Why the US can’t win new cold war it started

By Zhang Tengjun Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/22 11:39:38

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While China has been mobilizing from top to bottom and taking unprecedented measures to combat new coronavirus, it is reported that the Trump administration is considering whether to suspend the export license of the sale of an aircraft engine produced by General Electric to China. This has prompted worries about technology decoupling between the industries of the both countries. Despite Trump's denials on Twitter, China hawks within the Trump administration remain vocal.

At the same time, the US Secretary of State is continuing his "don't cooperate with Huawei" journey abroad. Even its strongest and most special allies -- The UK has given Huawei limited access to 5G networks. Most other allies have not closed the door to working with Huawei. Whether it is the continued suppression of Huawei, the indictment of Chinese military personnel for alleged cyber attacks, or the slander and accusations of China by senior US officials at the just-concluded Munich Security Conference, it reflects a clear trend. That is: The current US administration is not willing to deal with China through dialogue and negotiation, but rather by increasingly harsh unilateral measures. And these actions took place shortly after China and the US signed the phase one trade deal.


The US policy towards China in recent years has sparked widespread concern about the possibility of a cold war between the US and China, as well as widespread opposition to unilateral US actions. Judging from the course of the trade war between the two countries, it seems easy to conclude that there is a fundamental incompatibility between the views of China and the US on the current international order and the model of economic governance. This incompatibility has spread to other areas such as ideology and cultural values, which may lead to a larger scale of conflict and a repeat of the tragedy of the cold war between the US and the Soviet Union.

US maximum pressure on China is not confined to the economic and trade field, nor is it an expedient measure. It has deeper strategic considerations. First, the US believes that there is a fundamental contradiction between China's strategic goal of achieving the "great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation" and the US goal of "making America great again". Second, the US believes that China's economic and military might is enough to challenge US global and regional dominance and therefore cannot afford to sit idly by. Third, the US has undergone a fundamental change in its perception of China. It advocates abandoning the engagement policy that brings about gradual political change in China. Instead, it believes that only by exerting extreme pressure on China can it force China to yield and stop China from rising. These views are prevalent in Washington, and there are voices calling for an immediate cold war with China.

No matter how you look at it, there will be no winner in this hypothetical cold war, and the US will not be able to continue its march to greatness unscathed. In a word, the time has changed, and Sino-US relations are very different from the US-Soviet relations 70 years ago.

First of all, although the development paths of the two countries are different, China holds the correct course. For more than 40 years, China has always adhered to the path of reform and opening up, firmly integrated into and safeguarded the current international system, and committed itself to a fair and reasonable reform direction. In contrast, the foreign policy of the present US administration is not only disorderly, but also increasingly assertive. The US presents itself to the world as a destroyer and subversive of the international order, which makes it mired in a moral deficit. 

Second, the US-Soviet Cold War was a collision between the two camps, while Sino-US relations are completely different, and the possibility of systematic confrontation is not high. China is not the leader of a bloc similar to the Soviet bloc. It has always adhered to the policy of non-alignment and made it clear that it does not engage in bloc politics. This is the basic principle governing China's relations with other countries. Because China is fully aware that all countries have the right to choose their own social systems and ideologies. The era of cold war confrontation is long gone. However, despite painstaking efforts, the US secretary of State and Defense secretary and other senior officials take turns to hype up the "China threat theory" and "debt trap theory", but few countries in the world have succumbed to US bullying because they know it is in their national interest to have a healthy relationship with China rather than to follow America's lead in suppressing it. 

Third, the international competition in the age of globalization is about who can offer a better vision for common development, not ideology or values.The world today is in a state of unprecedented change in a century, and countries are facing increasingly severe internal and external challenges. 

To realize common development and progress of all countries is the responsibility and mission of a responsible country. In this regard, China has made good on its word and put forward the Belt and Road initiative. Establishing multilateral and regional financing institutions to provide financial support for development projects in small and medium-sized countries, China has made important contributions to addressing global issues such as climate change and nuclear proliferation. Even in the most urgent case of novel coronavirus, China has provided valuable experience in preventing and responding to the spread of infectious diseases through nationwide mobilization.


The US, on the other hand, is still tarnishing China's contribution to international public health, and even suspects China of creating the coronavirus. The US has offered no constructive solutions to other countries' domestic concerns other than a relentless propaganda campaign against China. As the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “If people oppose one brand or another then they have to tell us what is the alternative, right?” Such actions will not win the US a united front against China, but will only lead to helplessness and self-isolation.


The author is an assistant research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies.


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