officials, including five members of the European Parliament. The European Union responded by freezing the pending China-EU Comprehensive Agreement on Investment that had been concluded just three months earlier. The lesson is that America and its allies can goad China in subtle ways that don’t risk war but do trigger the type of blustery overreaction through which Beijing isolates itself.

Bait-and-bleed strategies, however, require resilience. When Chinese state media threatened, in March 2020, to plunge America into “a mighty sea of coronavirus” by denying it pharmaceuticals, it underscored Beijing’s capacity for ugly retaliation.18 A final requirement of this strategy, then, will be rapidly developing free-world production networks for critical resources that China currently dominates, including rare earths and emergency medical supplies. The Quad’s collaboration to produce COVID-19 vaccines shows how an ad hoc coalition can quickly generate alternatives to Chinese products, when the requisite sense of urgency is there. A forum that had previously focused on maritime security was rapidly repurposed, using U.S. biotechnology, Indian production, Japanese financing, and Australian logistics, to provide 1 billion doses of vaccine to Southeast Asia.

Can this strategy of collective anti-imperialism really work? Some observers believe genuine counter-China cooperation will remain the exception rather than the norm, because major U.S. allies are too dependent on China’s economy. Berlin, the key player in Europe, is wary of incurring Beijing’s wrath given that one in three German cars is sold in China. Many traditional U.S. allies were also scarred by four years of tariffs and scorn from Donald Trump. Surveys in late 2020 showed that majorities in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom believe the American political system is broken and that their governments should remain neutral in U.S.-China competition.19

Yet U.S. allies were often appalled by American politics during the Cold War; they were simply far more horrified by the prospect of Soviet hegemony. Today, China’s predatory economic tactics, wolf-warrior diplomacy, and humanitarian outrages have kept hope alive for a free-world bloc. Nearly 75 percent of thought leaders in Europe and Asia support collaborative efforts to reduce economic dependence on China, and as of late 2021, twenty-four of the twenty-seven member countries of the European Union had restricted or banned Chinese firms from their telecommunications networks.20 A variety of Asian countries, such as India, Bangladesh, and Vietnam, would love to grab pieces of China’s role in global supply chains. Washington can channel this anti-China sentiment into allied cooperation in several ways.

One is by exercising convening power, not coercive hegemony. The United States doesn’t have to be the leader or even a member of every anti-China coalition. The overarching goal of a free-world economic bloc is to achieve collective resilience through diversity, preventing Chinese dominance by fostering an array of alternative products and supply chains. An example is U.S. promotion of a telecommunications policy called “Open RAN.”21 Under this approach, policy makers are developing common industry standards that foster greater compatibility between different types of 5G equipment. The goal is to prevent Huawei—or any other 5G equipment provider—from dominating global telecommunications infrastructure. American firms (particularly those that make relevant software) would benefit from this approach, but so would Huawei’s competitors in Finland, South Korea, and other countries.

America also has an unparalleled ability to cajole allied cooperation. The U.S. consumer market is as large as that of the next five nations combined; half of world trade and 90 percent of international financial transactions are conducted in dollars and pass through institutions under the thumb of the U.S. Treasury Department. American firms create one-third of the value in global high-tech industries. No country has more carrots and sticks.22 In addition, the globalized nature of tech supply chains has increased the number of choke points under U.S. control by virtually guaranteeing that an American firm occupies at least one critical node in the chain.23

These advantages bestow massive convening power on the United States. The semiconductor example is illustrative. Washington was able to persuade allies to cut China off from high-end chips and manufacturing machines because U.S. firms produce critical components for those machines, allies increasingly fear China, and allies depend more on America’s market (and America’s protection) than they do on China’s.24

Selective multilateral decoupling is, therefore, achievable—at a cost. The economic expense should not be exaggerated—even if American exports to China fell by half, it would be the equivalent of less than one-half of 1 percent of GDP—but specific U.S. and allied companies could lose billions of dollars in China-based revenue.25 That’s why multilateral decoupling is not a money-making scheme; it is damage limitation. Decoupling will not re-shore millions of American jobs, but it will save many existing jobs and companies from Chinese predation. American and allied firms might lose access to China’s market, but they will gain protection from Chinese coercion and espionage, the latter of which costs U.S. firms between $225 billion and $600 billion every year.26 The costs of decoupling are great, but they pale in comparison to the costs of “business as usual” with Beijing.

Even as China’s high-tech empire crumbles, however, Beijing has other tools at its disposal, including potent ideological weapons. While resisting China’s economic influence, the United States and its friends must also secure their democratic institutions from authoritarian assault. If democracy promotion has a bad name, democracy protection is becoming indispensable.


