Tensions are mounting by the day between the United States and China, leading to talk of a new Cold War. Experts see important historical differences — but believe the two powers are entering dangerous territory.
US President Donald Trump’s administration has increasingly gone global against China, pushing other nations to reject its strings-attached aid and telecom titan Huawei, and siding unreservedly with Beijing’s rivals in the dispute-rife South China Sea.
Trump has made China a major campaign issue as he heads into the November election, but the relationship looks unlikely to change in more than tone if he loses to Joe Biden, who has accused the president of not being tough enough.
Stephen Walt, a professor of international affairs at Harvard University, said the world’s two largest economic powers were engaged in a long-term competition over “incompatible strategic visions,” including China’s desire to dominate Asia.
China sees Trump as a “weak and error-prone leader” and likely believes the “disastrous” US response to the coronavirus pandemic presented opportunities to press its advantage, he said.
“It resembles the US-Soviet ‘Cold War’ in certain respects, but it is not yet as dangerous as that earlier rivalry,” Walt said.
“One key difference is that the two states are still closely connected economically, although that relationship is now under considerable strain.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is taking stern warnings about Beijing around the world, did not reject the Cold War comparison in a recent radio interview.
He also noted that the United States was never as economically intertwined with the Soviet Union –and said the West therefore needed to separate from China, especially its technology, which Washington fears will be used for espionage.
– Chance of ‘hot war’ –
Oriana Skylar Mastro, an assistant professor at Georgetown University and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said it was dangerous to speak of a Cold War with China.