[Debate] U.S. and China – Are We in a New Cold War?

[Debate] U.S. and China – Are We in a New Cold War?


The reason I say there is a cold war now is that,
a cold war it’s not a hot war. It’s rivalry shorter violence and I think
that very much describes what we’re seeing today between the United States
on one side and China on the other. It’s very clear that the two are in
contention over a whole range of issues. Primacy in the world order, influence
in regions, prevailing in an economic contest including a technological
contest. And even in respect of culture whose values civilizational or political
is going to win the day and get the loyalty of others around the world.
So I think if you add all that up, a wide-ranging globalized, pretty intense
competition between two massive proponents of a certain way of life, with
the backing of military and economic power, then I think that pretty much
describes a cold war. It didn’t begin with the accession of President Trump to power. It predated that. But it’s shown now very clearly, with two larger-than-life
figures in Trump and in President Xi Jinping on the other side. So I would say,
this is exactly the reason that we’re in a cold war, big personalities, big issues,
contention and rivalry short of war. And why short of war? Because just as in the original Cold War, the costs of actual hostilities are far too high, especially
with nuclear weapons around. So that’s my case for a new Cold War. It will be better to think of the current tensions and rivalry between the two big powers
as a type of Cold War but not the Cold War itself. We can call it strategic competition.
You can call it trade and technology war but to call in a cold war
suggests certain things. First of all, there has to be a strong ideological
component to the Cold War. In China today, most China scholars
will tell you that China is ideologically bankrupt.
There is no coherent ideology so the lack of an ideologically strong China,
with a set of values that is appealing to a wide international audience, is what
I will consider to be the reason why they cannot be a new Cold War. There is no Cold War right now. You’re wrong. There is an ideological struggle. It doesn’t really matter what Xi Jinping says in public, or he doesn’t say in public, or what
Trump says in public, beyond the point. It’s what they’re actually doing and
what they’re talking about in their inner councils and the reason I say that
is an ideological war is that, there is a different relationship between the
government and economic processes, between government and individual
citizens. Sometimes is that they do hold to these different values and how they
behave with each other and with other countries, where they’re seeking
influence. This is a difference in political systems. It’s not about ideology per
se but it’s about political systems. It is about a democratic system versus
authoritarian system. I wouldn’t say that this is an ideological war because it’s
just about how governments are organized. It is not communism versus democracy,
or communism versus capitalism. It is not that. It is about what you believe is a right political system for your own country. Alright, so now we’re going to talk about the trade war and the technology war. We know that what’s happening in
Huawei and with ZTE and the actions that Trump has taken in slapping
additional terrorists on Chinese goods and the recent failure of the trade negotiations between the Chinese and Americans. Now, I see this trade war and
the technology war as part of a larger strategic competition between the two
countries. They’re not going to get better and as a result of which you’re
going to see changes in a way that trade and economics and technology is
organized in the world. You’re gonna see disruptions in the global value chain. I think you sort of prove my point that there is a competition, short of war which is intense and it’s now being translated
and pushed by economics. This happened during the classic Cold War, the original
Cold War where the United States and allies denied certain kinds of access,
certain kinds of technologies, certain kinds of economic interactions with the
Warsaw Pact led by the Soviet Union. Trump has really in a sense joined that
issue most clearly. His moves on trade and particular on technology. I think
it’s more a technology war than a trade war. they’ll strike a deal on trade eventually but technology is going to be very tough. The United States wants to
deny technology to China at this point, particularly as a gap in power reduces
between them, just like they tried to deny it to the Soviet Union. And I think you
know as you say, it’s going to intensify and it’s not easy to see at all at the
stage. If China makes the jump from the middle income country to a first-rate
high-level economy, then you know, the game is really on. And the United States
demographically being much smaller will lose. So I think the Americans have
decided that technology is where it’s at. They’ve got to stop technology
development in China. But again, I want to say that technology exporting is not the same as ideological exporting. So the elements of the Cold War are there, and it’s like the Cold War but it’s not the same as a Cold War. Yeah, everything is not
about ideology to be sure in a cold war. This is denial of technology to stop
China’s capabilities growing. In fact to me, it looks like a new containment. The
Americans want to deny technology, hurt China to the point that the Chinese
