History has a worrying lesson for relations between China and the United States; when a waning power tries to stop the rise of its main rival, there is usually war. Beijing and Washington are at loggerheads on a growing number of issues and all the while, are ramping up military preparedness. There has been a noticeable increase in the number of air and sea exercises by both in the region, especially in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait, while fortification or expansion of bases is under way. There are still rational senior officials keen for dialogue to head off confrontation, but until political will is shown, regional destabilisation will worsen. Chinese military plans live-fire drills amid rising Taiwan tensions The nations’ militaries are at least aware of the risks; Defence Minister Wei Fenghe and his American counterpart, Mark Esper , conversed by phone for about 90 minutes on Thursday to express concern about the actions of each others’ countries. They spoke of the need for a constructive defence relationship and as the Chinese official said, the necessity to strengthen maritime risk management and control, avoid dangerous actions and maintain regional peace and stability. State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, responding to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stating that engagement with Beijing had been “a failure”, had said the previous day that China was ready to restart dialogue at all levels to ease the tensions and “put in place a clear-cut framework” in the relationship. Trade and investment links between China and the US remain strong despite American President Donald Trump’s strategy of decoupling, but a ramping-up of rhetoric and military deployments would appear to be putting his country on a collision course. In addition to the sailing of American warships through the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait, risking accidental collision with Chinese vessels, in July alone there were dozens of reconnaissance flights. Recent updated satellite photos show substantial infrastructure upgrading of the base on Wake Island, a remote, but strategically located, American territory in the western Pacific between Guam and Hawaii that is controlled by the US air force. Defence ministers talk under the shadow of US flight near China coast It could reinforce American bases in Guam and Japan, host missile defences against potential Chinese, North Korean and Russian rocket strikes on American territory, and during a conflict, be a key fallback point for US and allied forces. The US presidential election in November and the stepped-up sabre-rattling and military movements are raising risks. The possibility of accidental collision of vessels is high; engagement to ensure a mechanism for crisis management is urgently needed. The world is suffering adversity from Covid-19 and trade and political disputes; war has to be avoided at all costs.