At its core, democracy protection requires what military planners call “defending forward”—safeguarding democratic systems by actively weakening an opponent’s ability to damage them.27 In other words, the United States should do whatever it can to shore up democracy at home and abroad, but the immediate priority must be to blast holes in the digital iron curtain Beijing is drawing around large swaths of the globe. If the world is indeed at an “inflection point” in the struggle between democracy and autocracy, as President Biden has said and President Xi clearly believes, America won’t tip the balance by remaining on the defensive.28

For example, getting “America’s democratic house in order” is a wonderful idea, but it will take years and will only counter China’s ideological offensive over an extended time horizon. Contesting China’s control of human rights bodies in the United Nations and policing autocratic financial networks are crucially important tasks, but success here will mainly affect Beijing’s strategy at the margins. Forming a giant alliance of democracies to combat authoritarian political meddling is a worthy objective for a long cold war, but such a large, unwieldy group might deliver endless debate instead of decisive action. In 2000, the Clinton administration created the “Community of Democracies,” which ultimately included 106 countries. After years of meetings, its sole accomplishment was a bland statement criticizing Myanmar.

Instead of building a sprawling organization, the United States should mobilize rough-and-ready gangs to attack China’s digital authoritarianism on multiple fronts. This impromptu, offensive approach accommodates the varying capabilities and interests of democratic states; it allows for selective cooperation with imperfect democracies and even a few friendly non-democracies. Like digital anti-imperialism, it allows Washington to build on existing groups; it emphasizes function over form by zeroing in on specific threats.29 Most important, it takes the fight to the enemy, actively degrading and deterring China’s political warfare initiatives, rather than meekly patching holes in democratic defenses, which inevitably will remain porous given the open nature of liberal societies.

Step one is for America and its allies to aggressively hack digital authoritarian systems, thereby undermining their effectiveness. One redeeming quality of high-tech police states is that they have myriad points of failure.30 Any government computer or goon is a potential entry point for malware. Hackers can stealthily feed “adversarial inputs” into AI-enabled surveillance systems by changing a few pixels in certain images. They can “poison the data” authoritarian regimes use to train their algorithms with fake inputs; they can enter malicious code into the patches authoritarian technicians use to fix faulty systems. Basic hacks can spring leaks in censorship systems, allowing prohibited news stories to go viral; they also can trick surveillance systems or social credit schemes into overlooking dissident activity or misclassifying regime loyalists as enemies of the state.

Democratic governments don’t even need to attack authoritarian states directly; they can post spoofs online and let dissidents around the world weaponize them. And defenders of democracy need not disrupt every digital authoritarian regime—just a few high-profile flubs might be enough to dampen demand for Beijing’s products. Think of this as ideological cost-imposition: The more time, energy, and money China spends fixing bugs in its surveillance state at home, the less it has to manipulate democratic politics abroad.

Autocrats constantly seek to enhance their internal security systems, so another vital task is to slow the spread of repression-relevant technology. In part, that means producing affordable alternatives to Chinese telecom and smart-city products, such as low-earth-orbit satellites that provide global broadband. More important, it means barring U.S. and allied firms from transferring certain technologies—such as advanced speech- and facial-recognition, computer vision, and natural language processing technologies—to authoritarian regimes, as well as barring foreign firms involved in authoritarian repression from raising capital in democratic financial markets.31 The export control coalitions we discussed previously could make that happen, while also generating leverage to prevent democratic backsliding by tenuous members of the free world. If Hungary’s increasingly thuggish government wants continued access to U.S. and Western European markets, for example, it would have to dispense with digital systems provided by Beijing.

More broadly, fostering economic cooperation among democracies would reduce China’s ability to play divide-and-conquer, punishing one outspoken democracy to scare others into silence. China’s coercive campaign against Australia in 2020 was indicative of the challenge. To recall, the CCP hit Canberra with steep tariffs on coal, beef, wheat, wine, and other goods, while also demanding that it stifle domestic voices that had been “unfriendly” to Beijing, after Australia called for an international COVID-19 inquiry.

To its credit, Canberra didn’t cave, and it slowly found alternative markets, in part by launching a “fight communism, buy Australian wine” public relations campaign. The Biden administration informed Chinese officials that bilateral tensions would not subside as long as the CCP was beating up on American allies, and it helped Canberra exact some revenge by promising to supply it with nuclear propulsion technology to power cutting-edge attack submarines.32 But Australia’s economy suffered a blow—and, awkwardly, firms from other democracies grabbed some of the resulting market share. Denser economic ties among democracies (and also with friendly quasi- or non-democracies that fear Chinese coercion, such as Vietnam and Singapore) are crucial to reduce the costs of future resistance. It would be even better if rich democracies, such as the eight-nation bloc that might take on Chinese digital imperialism, agreed to inflict reciprocal pain on Beijing through coordinated counter-sanctions. China could still try to censor democratic speech in foreign countries, but only at the cost of its own economic growth.

Most audaciously, the United States and its allies could preemptively split the Internet by creating a digital bloc in which data and products flow freely, while excluding China and other countries that do not respect freedom of expression or privacy rights. The CCP currently enjoys the best of both worlds. It runs a closed network at home that prevents Chinese citizens from reaching foreign websites and limits Western companies from entering China’s digital market. Yet it also selectively accesses the global Internet to steal intellectual property, meddle in democratic elections, spread propaganda, and hack critical infrastructure. It’s a digital-age version of the Soviet Union’s infamous Brezhnev Doctrine: What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is up for grabs.

