Does China have the motivation and capacity to fight a new Cold War against the United States?

Does China have the motivation and capacity to fight a new Cold War against the United States?

25.10.2020 08:29

October 25, 2020

There is a highly influential opinion that a new Cold War will not break out between China and the United States. The reason is that, in contrast to the old Cold War between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union which are economically separated from each other, China and the U.S. have close economic and trade ties, which are the ballast that keeps the relationship between the two countries afloat. Moreover, unlike the former Soviet Union, China does not have an aggressive ideological expansionist motivation and does not seek to bury the capitalist system. On the contrary, the purpose of China’s “reform and opening-up” is to integrate its economy into the world capitalist system.

Economic determinism, however, does not explain why World War I broke out. Globalization, which had reached considerable depth at the beginning of the twentieth century, and the unprecedentedly close economic and trade ties among European countries, especially between Britain and Germany, did not prevent the bloodshed of World War I. In international relations, economic interests are not everything; national security, geopolitics, ideology, or ambitions of leaders can prevail over economic interests. The protracted and increasingly fierce trade and technology wars between China and the U.S. have shown that economic and trade ties are not the ballast of Sino-American relations, but rather a source of contradictions and conflicts.

The U.S. clearly has the motivation to launch a new Cold War against China, at least the U.S.’ China hawks do have it. This is clearly and unmistakably expressed in the U.S. National Security Strategy, the National Defense Security Strategy, the Indo-Pacific Strategy, and a series of speeches by senior officials such as the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense. In particular, Secretary of State Pompeo’s speech on July 23, 2020―“Communist China and the Future of the Free World”―is a strong signal of an ideological Cold War against China. So, does the Chinese side also have a motive to wage an ideological struggle against the U.S.? The answer is yes. According to Kevin Rudd, an influential China expert, former Australian Prime Minister and now President of the Asia Society of the U.S., China’s ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has long believed Washington will never really accept the fundamental political legitimacy of the Chinese administration because it is not a libreral democracy. Indeed, there is a broad consensus among the Chinese elites and people that the U.S. is trying to divide China territorially, subvert it politically, contain it strategically and frustrate it economically. The famous American political scientist Huntington, in his influential book―The clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order―also confirmed this perception of China toward the U.S. For CCP, preserving party control and ensuring domestic security and stability have been, and will continue to be, the highest priorities. Pompeo’s speech, which sought to separate CCP from the Chinese people and challenge the legitimacy of the CCP’s rule, undoubtedly confirmed CCP’s concerns. Driven by a strong sense of insecurity, CCP has an equally strong motivation and practical need to wage an ideological struggle against the U.S. This is exactly expressed in “Silent Contest”―a propaganda film made by the National Defense University of China in 2013.

The scale and intensity of the tense confrontation between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union on all fronts in the ideological, geopolitical and military spheres at that time were long enough to ignite a full-scale hot war. However, what history has shown us is a Cold War that lasted nearly half a century. The root cause was the balance of nuclear weapons between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, which culminated in the so-called “Mutual Assured Destruction” (MAD). Both sides had sufficient retaliatory strike capability, and if either side launched a nuclear strike first, the result would be mutual destruction. So neither the U.S. nor the former Soviet Union dared to strike the other in risk of suicide. It was because of this balance of terror that the world was able to avoid a devastating nuclear war. The ultimate disintegration of the Soviet empire was not due to a military defeat, but an economic and financial collapse caused by a rigid system.

Compared to the U.S.-Soviet Cold War, the U.S.-China confrontation has one major difference that most people overlook: the U.S. has an overwhelming nuclear advantage over China. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Sweden (SIPRI), as of January 2020, the U.S. has 5,800 nuclear warheads, while China has only 320, far fewer than the U.S. As a result, there is no “Mutually Assured Destruction” between the U.S. and China. In the most extreme case, the U.S. can destroy China, but China cannot retaliate equally. In this sense, China does not yet have the power to fight a Cold War against the U.S. The former Soviet Union established the Warsaw Pact bloc to counter the U.S.-led NATO bloc, but China lacks such a military-political alliance. Therefore, China can mobilize far fewer economic, political, cultural and military resources than the U.S. Beijing claims it wants neither a new Cold War nor zero-sum confrontation, this is not for lack of strong motivation, but for lack of sufficient power. Huntington once pointed out that the West won the world not through the superiority of its ideas, values or religion, but through its superiority in the use of organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do. The most powerful organized violence of our time is undoubtedly none other than nuclear weapons. It is a ruthless reality that if China’s nuclear weapons cannot reach the scale of “Mutually Assured Destruction” with those of the U.S., it will not have the power to wage a new Cold War against the U.S., even if it has the motivation to do so.


  • Erstellt von Chaoting Cheng In der Kategorie Politik政治 am 25.10.2020 08:29:00 Uhr

    zuletzt bearbeitet最后编辑: 25.10.2020 08:29
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