NEW YORK – The strategic rivalry between China and the United States has incited an outbreak of historical analogies — Athens versus Sparta, the United Kingdom versus Wilhelmine Germany, or the U.S. versus the Soviet Union. But the fracas over the U.S. actions against the telecommunications giant Huawei recalls another antecedent: the pre-World War II U.S. pressure campaign against Japan, culminating in President Franklin Roosevelt’s momentous decision in July 1941 to freeze Japan’s assets in the U.S.
Once again, the U.S. faces an aggrieved Asian power seeking to claim its place in the geopolitical sun, displace the U.S. from Asia, transcend its economic dependency on the West and rewrite international rules to advance its interests. That Asian power is stoking nationalist fervor and repressing dissent at home. And the U.S. is attempting to use economic leverage to change its behavior while increasing military deployments to shore up alliances and assert its presence.