Beware the New Cold War

By Jianhong Li

(from People's Voice)

The foundation of the US-dominated world order, formed after the downfall of the Soviet Union, is shaking. On one hand, as a result of the crisis-ridden capitalist system and the aggravating effects of neoliberal policies, the entire Western world experienced decades of economic stagnancy, deepening social deterioration and increasing racism and reaction. Massive unemployment, social disintegration and emotional frustration, intensified by the pandemic, are bringing more and more Westerners into the streets. Not long after gloating over the unlawful and violent protests in Hong Kong, calling them “beautiful sights” to behold, US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had the pleasure of enjoying such beautiful scenes right in her own office.

The United States and with its Western allies are entering into an era of long-term political unrest on a wide scale. 

On the other hand, China is undeniably rising as an economic superpower driving world economic growth. The Economist argues that the Chinese economy overtook that of the US as early as 2013, if GDP is calculated on a purchasing-power-parity basis. Currently, while the US is still battling the world’s highest COVID-19 cases and death toll, China continues to lead in economic growth after successfully confronting the coronavirus. China has also acted to accelerate development and enhance solidarity in many parts of the world, launching the huge Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) global infrastructure development strategy in 2013. The BRI aims to connect Asia, Africa and Europe through land and maritime transportations and is one of the most comprehensive infrastructure projects in human history, covering more than 68 countries with 65 percent of the world's population and 40 percent of the global GDP.

These two parallel changes, the rise of China and the decline of the United States, have clearly produced a paradigm shift on the international stage. Even some mainstream bourgeois scholars have to admit that the balance of power has been shifting rapidly to the Asia Pacific. Many “developing” countries are drawn to the Chinese model and are interested in following suit. The Beijing Consensus, which emphasizes achieving equitable and peaceful high-quality growth through government planning, threatens to replace the Washington Consensus, which favours the “free market” of corporate monopolies over equality, sovereignty and climate justice. 

These historical trends will only be strengthened, as China improves its socialist system while Western governments obsessively try to maintain the existing capitalist power structure. Unwilling to face their own inability in dealing with the challenges that the 21st century presents, the US ruling elites publicly declared China’s peaceful development to be an “existential threat” to Western capitalism and the current world order dominated by US imperialism. It is within this global geopolitical context that China-bashing has surfaced as one of the main themes of US foreign policy. 

Disregarding China’s consistent call for peaceful coexistence and multilateral cooperation, the US persistently responds with provocative measures, raising tensions to ever higher levels to bully China into compliance. Beginning in 2018, former US president Donald Trump began imposing tariffs and other trade barriers the goal of extracting policy changes to benefit the US capitalist class. Chinese companies like high-tech giants Huawei, TikTok and WeChat are under direct attack from a US establishment which has previously preached the “free trade” doctrine. The arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou by Canadian authorities at the request of the US is an example of how ugly the trade war can get. These unpopular moves hurt businesses, workers and consumers in both countries, as well as countries across the globe, and have led to a new wave of American isolationism and protectionism.

The Sino-US conflict extends beyond business and trade. The US administration has initiated a series of vicious political attacks on Chinese sovereignty with the intention of stirring political instability in the country and sabotaging China’s peaceful rise as a socialist alternative. These attacks often use as pretexts highly politicized narratives about freedom, democracy and human rights. Five English speaking countries – the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – have developed one of the most comprehensive espionage alliances in history, the so-called Five Eyes. One of the primary aims of this operation is to hatch political and diplomatic confrontations with China. 

Since demonizing China is now the new norm, the ghost of McCarthyism has risen in US politics. Chinese people and people of Chinese heritage living in Western countries are targets of this political abuse – as tensions have soared during the coronavirus pandemic, Asian communities have become major targets of hate crimes. As red-baiting and anti-communist campaigns grow, an increasing number of accomplished Chinese-American scientists have been arrested for espionage without any proper evidence. There are also numerous cases where American scientists of non-Chinese descent have faced charges arising from their academic collaborations with Chinese universities and research institutions. The message from these heightened persecutions of innocent people is very clear: anybody who dares to deal with China in any positive way should be prepared to face very serious political and legal consequences. Consequently, a new “Red Scare” pervades the Chinese community and among academics all over the US.

Meanwhile, global concern over the alarming US imperialist posture against China is also on the rise. Many political observers have expressed worries about the dangers of a new Cold War emerging on the horizon; moreover, there is a real danger that it can escalate into a hot war in the near future. Recently, for example, the new US administration of Joe Biden deployed the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group to the South China Sea. John Pilger’s documentary film The Coming War on China reveals the long history of American provocation and hostility toward the socialist government of China.

The US portrays China as an emerging power which threatens to displace the American global hegemony. Repeatedly citing the Thucydides Trap – a Western concept that is based on European history – the US government asserts that upcoming conflicts between the rising power and the existing power are inevitable. This line of thinking has been used to justify all recent militarism. Chinese leaders refute the Thucydides Trap as an outdated Eurocentric theory which has been applied uncritically to the non-European world and has absolutely no basis in reality. It does not, for example, take into consideration China’s five-thousand-year history. The United States’ nefarious pre-emptive advances against China expose its own paranoia over power loss. 

US imperialist aggression toward China is unnecessarily pushing the world in a very dangerous direction and is currently the most malignant threat to world peace. Mass mobilization is essential for opposing militarism and war, and needs to demand a foreign policy of peace, disarmament, solidarity and respect for sovereignty. Progressive and left-wing forces around the world need to recognize the danger of the new Cold War and demonstrate anti-imperialist solidarity with China. Click this text to start editing. This block is a basic combination of a title and a paragraph. Use it to welcome visitors to your website, or explain a product or service without using an image. Try keeping the paragraph short and breaking off the text-only areas of your page to keep your website interesting to visitors.