US-China New Cold War


The United States of America and Republic of China are the two dominant superpowers in the contemporary world. There are many predictions about the emergence of a Second or New Cold War between the US and China. Is there a Global competition going on between two major superpowers? Is there a Cold War 2 emerging? The competition between US and China in the realm of trade is thought to be leading towards the Cold War. Trade friction as imposition of trade tariffs from both sides as a domino effect seemed to be a new cold war but there are similarities and many differences in this regard of saying it a Cold War 2.


The similarities between the USA and USSR Cold War and US-China rivalry do exist. The balance of power and ideological confrontation between global state rivalries but also the phenomenon of globalization and complex interdependence make these bilateral relations of that era and contemporary era different. If one observes from the lens of balance of power then it is the same phenomenon as in the current scenario and at the time of the USSR, they tried to maintain balance of power by competing in every aspect same as China doing. China is trying to maintain this balance economically greatly and militarily as well.


From another aspect of Ideological confrontation there is similarity in the original Cold War and at present time USSR was a communist block and US was capitalist block they competed in the economic market. Same is the case in China and the US. China holds ideology of communism as it was the major ally of Russia from the start and the US practices capitalism. In this realm there is the similarity between the original Cold War and so called New Cold War. Another main event of the Cold War between the USSR and the US was the containment of Russia by making alliance with different states by the US. As communism and different Ideologies expect to expand itself. Same strategy is opted by the US in case China is its rival. China is using its economic power to gain international influence and to expand its ideology, one of the major projects is One Belt One Road Initiative (BRI). The US is trying and taking every possible measures to contain China from gaining economic influence as in the South Asia region US signed a Nuclear pact with India though by compromising rules of international treaty and by doing amendments in different acts. These all were done because of existing hostile relations of China and India on strategic location and the US backed this conflict by helping India and funding them to contain China’s hegemonic initiatives to further expand in the region.


By talking about the differences of the original Cold War and the new emerging cold war the impact of the new phenomenon of globalization which wasn’t that much dominant at the time of the Cold War but it is in the contemporary world. Both the USSR and US were following a policy of isolationism at that time. They weren’t involved in mutual trade relations. Due to this globalization states are dependent on each other many of their relations are based on mutual interest. If one state tries to hurt others relations then there is a great chance of its own destruction. The complex interdependence theory is applied here. Many of China’s imports and exports depend on the US and vice versa. Though both states the US and China impose trade tariffs on each other with a will of showing hostility and to contain each other but all of the above they are highly dependent on each other China’s large portion of GDP depends on the exports to US and vice versa. Due to all of these reasons there are slim chances of going into a Cold War from both sides.


Besides these in arms race and militarily at the time of the USSR they were more oriented towards space exploration and weapon systems and the US and USSR were in a competition. Instead, now Us-China are competing in technological advancement in Artificial intelligence, quantum computing, new generations of information, communication technologies, nanotechnology, social media etc now they have a broader lens to examine the world and to achieve their goals. The US is much stronger than China as China isn’t investing much in its hard power but are enhancing its soft power. China had even said many times that they don’t want to get involved in any type of war though of cold or hot war. But the US takes it as its global rival. Advancement and gaining hegemony in the world poses a threat for the US’s hegemonic notion. If we talk about proxy wars then when Soviets US used Afghan Taliban’s funded them to fight against Soviets in Afghanistan. And in recent situations the same phenomenon is applicable in case of Israel and India they provide funding to India to hold standoffs between China and India. But neither US nor China would come and didn’t afford to come in direct confrontation. These all come under containment policies.


It’s been seen in recent pandemic situations that US president Donald Trump had directly accused China about this virus. He even said it as “Chinese Virus”. In the time period of Trump there were hot relations between the US and China regarding trade. Trump imposed hard tariffs to contain trade with China. Also Trump’s manifesto was to “Make America Great again”. These all notions indicate that US and China are directly or indirectly involved in this Cold War thing but obviously this will not turn into hot conflicts as it turned out during USSR time. By taking under review all these aspects considering it a New Cold War isn’t wrong but as the result of the original Cold War was disintegration of Soviet Union its not the same as of this New Cold War there are less chances of disintegration from either side, from the US or China. So this is a highly debatable topic and many conversations are going on the predictions. Let’s see in which direction it would turn out.


Student of BS-SS-4th National Defense University, Islamabad

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