When Richard Nixon became president in early 1969, the nation was at war in Vietnam. America’s enemy in that conflict received military assistance from the Soviet Union, and to a lesser extent China. Early in his term Nixon became interested in improving ties with China. There were a number of reasons for this: China and the Soviet Union were enemies, China was not yet a strategic threat to the United States, and Nixon recognized an opportunity to create an alliance with China that would make things more difficult for the Soviet Union. He told Henry Kissinger to work on the issue. Kissinger made a secret visit to China, and eventually the United States and China were able to develop an alliance. By February 1972, despite criticism from American conservatives, Nixon actually visited China during a historic and symbolic trip that also included substantive agreements on things such as trade and diplomatic communications. That alliance made the Soviet Union nervous and ultimately led to better US-Soviet relations, including leadership visits, arms control agreements, and even a rendezvous between American and Soviet spacecraft. Nixon was a miserable SOB and a terrible president, but his China gambit was a masterful example of strategic flanking.
But most importantly, it is possible for the two countries to deliberately avoid a hostile superpower rivalry by maneuvering themselves out of one. They could mutually agree that military confrontation on a strategic basis is simply unwise, and unprofitable. They could take steps to improve communications and relations. And space exploration could serve as one tool for navigating the two powers away from a future adversarial relationship.
Tkae a read. Dwayne, as always, provides some interesting comments and is as articulate as ever. However, I don't think that cooperating in space will - one way or another - have much impact on terrestrial politics between the USA and PRC. I also think it'd be bad idea in general for tech transfer reasons. Finally, frakkin A, folks, competition is a good thing. We don't all have to sit there and hold hands. sheesh.