With China, a ‘Cold War’ Analogy Is Lazy and Dangerous

from NYTs

A new idea is gaining currency among some politicians and policymakers in Washington: The United States is in a cold war with China. It’s a bad idea — bad on history, bad on politics, bad for our future.

The Biden administration has wisely pushed back on the framing. But the president’s actions suggest that his strategy for dealing with China may indeed suffer from Cold War thinking, which locks our minds into the traditional two-dimensional chess model.

Competition with China, though, is a three-dimensional game. And if we continue to play two-dimensional chess, we will lose.

While neither the conflict with the Soviet Union nor the current competition with China has led to all-out combat, the games are very different. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was a direct military and ideological threat to the United States. We had almost no economic or social connections: Containment was a feasible objective.

More here.

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14 Comments

  1. I can say with a straight face as I type this that this was one of the best articles that I have read in a while. Even though this was just a guest author in this New York times guest essay, it is evident that they do indeed have a complex understanding of the current situation that the United States and China are currently experiencing. It is indeed a slippery slope to consider from a policy standpoint that we are in a second cold war with China. If we do consider ourselves in a new cold war with China this time, we must consider that the elements of this ongoing dilemma have completely different elements than the last cold war. To start, China is the biggest threat to the United States of America economically ever. However, while they are strong militaristically, China has little interest in engaging in armed conflict with the United States of America; as do we. We must simply make sure that due to Chinas oppressive policies and tendencies, America must come out of this as still the only economic superpower on the world stage. Unlike preparing for the soviet’s nuclear arsenal and a massive army, we must prepare for China’s incredibly expansive and aggressive economic moves to further themselves and try to chop the knees of the United States. We must make sure we put people in Washington that have a thorough complex understanding of economics in the real world in congress to make sure that America’s needs are represented at this time. Once again, conflating the cold war America had with the Soviet Union to the current Chinese American one is just silly. The soviets pretty much had the economic sense that God gave geese inside of the kremlin for the entirety of the cold war (No disrespect to the Soviet People intended). The only thing that kept the Soviet Union afloat was their ungodly stockpile of natural resources inside of their border, or that they practically pillaged with slight diplomacy involved from weaker neighboring countries during the cold war (I am not implying that the US did not also have some invasive and oppressive tendencies towards underdeveloped countries at this time). What’s good is that other than China oppressing the Uighur people, supplying North Korea, constantly threatening to take back Taiwan, and buying up industries across the world for domination, they are nearly as aggressive militaristically as the Soviet Union was. Maybe Congress could cut back a tad bit on government spending since we aren’t currently under physical threat as our military is so great, and put their thinking caps on to brainstorm how we can currently combat the Chinese.

  2. China is not more a future problem it is a situation that is happening today. China if we don’t wake up from our Cold War status will become the biggest super power on earth. Yes, a regime against humans right is becoming the biggest economic super power. This government has shown its lack of capacity to face the problem. China has already won in the agricultural, construction and manufacturing industries, now they don’t want to pass to the next logical step, services; instead they want to go directly to technology, and they are doing it. It is only a matter of time for Beijing to become the next Silicon Valley. We must start lowering taxes for businesses in states like New York and California, they have the people to develop better technologies that keep the US as the biggest economic super power. Talking about a possible war I see it very possible. The growing tension in the American political scene has led me to think that in an extremist mood a war before or after the next presidential election could be started. China has interest in a war, they want to show that they are better, that the United States is a weak nation. But they don’t want to start it, they want the US to be the Bad Guy. And I believe that if a republican wins the next election president Biden will rise tensions with china to a point where the next president spiny be able to control them and start a war

  3. I completely agree with the author about his criticism and perspective on China, and we should tread carefully not to underestimate the threat that we face in the coming years. With all its manufacturing power, China has quickly become a leading world superpower. Considering the heavy reliance on goods from China, they pose an enormous threat to our nation and our allies. In a sense, they could destroy almost any country they trade with by withholding goods to them or imposing sanctions. Bigger countries like the United States are harder to tackle for China because we spend hundreds of billions of dollars buying goods from them. For the time being, they will not cut off their supply from their biggest customers, but if they so choose, it would be devastating for our economy. Currently, they have a monopoly on rare earth metals, which go into basically everything – phones, planes, cars, missiles, radars, etc. Because these rare earth metals are environmentally destructive, they leverage their lax environmental laws so they could pollute as much as they want, and other countries who mine these minerals send it to China to process. This might be a factor to why China is the world’s largest contributor to pollution and CO2 emissions. To this day, the US relies on China for a vast majority of its rare earth needs. If we want to break free from their control over us and gain self-sufficiency, we need to make good decisions moving forward.