economy stagnates at this level, and if that happens, they’re hoping, betting,
certainly some of the new cold warriors are that this will undermine the rule of
the Communist Party. And we need to regime change just as it did
eventually in the Soviet Union when they fell behind America technologically. So we’ve talked about the ideological, political differences, the competition and economic differences. What about now the issue of the military? In a cold war, one of the things the two contestants have to make sure is that they don’t
fall into war inadvertently and that they have understandings about the level
of arms, how to use those arms, how to manage crises and confrontations. So arms
control confidence-building measures and I would say in a very short point, that
the United States and China have shown that sensitivity. They have a set of
discussions and tacit understandings, if not explicit ones, about how to regulate
military competition. what do you say about that? Well, I think that the exchanges,
the military exchanges are going on, but I believe that these exchanges are less robust. Cyber espionage is a huge concern.
Americans are very very suspicious of the Chinese about cyber espionage, about
5G. So that will actually throw a spanner in the works for all these
confidence-building measures. You’re gonna find that the distrust levels are
going to increase, not only through trade but also in the military sphere.
Non-traditional security challenges these days, the biggest one is in cyber
threat, cyber espionage, cyber security. That’s a big issue between the two
countries, and this is a very big issue. It creates distrust that will throw a
spanner in the works on confidence-building measures. Now this is one key aspect that the old Cold War does not have, which is that
technological change in the current world, in telecommunications, in
technology, in this kind of sphere is actually changing the face of
the game. And in this instance, the two countries don’t really know what to do,
what are the rules of the game, countries are not prepared to do with cyber
security issues. There’s also worries that through this
cyber espionage and cyber security threats, the Chinese together with the
Russians could try and interfere politically in countries, particularly
during election time. Yeah that’s a very interesting point, and
for once I agree with you. We’ve yet to discuss the role the soft power is playing now in a current tensions between the US and China. You have China coming up with the idea of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The idea is to win friends for China. It is soft
power as we can see it in action. It is about China’s economic largesse to
those around it and as well to other parts of the world. You can see that the
United States and other countries that it’s allied with, are also trying to catch up
on some power. The United States and the Quad countries of Australia, Japan, India,
have announced infrastructure funding as well. Different projects to counter the BRI.
It stresses a set of peaceful values that is inclusive, that we can
co-exist and freedoms of the Seas, navigation and all. So that actually is a
very key component of this current tensions, competition between the two countries that is not quite there in the old Cold War. Yeah I think that’s an interesting point and I’m tempted to agree with you but I
think what you’re ignoring and downplaying are the traditional
territorial conflicts, the flash points. Taiwan, the conflict with Japan over the
Senkaku, Diaoyu Islands, the South China Sea conflicts. Then I think the world looks
much more difficult and scary, and again harkens back to the old Cold War.
Those are interesting developments but soft power at the end of the day is not really
going to be very decisive in this competition. It’s going to be the flash points. The United States and China despite all that’s going on, really do not want a military blow up. Throughout the years since the Cold War, during the Cold War period and now, both sides have actually established contact, SOPs.
This is an old problem which both sides are used to dealing with. So that gives you
some level of comfort, in the sense that both sides know what they are doing. They have
certain perimeters that they will not cross. I don’t think they’re going to go to war over it but it’s the possibility that they’ll
mis-communicate, that someone in the field will make a mistake, that they will
mistake each other’s true intentions, that at a particular moment with domestic troubles. If you recall in the early 2000s, you have the EP-3 incident and the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. That created a
period of tensions between China and the US but as you can see, both governments
were working really hard to prevent that from becoming something that will
actually disrupt the progress in their relationship, so I think the management
crisis is there to deal with these kind of situations and both governments, if there
were an accident, would try and resolve it as peacefully as possible. So I think
that actually we are witnessing the shadow of a Cold War, not the Cold War itself.
I mean, I see what you mean. I understand the elements that’s very similar to the old Cold War,
but for me, the main component is the ideological component because
China is not an ideological coherent country. There is no ideological challenge to the United States, and therefore to me that’s not a Cold War. But I can’t agree. This is not a soulless power competition. There’s ideology here. It’s a Cold War.

