In a year of mounting tensions between China and the US in the South China Sea, Lowy Institute Visiting Fellow Professor Hugh White's book, The China Choice, is a timely and important contribution to international policy debate.

The recent anti-Japan protests show a dark combative side of Chinese nationalism while the fragility of relations in the Asia Pacific is demonstrated by President Barack Obama's and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's repeated accusations that China is flouting WTO regulations. As White cautions in his book, we ignore the seismic shift in power from west to east at our peril.

The China Choice has sparked a wide-reaching debate in local and international press. Among the reviews and previews have been pieces by Malcolm Turnbull in The Monthly, Rory Medcalf in The Diplomat, Anatol Lieven in The New York Times and, most recently, a review in The Economist.

We continue this important discussion here with four short videos of White in conversation with Professor Anatol Lieven. Lieven is the author of many books on America and Pakistan, editor at The National Interest and professor of the War Studies Department at King's College, London.

We were lucky to get White and Lieven together on the morning of The China Choice  launch at the Lowy Institute (remarks by Paul Keating); just two days later Lieven addressed the Institute on US-Pakistan relations.

The first part of the conversation between White and Lieven considers the shadow of 1914. International relations scholars are often tentative about evoking the 1914 analogy, but White contends their reticence has gone too far. Living in peacetime has made the prospect of great power conflict seem remote but it is not alien to the international system. We should be pessimistic, White says, about the evolving contest for power and prestige in Asia between China and the US. Just as Sarajevo was the unpredicted flashpoint for the First World War, the South China Sea today carries that same potential for conflict between China and the US.