July 02, 2020

The U.S.-China confrontation is not another Cold War. It’s something new.

By Richard Fontaine and Ely Ratner

With U.S.-China relations in free fall, the Trump administration’s chief arms control negotiator recently proclaimed that "we know how to win these races and we know how to spend the adversary into oblivion.” This obvious allusion to America’s triumph in the Cold War was only the latest sign that the decades-long rivalry with the Soviet Union has recaptured the attention of Washington’s foreign policy elite.

One prominent camp of experts and former dignitaries is arguing that a new Cold War with China would be a mistake of historic proportions, to be avoided at all costs. Others are offering advice for how to prevail: enlist India as an ally, say, or perhaps befriend Russia. While China’s foreign minister is warning that the United States is pushing “to the brink of a new Cold War,” a former Trump official has already announced “the start of a new Cold War.”

Looking backward to the Cold War obscures more than it illuminates about U.S.-China competition today.

It may be tempting to reach for the Cold War playbook. Two superpowers now stand off in geopolitical, military and ideological competition. They compete for allies and influence across multiple regions. Both wish to avoid the profound destructiveness of hot war, but neither is willing to acquiesce in the other’s preferences. Competition stretches across multiple domains, simultaneously and indefinitely. This all sounds familiar.

Read the full article and more in The Washington Post.

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