    The first step is to reinforce our relationships with the UK, the EU, India, Japan, and all of the Americas. The next step is to bring manufacturing plants and jobs back to this side of the world. This will free not only our reliance on China, but our allies reliance on them too. Thirdly, we need to strengthen our military technology like missile defence systems, radar, satellites, cybersecurity, and so on in case we ever do reach a physical conflict with China. And finally, we need to start holding China accountable for their horrible human rights violations, environmental damage, and bullying of other countries. Considering that China has been trying to take over Taiwan for the past 40+ years, I can foresee an escalation towards violence arising in the near future. As China is adamant about their goal to “reunificate” by taking Taiwan by force if necessary, this action may be the start of a third world war. If they do try to take Taiwan, the US is going to respond with force. And if we simply stand by and let them take Taiwan, China gains a massive strategic advantage in pressuring and potentially invading Japan. I would disagree with the author when he calls “to strengthen and develop institutions and international treaties — such as the World Health Organization and the Paris climate accord — to cope with health and climate issues” as a solution. The WHO has been consistently lenient on China since the start of the pandemic, and blocked Taiwan’s WHO membership on the grounds that the democratically governed island is part of China. The time for meaningless, politicized organizations that the US pays hundreds of millions of dollars into for no net benefit is over. The time for taking serious action towards self-sufficiency by building up our technology, manufacturing enterprise, and military is now.

  4. The author brings about great points when discussing China and the way that the United States underestimates the power of China. The Cold War strategy is ineffective when it comes to China. The author highlighted very important information such as the fact that China and the US economy are interdependent with one another and that China is now the largest trading partner in the world. The influence and the dependency on the Chinese economy is already showing as the supply chain crisis continues, we see how heavily dependent the US is on China. Not only can we see the dependency but we also see how the wellness of China affects nations and the world economy. Although America’s military remains superior, the world has seen America’s great army defeated by those with a lesser army. China is a real threat that America dismisses. China’s economy is the fastest growing economy in the world, it’s the biggest trading partner, and the home of about 1.2 billion people. America needs China in many ways and Vice Versa. China is the largest contributor to pollution, so America needs good relations in order to talk about Climate Change with China. America needs to play a balanced but strategic game when it comes to its relations with China. America needs to strengthen its relations with other allies, and become a more influential player outside of the western countries. By increasing its influence and strengthening its allies, the US creates a more powerful image and will have the support of more countries by its side. China is already forming many alliances so America needs to stop dismissing the possibility of China becoming a superpower. The US-China relations in terms of cooperation and competition will truly be tested in the upcoming months with the new developments in Afghanistan.

  5. The Sino-US relationship is a very complicated relationship in the current world. There are both cooperation and competition between China and the United States. There are both common interests and serious differences. There are not only structural contradictions but also oppositions between ideology and social systems.

    The United States has always wanted to maintain its hegemony, and the rise of China has made the United States realize that its dream of hegemony may be broken. Therefore, the United States has always regarded China as its number one strategic opponent for a long time. It has also formed a high degree of multi-party consensus in the country to stop all policies in contact with China and implement siege, pursuit, and interception. In fact, the United States not only misjudged China’s positioning, but also misjudged the international situation. The current world is gradually accelerating towards multi-polarization, but the United States has always turned a blind eye to this, so this will only lead to worsening relations between the two countries. It is believed that the two countries should create a strategic balance in this multi-polar world.

  6. In the article, Nye talks about how the United States’ relationship with China resembles what some would consider a “cold war”. The Biden administration has pushed back on framing the relationship in that way, but some of the actions by the administration are similar to the strategies that were present in the cold war with Russia in the past. When it comes to China, the U.S. needs to play a different game. In the cold war with Russia, the Soviet Union and its ideologies were considered direct threats to the United States. There were no connections between the two countries economically or socially. With China, this isn’t exactly the case. China and the United States are connected in a bunch of ways. Economically, China and the United States are massive trading partners, with more than half a trillion dollars in trade in 2020 alone. The U.S. simply can’t just disconnect from one of its biggest trading partners without ramifications. The two countries also share social connections like students studying abroad, tourists, and issues like the pandemic or climate change. That is partially why the cold war comparison is potentially dangerous. There are so many relationships between the two countries that are important, which was not the case with Russia and the U.S. during that cold war.