To counter this exploitation, Richard Clarke and Rob Knake have proposed forming an “Internet Freedom League.”33 Under this system, countries that adhere to the vision of a free and open Internet would stay mutually connected, while countries opposed to that vision would face restricted access or be shut out. In essence, the league would be a digital version of the Schengen Agreement, which provides for the free movement of people, goods, and services within the European Union. The league would not block all Internet traffic from nonmembers, just companies and organizations that aid and abet digital authoritarianism and cybercrime. Of course, the CCP is one of those bad actors, so China would be cut off. During the Cold War, Dean Acheson observed, Washington and its allies settled for creating “half a world, a free half” because the alternative was watching an authoritarian menace overwhelm the whole world.34 The United States needs a similar approach to the current digital struggle between democracy and authoritarianism.

Achieving multinational cooperation on these initiatives will be challenging, especially with traditional European allies. Europeans and Americans have different ideas about data security and privacy, and European governments fear U.S. digital dominance almost as much as they do Chinese hegemony. The United States is home to 68 percent of the market capitalization of the world’s seventy largest digital platforms, whereas Europe is home to only 3.6 percent.35 With such a small market share, Europe has little incentive to defend a system that seems tilted heavily in America’s favor. That’s why the European Commission is pursuing “digital sovereignty” vis-à-vis Washington and Beijing.

There are still reasons to be optimistic: the EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council, created in 2021, is designed to negotiate transatlantic cooperation on digital flows, export controls, investment screening, technology standards, and other issues. Democracies share a basic interest in networks that protect privacy, free speech, and open access to information, a fact that is becoming steadily more apparent with the expansion of an authoritarian alternative. All things equal, a Europe that will struggle to defend itself, by itself, from Chinese tech dominance should gradually move toward greater cooperation with Washington. But America can’t take that cooperation for granted and should work hard to secure it by adopting national data privacy regulations more compatible with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, signing on to a digital tax treaty, and encouraging greater competition in digital markets.36 As during the Cold War, building solidarity against a greater evil requires convincing allies that America represents the lesser one.

Democracy protection also involves partnering with developing countries, which account for the vast majority of global growth in Internet users and digital revenues. China dominates the digital hardware market in many developing countries, and Chinese products often bring authoritarian methods with them. America and its allies need to offer alternatives, especially in India, which is the key “swing state” in U.S.-China network competition.37 By 2027, India will have a quarter of the world’s mobile device subscription growth, 1 billion smartphones, and the largest population on the planet.38 If India adopts Chinese telecommunications and smart-city systems, its increasingly shaky democracy might not survive, and the balance of network power and ideological influence would swing sharply in Beijing’s favor.

Fortunately, India has been getting tougher with China since the 2020 military clash in the Himalayas. It subsequently excluded Chinese vendors from its short list of potential 5G providers. India also joined the United States, Japan, and Australia in the first leaders-level summit of the Quad in March 2021, where the countries created, among other things, a working group focused on critical technologies. Leading Indian telecom firms are making bold moves in developing Open RAN.

But India’s loyalty remains up for grabs. One reason is that its government is becoming more repressive. New Delhi leads the world in Internet shutdowns, which makes it an unlikely member of an Internet Freedom League. Another reason is that India imports nearly 40 percent of its telecommunications equipment and two-thirds of its data center equipment from China, mainly because Chinese products are cheap. Indian consumers, like those in many developing countries, probably won’t pay considerably more for American or allied equipment. Case in point: After the Himalayan border clash in 2020, the Indian government banned more than 100 Chinese apps, but Chinese companies increased their market share and accounted for 75 percent of India’s smartphone market by the end of 2020.39 The Indian government has said it wants to reduce telecommunications dependence on China, but mainly by creating its own “sovereign” Internet and tech champions.

The United States can’t rely on democratic solidarity alone to persuade India to join the fight for network freedom. Instead, America and its allies should try to buy New Delhi’s cooperation by incentivizing companies to move telecommunications production from China to India. As of 2020, the United States sourced 73 percent of its cell phones and 93 percent of its laptops from China.40 If Washington and other advanced democracies could shift even a fraction of their telecommunications supply chains, it would strengthen India’s manufacturing sector, potentially enabling it to produce affordable alternatives to Chinese products that could be exported throughout the developing world. India has already announced its willingness to pay for the privilege; in 2021, its government allocated $1 billion in subsidies to entice the world’s top computer manufacturers to relocate their China-based operations to India.41

Finally, the United States needs to defend democracies on the front lines of the conflict with China. Doing so is not simply a matter of protecting small, vulnerable nations: Successful authoritarian coercion in one place may encourage more brazen actions elsewhere. The most important battleground is Taiwan, where China is waging a vast subversive campaign. This campaign goes far beyond seeding disinformation and propaganda in Taiwanese media. It involves manipulating every element of Taiwan’s information supply chain, from the people who produce content to the online platforms that deliver it to consumers.42 It also involves the direct purchase of major Taiwanese media conglomerates; the use of hundreds of thousands of fake social media accounts; and an array of bribes to journalists, media groups, and politicians. Digitally isolating Beijing will be crucial to securing Taiwan’s democracy. But even that won’t be enough, because China has other means of “liberating” Taiwan.


There are many places where Chinese aggression is possible in this decade, but top of the list is Taiwan. China is determined to reabsorb the island, and the only sure way it can do that is to send an army across the Taiwan Strait. America has already taken the first step toward reinforcing deterrence over Taiwan: communicating, albeit obliquely, that it is willing to fight.43 Some American analysts have argued that Washington should go further, giving Taiwan—which is not technically a treaty ally—a treaty-like guarantee of its security. That might reinforce Taiwan’s resolve to resist, by demonstrating that it wouldn’t have to stand up to a Chinese assault alone.44 Yet even the strongest red-line declarations will amount to cheap talk if not backed by a stronger defense—something the United States and Taiwan currently lack.

Taiwanese and American policy makers are aware of the problem, but they aren’t moving fast enough to fix it.45 Even as the Pentagon puts protecting Taiwan at the center of U.S. defense strategy, American policy makers spend an inordinate amount of time arguing about whether to build a 355-ship navy that might be completed sometime in the 2040s. The Pentagon itself is shoveling R&D money into fancy new capabilities that might arrive a decade too late. Taiwan has adopted, in principle, the porcupine concept it needs to resist a Chinese invasion. But it keeps blowing more than a quarter of its annual defense budget on domestically made ships and submarines that will not be deployed for years, fighter aircraft that may not make it off the ground in a war, and tanks that cannot easily maneuver on beaches or in jungles or cities.46

At this rate, Taiwan and Washington might be ready for war in the 2030s—when what is needed is a strategy to deter or perhaps win a conflict in the 2020s. To close China’s near-term window of opportunity, the United States and Taiwan will have to move rapidly, in multiple respects.

First, the Pentagon can dramatically raise the costs of a Chinese invasion by turning the international waters of the Taiwan Strait into a death trap for attacking forces—and it can do so simply by buying tools that are ready or nearly ready today. The most straightforward solution would be to position hordes of missile launchers, armed drones, electronic jammers, smart mines, and sensors at sea and on allied territory near the strait. Instead of waiting for a Chinese invasion to start and then surging missile-magnet aircraft carriers into the region, the Pentagon could use what is, in essence, a high-tech minefield to decimate China’s invasion forces and cut their communications links as they load in mainland ports or putter across more than 100 miles of open water. These diffuse networks of loitering munitions and jammers would be difficult for China to eliminate without starting a region-wide war. They would not require large crews, logistics tails, or the procurement of fancy platforms. Instead, they could be installed on virtually anything that floats or flies, including legacy platforms and repurposed cargo ships, barges, and aircraft.47

This approach would capitalize on a key U.S. advantage: China’s war aims are more ambitious, and harder to achieve, than America’s. Whereas China needs to seize control of Taiwan and its surrounding waters to win the war, the United States just needs to deny Chinese forces that control, a mission that modern missiles, mines, drones, and jammers are well suited to perform.48 This strategy would also enhance deterrence by denying China the possibility of a swift victory. China’s leaders might be willing to start a short war over Taiwan, even one that kills millions. They will be less keen to fight a war that seems likely to spiral out of their control and drag on interminably, with no opportunity to declare victory. Such a messy, uncontrolled conflict could derail the economy while spurring domestic discontent and instability. It is this prospect of chaos, not the prospect of casualties, that has deterred China from fighting in the past.49 It could do so again today if Beijing comes to fear the strait as a no-man’s land of missiles, mines, and electromagnetic interference.

Second, America can’t win the fight unless it stays in the fight, and that means rapidly dispersing and hardening America’s bases, communications, and logistics networks in East Asia. China’s theory of victory—the way it plans to defeat a technologically superior American adversary—depends heavily on “system destruction warfare.”50 This means destroying America’s forward-deployed aircraft while they’re parked on the tarmac and preventing a surge of U.S. forces from other regions by paralyzing their lines of communications and logistics.

To prevent China from making this theory work, the United States must scatter its forces across dozens of small operating sites in East Asia and reduce its reliance on non-stealthy weapons systems that require anything more than episodic communication or data flow. The few big bases that remain must be outfitted with hardened shelters, robust missile defenses, and fake targets to absorb Chinese missiles. Forces that are still dependent on centralized networks must prepare for communications blackouts by drilling regularly to conduct missions independent of central command. The United States doesn’t need a completely air-gapped and bullet-proof force, but it does need a more resilient one that makes China’s leaders doubt they can achieve “system destruction” at large scale.51 It also needs to prepare to turn “system destruction warfare” against the CCP by using well-prepared cyberattacks, electronic warfare, and other means to shut down key Chinese capabilities in the early days of a conflict. And America’s cyber warriors should proactively help Taiwan police its key servers and networks, so that China can’t use its own offensive cyber capabilities to hobble Taiwanese resistance before the shooting even starts.

