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Opinion
Niall Ferguson

A Taiwan Crisis May Mark the End of the American Empire

America is a diplomatic fox, while Beijing is a hedgehog fixated on the big idea of reunification.

Diplomacy to a tee.

Diplomacy to a tee.

Photographer: Tim Rue/Bloomberg

In a famous essay, the philosopher Isaiah Berlin borrowed a distinction from the ancient Greek poet Archilochus: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

“There exists,” wrote Berlin, “a great chasm between those, on one side, who relate everything to … a single, universal, organizing principle in terms of which alone all that they are and say has significance” — the hedgehogs — “and, on the other side, those who pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory” — the foxes.