    Nowadays, the United States and its allies are not threatened by the export of Communism in the same way they were in the days of Stalin or Mao. One of the bigger threats they now have to deal with is how China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. They’ve warned America not to expect climate negotiations to go well. The behavior and stance China takes on a hugely important transnational issue like this could harm more countries than just the United States. The United States can try to influence China as much as they can in something like this climate change situation, but China won’t come to the table to talk if they and the U.S. aren’t in good relations. China manipulates the system of deep economic and political interdependence to support its authoritarian government and to influence opinion in democracies to counter and pre-empt criticism. They do not want to hear criticisms from other countries. They used economic means to punish Norway and Australia for knocking China on their human rights violations. The United States could use these moments to strengthen relationships with countries China punishes, as they did with Australia and their recent agreement to export nuclear submarine technology.

    The United States must continue to improve its relationships with other countries because some are worried about China’s population size and economic growth rate and believe that China would prevail in a conflict with the U.S. But if the U.S. can have strong allies in their corner as assets, they would be able to overpower China if needed. The U.S. strategy with China must be to compete and cooperate. Competing with China while also making moves in the background to appease other potential allies is a sound idea that should continue. The U.S. needs to also be in somewhat of good relations with China to get them to cooperate more with transnational issues and to develop solutions with things like the World Health Organization and the Paris climate accord. This isn’t a Russia-esque cold war situation because the two countries are so connected, but it can turn into a conflict that, if escalated, could be damaging for everyone. Economic and trade systems could crumble if things escalated. These countries largely need each other, but the U.S. must have strategies for any outcome.

  7. One often hears in recent months that the return of the Cold War is imminent, this time with China. How great is this danger? China is a major threat to the U.S. not only economically, but also militarily. In recent weeks, China’s air force has repeatedly invaded Taiwan’s airspace with provocative flights, proclaiming that it wants to integrate the island into the People’s Republic. In the South China Sea, the Chinese navy occupies territorially disputed islands and develops them into military bases. Military spending increases rapidly, and all major powers modernize their weapons, including their nuclear arsenals. The U.S. is countering and increasing its military presence in the region. Britain, France, and even Germany are sending warships to fly the flag in the Indo-Pacific. There are many signals of impending escalation, and militarily, an antagonism similar to that of the East-West conflict is emerging. In the United States, former U.S. President Donald Trump initiated a sharp confrontation with China, both rhetorically and economically. He imposed sanctions on China and increased military efforts. His successor, Joe Biden, may be more conciliatory in style, but he too is taking a confrontational line toward China. He no longer views China merely as an uncomfortable competitor, but as an enemy. In the meantime, there is a real arms race with China. The country continues to expand its economic power and can easily afford to increase its military expenditures for the foreseeable future.
    I think China is a tough competitor to the US. Therefore, all Western countries should get together and develop a strategy against China, but not militarily. Economic sanctions are the most substantial leverage that can contain China’s power. This situation will get even worse if individual states proceed on their own.

  8. This article reminds me of the concept of root-cause analysis which I learned in my Team Management course. My group and I had to complete a case study in which we were unsuccessful. Our downfall was that we failed to spend sufficient time in the core problem identification phase of decision making/problem-solving. Identifying the true, underlying problem causing the issue would have prevented wasted efforts. In this article, it seems there is a similar issue but on a larger scale. Politicians are promoting the idea that the United States is in a cold war with China. This is dangerous if they strategize around that analogy, being that the Cold War with Russia had different core problems. As explained in the article, “The Cold War was based on a simple two-dimensional premise — that the only fight was between their respective militaries — each side depended on the other not to pull the trigger. But with China, the three-dimensional game features a distribution of power at each level — military, economic and social — not just one”. For the US to be effective, it must address the core, underlying problem – not simply the outward effects of the problem by relating it to the Cold War. “That is why the Cold War metaphor, although convenient, is lazy and potentially dangerous. It obscures and misleads us by underestimating the real challenge we face — and offering ineffective strategies”.