This relates to a third requirement: Washington needs to help Taiwan help itself. Taipei has smart plans to stock up on mobile missile launchers, mines, and radars; harden its communications infrastructure; and enlarge its army and ground-force reserves. It is moving, albeit slowly, toward the only winning strategy it has: one based on using cheap and plentiful capabilities (“large numbers of small things,” as one U.S. official remarked in 2019) to inflict sky-high costs on an aggressor. The United States can hasten these preparations by donating ammunition and sensors, subsidizing Taiwanese procurement of missile launchers and mine layers, matching Taiwanese investments in vital military infrastructure, and expanding joint training on air and coastal defense and anti-submarine and mine warfare, contingent on Taipei aggressively pursuing an asymmetric approach. These plans can be modeled on the War Reserve Stocks for Allies program the United States maintains with Israel—another initiative meant to help a small, isolated democracy.52 And the Pentagon can use its special operations forces’ expertise in unconventional warfare to help Taiwan prepare for a lethal insurgency against Chinese occupiers, the prospect of which may help deter invasion in the first place.

In short, if Taiwan doesn’t sprint to implement the right strategy, there’s not much America can do to save it. If it does, the United States should provide money, hardware, and expertise to make the island a tougher target. All this, in turn, will require an even closer relationship than Washington and Taipei have today—a relationship that may not become a formal alliance, but one that nonetheless features the frequent high-level consultations, training and exercises, and deep military and diplomatic cooperation in peacetime that allows countries to fight effectively together when war breaks out.53

Fourth, the United States needs to reduce its geographic disadvantage—and buy time for these other measures to take effect—by boosting its military presence near, and even on, Taiwan. American warships and submarines should conduct regular patrols through the Taiwan Strait, even if this means redeploying forces from other regions, to reduce the odds that a conflict will begin when the nearest U.S. firepower is hundreds of miles away. America and Japan should establish joint fire-bases in the southernmost Ryukyu Islands, and they should do it now, rather than waiting for war to break out. The United States should also increase the special operations forces training missions it quietly conducts with Taiwan, so that more often than not, small groups of elite troops are already on the scene and ready to help.54

More dramatically, the United States could deploy its own surface-to-air and anti-ship missile batteries on Taiwan. This step may not be necessary; Taiwan has advanced missiles, and the U.S. military might be able to mass sufficient firepower by deploying surface ships and missile barges near the island. But being able to operate on Taiwan would allow the United States to make the most of that island’s forbidding terrain—while ensuring that China knows the Pentagon will be in the fight from the start.

Fifth, America should develop the ability to disrupt China’s military communication systems. The last thing any autocratic regime wants is to lose control over its forces. Because the PLA has mainly killed its own people since the invasion of Vietnam in 1979, it hasn’t tested its command-and-control processes under wartime stress. CCP officials surely have doubts about how well a heavily politicized, still-corrupt PLA would perform in the fog of war.55 By developing the ability—through cyberattacks and related means—to strain Chinese command-and-control mechanisms and inject confusion into military communications networks, the Pentagon can make Chinese officials wonder how glitchy their force will be in combat. And by subtly advertising that ability in peacetime, America can make Beijing question whether escalating to conflict is worth it.

Finally, the United States needs to make China realize that a Taiwan war could go big as well as long. The more allies and partners America can bring into the fight, the less appetizing that fight will look to Beijing. The PLA may talk big about nuking Japan if Tokyo gets in the way of a Taiwan invasion, but it can’t really relish fighting a global superpower and its mightiest regional ally at the same time.56 Similarly, the Indian and Australian navies could help Washington choke off Beijing’s energy imports as they pass through the Strait of Malacca. Key European powers—especially the United Kingdom and France—can contribute a few submarines or surface combatants to a naval war in the western Pacific; they can lend their well-honed cyber expertise to help defend critical Taiwanese systems. They can also impose painful economic sanctions in the event of Chinese aggression.57

None of these countries can save Taiwan militarily. But they can help Washington turn a war over Taiwan into a confrontation between China and advanced democracies around the world. That’s a strategic price that even Xi might hesitate to pay.

If deterrence fails, however, there will be no substitute for sinking China’s invasion fleet—and even that might not force Beijing to back down. Great-power wars rarely end after the opening salvo, especially when one belligerent believes it is fighting over vital territory. The United States and its allies must prepare, materially and psychologically, for a grinding conflict that could drag on for months or years.


Ever since the Industrial Revolution and the advent of the mass army, great-power wars have more often been long than short. The Napoleonic Wars, the U.S. Civil War, and World Wars I and II were all decided by relentless attrition rather than rapid annihilation. If China tried and failed to invade Taiwan, it would have strong reasons to fight on. Xi would surely fear that conceding defeat to Taiwanese renegades and American imperialists would hobble China geopolitically, imperil the CCP’s legitimacy, and lead to his overthrow. He might keep the war machine running, in hopes of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat or simply saving some face.

