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.

  • Reports
    • January 28, 2020
    Rising to the China Challenge

    The United States and China are locked in strategic competition over the future of the Indo-Pacific—the most populous, dynamic, and consequential region in the world....

    By Ely Ratner, Daniel Kliman, Susanna V. Blume, ​Rush Doshi, Chris Dougherty, Richard Fontaine, Peter Harrell, Martijn Rasser, Elizabeth Rosenberg, Eric Sayers, Daleep Singh, Paul Scharre, Loren DeJonge Schulman, ​Neil Bhatiya, Ashley Feng, Joshua Fitt, Megan Lamberth, Kristine Lee & Ainikki Riikonen

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Policy
    • March 20, 2020
    Virus Competition Is Wrecking China-U.S. Cooperation Hopes

    As Washington shifted its worldview over the last several years to a sharp focus on China competition, even the most claw-bearing hawks generally left open the possibility of ...

    By Richard Fontaine

  • Podcast
    • October 7, 2022
    Crafting Transatlantic Responses to BRI, with Lisa Curtis, Jacob Stokes, Josh Fitt, Carisa Nietsche, and Nicholas Lokker

    Nine years after the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s flagship global infrastructure investment program is at a critical juncture. While many countries were ini...

    By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend, Lisa Curtis, Carisa Nietsche, Joshua Fitt & Nicholas Lokker

  • Commentary
    • The Atlantic Council
    • September 14, 2022
    Sand in the silicon: Designing an outbound investment controls mechanism

    Recent congressional efforts to establish new authorities to regulate outbound investment have revived a long-simmering debate in Washington about the economic and security ri...

    By Emily Kilcrease & Sarah Bauerle Danzman

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia