BIG IDEA | ‘China’s vital position in the global production chain and the lack of struggle for ideological supremacy between authoritarianism and liberal democracy mean that the rise of a new Cold War is unlikely.’
For the past few years, many have argued that the U.S. and China are in a Cold War or will soon be.
- I was a foot-soldier during the Cold War with the Soviet Union and a life-long observer of U.S.-China relations. And my take is what we have with China is not a Cold War.
My objection to calling the U.S.-China relationship a Cold War is that it is a false analogy with the competition between the U.S. and the USSR that leads to biased assessments, sloppy thinking, and bad policies.
- So making the distinction between situations is more than just the niceties of nomenclature – here the right nomenclature makes a difference.
That’s why I was happy to see the issue, to my mind, put to rest [don't worry, I'm still not so naive as to believe the new Cold Warriors will find this persuasive.] by Columbia’s Thomas Christenson in his essay, ‘There Will Not Be a New Cold War.’
- Here’s his argument.
‘U.S.-Chinese strategic competition, which is real and carries dangers, lacks three essential and interrelated elements of the United States’ Cold War with the Soviet Union and its allies:
- ‘The United States and China are not involved in a global ideological struggle for the hearts and minds of third parties;
- ‘Today’s highly globalized world is not and cannot easily be divided into starkly separated economic blocs; and
- ‘The United States and China are not leading opposing alliance systems such as those that fought bloody proxy wars in the mid-twentieth century in Korea and Vietnam and created nuclear crises in places such as Berlin and Cuba.
‘Two factors would need to change to produce something akin to the U.S.-Soviet Cold War.
- ‘If China were to start a conscious campaign to bolster authoritarianism and undermine democracies around the world, then U.S. and Chinese allies would quickly begin butting up against each other.
- ‘If Beijing were to swap out parts of the global production chain with Chinese rather than foreign producers and rely less on global markets [the professed aim expressed at the recent National People's Congress and embodied in the 'dual-circulation' economic strategy], then China might be more willing to accept the cost of an ideological struggle.
‘Until China breaks sharply from its recent past on both scores, a U.S.-Chinese cold war will not occur.’