Halting a Chinese invasion of Taiwan could be the twenty-first century equivalent of France’s stand on the river Marne in the opening weeks of World War I—a heroic, necessary defense that sets the stage for a protracted, bloody slugfest.

Winning that sort of conflict means, first, making sure that America and Taiwan don’t run out of ammo. The United States can prepare by loading up on long-range missiles capable of wrecking China’s most valuable ships and aircraft from afar. For Taiwan, the vital weapons are short-range missiles, mortars, mines, and rocket launchers. Beyond stockpiling these munitions, the United States and Taiwan need to develop the production capacity to crank out new weapons in wartime, the way America has done in nearly every other major conflict in its history. Taiwanese weapons plants will be obvious targets for Chinese missiles, so it will also be crucial to harness allied industrial might; for example, using Japan’s shipbuilding capacity to design and produce simple missile barges rapidly, at scale.

At the same time, the United States and Taiwan may have to ride out a Chinese punishment campaign. When wars become protracted, the combatants typically search for new sources of leverage, as Germany did in World War I by resorting to unrestricted submarine warfare. Beijing would still have many ways to coerce Taiwan and the United States even if they sent China’s amphibious fleet to the bottom of the strait. China could try to strangle Taiwan economically with a blockade or cripple U.S. and Taiwanese electrical grids and telecommunications networks with cyberattacks.58 China could also try to bomb Taiwan into submission and perhaps even use, or threaten to use, nuclear weapons—a tactic that Beijing’s rapid nuclear buildup is making somewhat more feasible and, potentially, more attractive.

Stopping that coercion from succeeding will require a combination of defense and offense. The United States and Taiwan need to redouble their efforts to defend critical networks from cyberattacks; Taiwan needs to expand its system of civilian shelters; bulk up its stockpiles of food, fuel, and medical supplies; and prepare its population for prolonged, bloody sacrifice. But these defensive measures must be paired with offensive preparations that threaten China with painful retaliation.

By conducting exercises with allies and partners that demonstrate an ability to choke off Chinese maritime commerce, the United States can threaten to turn an extended war into an economic catastrophe for the CCP.59 By developing the ability to conduct severe cyberattacks on China’s critical infrastructure—and the CCP’s political control mechanisms—the United States can threaten to bring the war home to Beijing. By preparing to sink Chinese naval vessels up and down the western Pacific, and to target whatever bases and other global military infrastructure Beijing has built, the United States can force the CCP to risk a generation of military modernization and expansion in any war over Taiwan.60 And although the United States would obviously prefer to keep a war over Taiwan non-nuclear, it needs to have the limited nuclear options—the ability to use lower-yield weapons against ports, airfields, fleets, and other military targets—that would allow it to credibly respond to, and thereby deter, Chinese nuclear threats.61 In sum, Washington should confront Beijing with a basic proposition: The longer the war continues, the more devastation America will inflict on China and its ruling regime.

Finally, the United States needs to prepare for war termination as seriously as it prepares for warfighting. A war with a nuclear-armed foe is unlikely to end in a total U.S. victory or a complete Chinese capitulation.62 The better America fares, the more unpredictable a scared CCP may become. It will take lots of sustained coercion and destruction to make Beijing call it quits—but it may also take some face-saving diplomacy. If, for example, China was eventually willing to stop attacking Taiwan in exchange for a pledge that the island would not seek, and Washington would not support, political independence, then America would be wise to accept such a bargain. (The flip side of this approach might be a quiet warning that America’s war aims would escalate—perhaps encompassing formal independence for Taiwan—the longer the shooting continues.)

Washington would then have shown that it can preserve Taiwan as a barrier to Chinese expansion; Xi could claim, however dubiously, that he had taught Taipei a lesson. Wars are easy to start, but hard to end, so the United States will need to grind an aggressive China down while leaving it a way out.


Breaking China’s emerging economic empire, preventing the global erosion of democracy, saving Taiwan: These missions would be daunting under any circumstance, but they are all the more challenging following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The United States doesn’t face a single serious security crisis; it faces at least two, at opposite ends of the world’s largest landmass, with the possibility of more to come.

China is the chief threat, given its colossal power and soaring ambitions: Americans are not in danger of finding themselves living in a Russo-centric world. Yet the United States can’t simply abandon Europe, as some analysts advocate, and throw its resources into Asia.

Every time America has tried to disengage from Europe, disaster has struck. The most egregious example occurred after World War I, when American retrenchment contributed to a global conflagration. Recent history provides other cautionary tales. In 2001, President Bush looked Putin in the eye, determined that the dictator had a decent soul, and drew down U.S. forces in Europe to concentrate on wars in the Middle East: In 2008, Russia invaded Georgia. The Obama administration then pursued a “reset” with Moscow before dissing Russia as a declining power and pivoting U.S. strategic attention to Asia: Putin made Washington pay by carving up Ukraine. The Trump and Biden administrations came to office determined to make China their priority: Russia then tried to destroy an independent Ukraine in a massive land grab that created a global security crisis. Peace on the continent that produced Napoleon, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Milosevic, and Putin cannot be presumed.

