China's continued military maneuvers around Taiwan bring up a question that has so far been strangely left out of public debate: How can a major war between America and China, with all its unthinkable consequences, be avoided at all?

Instead of this question, the narrative of the global system competition is dominant, which in its usual reading is also open to a warlike extension.

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, justified her visit to Taipei by saying "the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy."

It is therefore "essential that America and its allies make it clear that we will never give in to the autocrats".

Mark Siemons

Feature correspondent in Berlin.

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What does this mean for the question of war and peace?

The quick answer, with which most people have been satisfied so far, is that credible military deterrence combined with containment or at least restraint of Chinese ambitions is the best way to prevent a war.

These are also the cornerstones of Biden's China strategy, which seeks a more active alliance policy around the world, especially among China's immediate neighbors.

But such a program alone, without an institutionalized war avoidance mechanism supported jointly by both sides, such as the one that existed in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis even during the Cold War with the Soviet Union, would in the medium term decide on war and peace in the hands of the strongest - or those who believe in themselves more strongly - left.

What is happening around Taiwan demonstrates with all urgency that such guard rails do not currently exist.

In his recent book The Avoidable War (PublicAffairs, New York), former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd speaks of a “law of the strategic jungle”;

the relationship between the two countries is only determined by an abysmal mutual distrust.

In both Washington and Beijing, "the question is no longer how a confrontation can be avoided, but when it will come and under what circumstances".

The illusion of a limited war

Rudd is competent like no other when it comes to bringing the internal views of both countries into perspective.

He studied sinology, lived both in America and in China (and in Taiwan) and through his government offices he had the opportunity to speak at length with high-ranking politicians from both countries, for a total of ten hours with Xi Jinping alone, at six different meetings.

After Rudd's resignation in 2013, he wrote a doctoral thesis on "Xi Jinping's Worldview" at Oxford.

Today he is President of the Asia Society in New York.