Danny Hutson

5 thoughts on “[Debate] U.S. and China – Are We in a New Cold War?

  1. Insightful analysis from both parties. Personally, I think Prof. Bajpai's perspective cleaves closer to reality, but Prof. Ho makes good points also.

  2. Interesting insights! But for the benighted like me, I prefer to read into the latest moves made by Donald Trump. The latest being the delay of imposing tariffs till the 15 Dec 2019. We can dumb this down to Trump's fear of a backlash from the electorates if the corporations decides to raise prices during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    This postponement shows how much/little political capital Trump now has and how close the corporations are to raising prices. This also shows how beholden Trump is to the upcoming elections. The nearer to the election date, the more desperate Trump will get. To get an upper hand, China is now more likely to stretch negotiations till next year. But IMO China would prefer to settle this trade war with Trump rather than risk a new incumbent with renewed political capital.

    The technological war will never end though. That is a long term trend that Singapore must recognize. The enforcement of IP rights and the rule of law may grow in importance and significance. I have a silly vision of tying up blockchain, the IOT with IP enforcement and anti-counterfeiting but i digress. Singapore must somehow capitalize on this trend. We must continue to stay ahead of the curve. For that to continue, we must continue to identify trends. For that I am grateful of to the LKY school of public policy. I could not have grown without your generous sharing. Thank you for sharing the videos on youtube.

  3. very good debate. i sort of agree with both. but in my point of view the conflicts between US and China is not about Democratic System vs Authoritarian System, (Since the existence of the Federal Reserve is itself the ultimate authoritarianism) but between a multi polar world order vs a US single power global world order.

  4. Maybe the question of whether the conflict between China and the United States should be called a cold war is significant to foreign policy experts. But, the bigger conflict is between those who want to see life as some kind of battle between nations for some kind of global domination and those who want to see life as a competition between businesses to construct a more effective world. There are certainly many in the United States who want to see business as an agent of foreign policy and economic aggression as the weapon for sustaining American global dominance. In fact, those people are promoting America's decline. Technology is the primary factor driving human history. The centuries of European global dominance enabled by Western Europe's control over industrial technology are at an end. The United States has already lost dominance over industrial technology. That is what most of the trade conflict is about. Post industrial technology helps connect the world. It depends on engineering talents that are distributed across all of the world's people. There is little chance that any part of the world is going to dominate the post industrial age the way Europe dominated the industrial revolution. There is little in Chinese history to suggest a propensity for the military lead attempts at global dominance characteristic of Britain and the United States. But, even if some Chinese are motivated by some kind of desire for military enforced global hegemony, there is no prospect of China having the ability to achieve this kind of dominance. China's enhanced position in the world has been driven by its economic success. Its central approach to building its global influence is sharing that success with other nations. No doubt business has its own conflicts and competitions. But, they are ones where everyone can wind up sharing in the benefits of the outcome. China is better positioned geographically and by the economic strengths it has needed to develop for its own success to do business with Asia's nations. It is hard to see much potential for a real challenge from the United States to their efforts even if America managed to reach the decision needed to make the effort.

  5. It a technological war and not a cold war, more about economic domination for the so call 4th Industrial revolution. The US is clearly behind and now just waking up to this reality but unfortunately the US has internal structural and social problems within their society so they are not too focus on this. China on the other hand doesnt have deep ingrain social problems that the US has because they were a nation that had nothing to being with from the Mao era onwards and are now beginning to see the fruits of their economic and political policies that has given them prosperity and success for millions of chinese. If u study chinese history u will understand that China has enjoyed great learning and culture with good Emperor's and really bad starvation and economic distress with bad Emperor's and bad administrations. The US of today isnt the US of the past simply because the US today is already controlled, manipulated and dominated by the rich with their own agenda's. Another point is China doesnt have any agenda to promote or propagate their system to other countries, China doesn't even have any deep ideology that their current system is the best, their focus is to improve the lives of their citizens and upcoming middleclass and provide stability and peace to their country. If u look at Chinese history they build the great wall of China to keep invaders out of China, and they use the tribute system to ensure their neighbouring countries respect and honor them. The people of the US today is tired of leading the world with their high morals and ideals, when infact internally the US is bankrupt of their own morals and ideals primarily because their standards of living have not improve in decades due to costly external wars around the war! Unfortunately the news media and most of the world doesnt even understand this is happening to the US and they keep seeing the US as the same and not that it has changed! Everyone need to wake up to the idea that the US is now a lost nation of ideals and morals and the deep internal problems that the US has with both the extreme left and right views are warning signs about this.

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