Nor can events in Europe be sealed off from the balance of power in Asia. For one thing, Russia’s revanchist and antidemocratic campaign works in tandem with China’s. By meddling in democracies, challenging the credibility of NATO, carving out spheres of influence, and promoting the legitimacy of dictatorship, Moscow exposes cracks in the international order for Beijing to blast through. In addition, the three main power assets the United States needs to counter China—a free world economic bloc, security community, and democracy protection regime—would be crippled by a breakdown of order in Europe that consumes and divides America’s allies there. China projects its influence across multiple regions and aims to achieve global primacy. Competing with Beijing requires rallying an international alliance of leading democracies, and many of the world’s most powerful liberal states are European. That alliance will not stand if Europe falls into chaos.

This means America must pursue a double-containment strategy that deals with threats from China and Russia simultaneously. In Europe, task one is to beef up defenses on NATO’s Eastern flank. European nations have promised to invest more heavily in defense, with Germany—long the continent’s leading free rider—now promising to show the way.63 But those efforts won’t bear fruit for years, and they won’t make enough of a difference without the Pentagon also committing more to the defense of a crucial theater. To keep insecurity and aggression from metastasizing, Washington will need sustained deployments of additional troops, armor, airpower, and naval assets to Europe and the surrounding waters.64

The United States also needs to take the lead in training and equipping Baltic and East European militaries to mobilize rapidly, destroy enemy tanks and aircraft, conduct raids on massed forces, and wage urban warfare. The goal would be to stand up local forces that could dish out punishment on a grand scale to Russian invaders, while eliminating any hope that Moscow can overwhelm its enemies quickly, in a fait accompli. And so long as Ukrainians or other targets of Russian aggression are resisting, Washington should support them with arms, intelligence, and other forms of succor, if only as a way of bogging Moscow down in one conflict so it can’t move on to another.

An amped-up rivalry with Russia will be a contest in coercion and counter-coercion. So the United States and its wealthy democratic allies should also prepare to blunt Russian energy influence and cyberattacks by hardening critical networks, stocking up on energy resources and developing alternative means of supply, and showing that they will hit back hard against Russian ransomware attacks and other digital disruptions. Not least, the democracies will need to hold harsh financial and technological penalties in place as long as Russia breaches the bounds of acceptable international 'font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman",serif;color:blue'>65 Of course, a desperate Putin could be nearly as dangerous as a desperate Xi: Russia may lack China’s comprehensive national power, but it has a world-menacing arsenal of nuclear weapons. So the democratic community will also need open lines of communication and a willingness to deescalate, if and when Moscow’s behavior changes and the free world develops greater strength.

The bad news is that these efforts will require sustained multilateral cooperation. They will also be quite expensive: It won’t work to pursue a Cold War–style strategy vis-à-vis China and Russia with post-Cold war levels of urgency and investment. At the outset of 2022, America’s defense budget—and those of its allies—were hardly adequate for a dash through the danger zone against Beijing, let alone for waging intense competitions with two great-power rivals simultaneously.66 The good news is that the democratic world has the resources to make this strategy work, if it can find the will.

Washington plus its allies in Europe and Asia dwarf Moscow and Beijing in overall power: The former group makes up well over half of the world’s economic production, whereas China and Russia account for about 20 percent.67 As of early 2022, the United States was spending about 3.2 percent of its GDP on defense—far less than roughly 7 percent it averaged during the Cold War, and a small fraction of what it spent during previous periods of emergency such as the early 1950s. If America spent even 5 percent of GDP on defense today, and key allies also upped their game, there is no economic reason the democratic world can’t get the better of its challengers.68

Fortunately, times are changing. Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine has drawn NATO members closer together than at any time since the end of the Cold War. By shocking the democracies out of their complacency, Putin has given them a historic opportunity to regroup and reload for an era of great power competition—not just with Russia, but also China—much the way the Korean War spurred the adoption of a sky-high defense budget and a stronger global containment barrier during the Cold War.

The United States must use the vivid specter of autocratic aggression to spur investments and collective action that previously seemed unthinkable, including accelerated Japanese and German rearmament, more detailed and robust operational planning for multinational military operations against China and Russia, deployments of advanced missiles previously banned by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty on allied territory near Russia and China’s borders, enhanced solidarity on technological and innovation issues, and the preloading of fierce economic penalties—such as sanctions and an oil blockade—to be used if China invades Taiwan. “Fear makes easy the task of diplomats,” John Foster Dulles liked to say—it engendered the democratic cohesion the free world required to survive.69 Ironically, Putin may have done the United States a favor: Autocratic aggression on one side of the world could provide the urgency America needs to get ready for trouble on the other.


Across multiple areas, America must quickly degrade Chinese coercive capabilities or at least blunt the CCP’s ability to use them. Yet the whole idea of a danger-zone strategy is to avoid war, not provoke it, so there are limits to how far America should go.

