The History Of A New Cold War

The History Of A New Cold War
The rivalry between the US and China is referred to as the ‘New Cold War’. Other names for the same phenomenon include the Sino-US trade war, Cold War 2.0, and geo-political rivalry between the US and China.

To begin with, it’s important to comprehend the US strategic stance. The US ability to project power over wide distances gives it a strategic advantage. Its extended policies and the forming of allies are important to its strategic behaviour.

The unipolarity of the US is in danger due to China’s ascent. The US animosity toward China is rooted in the communist objective. But the US didn’t directly embark on an endeavour to combat China until 1995 to 1996. During Taiwan’s first presidential elections, China launched unarmed ballistic missiles in Taiwanese territorial seas. In retaliation, the US sent two aircraft carrier groups of the NIMITZ class in the direction of the South China Sea.

However, China’s security was affected in contradictory ways by the fall of the Soviet Union. It was obvious that a major war was utterly improbable. This prompted China’s decision-makers to focus on limited scale small wars. China’s focus at that time was not towards strategic competition rather it was on preparing and planning for small wars. China’s building of Anti-Access or Area-Denial (A2/AD) strategy represents their aggressive defence at home. The building of artificial islands and then militarizing them goes to show their preparedness.

The US position in East Asia was seen as being seriously threatened by China’s expanding conventional capabilities. However, it is claimed that the US response was alleged for a number of reasons. The US post-9/11 foreign policy was primarily concerned with Central Asia and the Middle East. The US financial priorities also influenced their policy, which turned them away from restraining China.

China, on the other hand, had long feared from the US escalation. Chinese decision-makers are afraid that the US can call in international help at any time, like in the US decisive defeat of Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War (1991). Similarly, the war in Kosovo showed that the US might not even need to enlist the support of the United Nation (UN), as it can turn to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members for support.
China’s security was affected in contradictory ways by the fall of the Soviet Union. It was obvious that a major war was utterly improbable. This prompted China’s decision-makers to focus on limited scale small wars.

This shaped China’s military strategy, which includes certain offensive measures. China opted for the hitting first policy. There is a famous saying in the PLA that ‘Strike first, Strike Deep, Hit Hard’. PLA also worked and made successful the formulation of an Active Strategic Counter Attacks on Exterior Lines (ACSEC).

In response to the danger to their position in East Asia, the US has also developed some aggressive methods. A direct strategy in the South China Sea battleground has been suggested by a number of US strategists. Destroying China’s A2/AD capabilities is the goal of the direct approach. Other US policies include the construction of a long-distance blockade that would isolate China from the rest of the globe. Any US action would have an immediate impact on trade with China.

There is no assurance that the deployment of strategic bombers and Unmanned Under-Sea Vehicles (UUVs), which would target Chinese military and commercial ships in any crisis situation, would prevent China from using nuclear weapons. There is no treaty or any agreement where the opponents can talk out any such situation.

To some extent, these are the ground realities of the ongoing conflict and its possible future aspects. This is also one of the several fronts at grand strategic level between the two great powers. They come across each other at several diplomatic and economic fronts. The blame game and the use of persuasive rhetoric, specifically from the US, has been a part of this strategic competition.

It’s crucial to comprehend that there is no existential ideological conflict between the two in this strategic rivalry. In some parts of the US, people have a more sensitive perception of the threat. China has no intent to overcome the US or to replace it in a unipolar world. China rather comes up pursuing a narrative of global multi-polarity which its leaders have usually been seen talking about. It poses a danger to the US hegemony in the world, and its leadership position at the global level. China is willing to offer a substitute for the US system of government. The US is currently under this kind of threat.

Therefore, the US should develop a revised strategy in light of the potentially disastrous outcomes of any crisis scenario brought on by military escalation between the two superpowers. In the South China Sea, aggressive military conduct may have unintended consequences. Internally, the US is unable to contend with the other force that is remote from their homeland while maintaining its military and protecting allies. They often justify the militarization of matters that are not principally within that scope by blaming China for their domestic problems.

To normalize the relations, the US would need to acknowledge the strategic realities of China. China should reconsider its East Asian policy, on the other hand. Both states should meet at the table to resolve the issue, despite the fact that the US is concerned about losing its throne.

The writer is associated with the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI). He tweets at @hafiznadirali7 and can be reached at