The U.S. government could, for example, use a comprehensive tech embargo to drag down the Chinese economy. It could enact across-the-board trade sanctions meant to drive China’s once-cheap goods from the vast American market. It could sanction China’s central bank and boot many of its financial institutions out of global payments systems—the same economic death penalty America and its allies sought to impose on Russia in February 2022. Washington could even take a provocative page from its Cold War playbook by starting a major covert action program to stir up dissatisfied minorities and foment internal violence. Any of these measures would take a toll on the CCP. But they might take a heavier toll on the United States by frightening the countries whose cooperation America must rally. What’s more, they risk inciting the desperate moves Washington should be trying to forestall. The U.S. oil embargo in July 1941 did start squeezing the life out of the Japanese economy—and in doing so pushed Tokyo to attack Pearl Harbor in a deadly bid for survival.

The need to balance strength and caution is all the more reason for America not to drastically ratchet up the pressure everywhere at once, but to focus on issues where action is needed most. In fact, a danger-zone strategy should involve reacting calmly to or even encouraging initiatives that channel Chinese money and attention in less threatening directions. If Beijing wants to spend lavishly on white elephant infrastructure projects in some of the roughest neighborhoods in the world, such as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, so be it.70 If China invests heavily in aircraft carriers that won’t really help it in the contingencies that worry the Pentagon most, so much the better. The United States will find it easier to do more in critical areas if it does less in nonvital areas.

For similar reasons, America will need an eyes-wide-open approach to diplomacy. If the United States has learned anything during the past thirty years, it is that no amount of diplomatic engagement will get the CCP to fundamentally change how it sees the world. War is less likely to happen “by accident,” or due to poor communication, than it is to happen as a result of a calculated Chinese decision to strike.71 Even the prospects for crisis management are limited. China has typically been ambivalent about confidence-building mechanisms—meaningful military-to-military exchanges, emergency “hotlines” linking top leaderships, clear codes of conduct for ships and planes operating near each other—because it doesn’t want Washington to think crises can be successfully managed.72

Yet prudent diplomacy still has a role to play. Cooperation on the few issues where American and Chinese interests overlap, such as slowing climate change, can perhaps soften an intensifying rivalry. Regular meetings with high-level Chinese officials can help the United States convey its intentions on Taiwan and other issues without risking a public confrontation; they can also provide insight into the thinking of a notoriously opaque regime. In the event of a freak accident, such as a ship collision in the South China Sea, open channels of communication can prevent unwanted escalation.73 And in general, it is strategically important for America not to be seen as closing the door to dialogue, because doing so will scare away important partners that don’t want to get dragged into a U.S.-China throwdown.

The key, as during the early Cold War, is to keep American expectations realistic. The list of issues on which the United States and China can work together is short: The country that started and then ruthlessly exploited the most recent pandemic probably won’t do much to help prevent the next one. Beijing also has a long track record of luring Washington into formal, high-level blab-fests—“strategic dialogues” on economics and security—that served mainly to anesthetize America to a rising challenge. And the worst thing for the United States to do would be to fall back into the familiar trap of allowing China to link cooperation on climate change or any other issue to American restraint in the security competition.74 That’s a formula for disaster when time is as short as it is today. Diplomacy, in the coming years, can complement an intensely competitive U.S. strategy. If it becomes a substitute for that strategy, however, America will find itself in a world of trouble.

A danger-zone strategy won’t be easy: Navigating the 2020s will require vigorous, defensive hole-plugging as well as targeted, offensive coercion. The United States will have to run risks and accept higher tensions; it will have to make serious investments of time, energy, and resources. Above all, America—including some of its stodgiest bureaucracies—must summon wartime agility, speed, and purpose to preserve a fragile peace. America’s near-term vulnerabilities have become sufficiently pronounced that it no longer has the luxury of delay. The choice, then, is between doing things that are hard now or doing things that are even harder once China has achieved strategic breakthroughs—or simply broken the system.

If the task seems arduous, the immediate returns will also be limited. Crossing the danger zone won’t bring an end to the U.S.-China competition, any more than surviving the early Cold War brought that rivalry to a close. A stagnant or decaying power can still cause serious trouble in lots of places; a U.S.-China rivalry beyond 2030 could well be global in scope and extended in duration. But if America can make it through the next decade in good order, it can accomplish far more than just holding the line.

In retrospect, the first few years of the Cold War were so crucial not just because the free world addressed its most worrying vulnerabilities, but also because it began amassing what would ultimately prove to be decisive advantages. There’s a similar opportunity in the U.S.-China rivalry.

By protecting a free Taiwan, Washington can preserve a potent ideological alternative to a repressive, slowing China and begin fortifying the geopolitical constraints that will keep Beijing in check. By forging a free-world economic bloc, America can help ensure that democracies set the pace in critical technologies for decades to come. By rallying ad hoc, issue-focused democratic cooperation now, Washington can lay the foundation for larger, more ambitious coalitions in the future. Patterns established in the early years of a competition can have lasting, transformative effects. If America gets its danger-zone strategy right, the long game may eventually be there for the taking, as well.

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