    Analysts and officials in Washington are fretting over worsening tensions between the United States and China and the risks to the world of two superpowers clashing rather than cooperating. The idea of talks in Washington endorsing “decoupling” from China is saddening as someone with a Chinese minor. I have always heard that the Chinese language is essential for networking and remaining competitive in the global marketplace. If the US does break ties with China, I believe that would bring more drawbacks than benefits. Nye states that” The social fabrics of the United States and China are deeply intertwined: There are millions of social connections, from students and tourists and others, between the two countries.” He also stated that “on the economic level, the United States and China are deeply interdependent. The United States had more than half a trillion dollars in trade with China in 2020”. So decoupling would not be a very smart move. I believe the countries should settle the tensions and work to cooperate.

  9. This article essentially discusses the ‘Cold War’ analogy with China and how it is not appropriate for this situation, as it is very different from the Cold War with the Soviet Union. The first point raised is that during the Cold War, the United States had almost no economic or social connections with the Soviet Union. This is definitely not the case with China. So many goods that we use here come from China, and the two countries are entirely interdependent on each other. The article also pointed out how some voices in Washington talk about “decoupling” from China. I however think that that idea is crazy. We almost certainly cannot completely separate our economy from China due to the fact that we are so dependent on them. As the article stated, the United States had more than half a trillion dollars in trade with China in 2020. That just shows how reliant we are on them. Also, we cannot expect any of our allies to cut relations with China because they heavily rely on them for trade as well. According to the article, China is now reportedly the largest trading partner of more countries than the United States. This just shows how powerful China has become. They know that other countries need them for trade, and they take advantage of that situation. This is why our country’s situation with China is so different from the Cold War. China has so much more power because they know that the United States among other countries need them for trade. I think that solving the issue at hand will be a very gradual process. Due to the fact that we cannot simply cut ties from China because of the massive economic impact it would have, we have to gradually become less and less reliant on them for trade. To do this, I think that the United States and its allies should bring manufacturing plants to other countries instead of China. All in all, I believe that comparing the United States’ situation with China to the Cold War is irresponsible and can lead to us underestimating them. This situation is way more complicated because of how interdependent we are with China.

  10. The author of this article does a great job with describing the current and future problems that we might have with China. China isn’t a problem just in the future anymore. It is a current-day problem and something that the Biden administration has to be careful with. China is a major force economically and militarily. China knows that the world needs them for trade along with a variety of other things though. The article talks about how it isn’t fair to be calling this the “Cold War” because of how different it was with Soviet Union. This is something the United States needs to continuously monitor.

  11. Politicians and policymakers in Washington are now considering the idea that the United States is in a cold war with China. In an article from the New York Times, “With China, a ‘Cold War’ Analogy Is Lazy and Dangerous,” the reader gets an in-depth look at why describing the relationship between the U.S. and China as “cold war” is inaccurate and potentially dangerous.
    The first aspect that the article discusses is the fact that the Cold War between the United States and Russia was a two-dimensional game meaning the only fight was between the two nations’ militaries and each side was dependent on each other not to initiate combat. The so-called game between China and the U.S. involves a lot more than just two militaries ready to fight if the other draws first blood, hence why the article refers to it as a three-dimensional game. The game between China and the U.S. involves the distribution of power at each level (military, economic, and social). Because of that, the article says that the metaphor of the cold war is lazy and dangerous just as much as it is convenient. The metaphor obscures and misleads by underestimating the real challenge and offering ineffective strategies.
    The United States had more than half a trillion dollars in trade with China in 2020, so on the economic level, the two countries are deeply interdependent. There is talk in Washington about decoupling the economies, but it would be foolish to think that that they could be completely separated without large costs. The article says that on the social level, China and America are also deeply intertwined since there are millions of social connections ranging from students to tourists. The article says that this interdependence is a double-edged sword since it creates networks of sensitivity to what is happening in another country that can encourage caution.
    The two-dimensional mindset previously discussed makes it easy to assume that the United States can put up a fight against China because of its military superiority. However, since the other levels, social and economic, are in play, this mindset might be inaccurate. “For better and worse, we are locked in a “cooperative rivalry” with China that requires a strategy that can accomplish those two contradictory things — compete and cooperate — at the same time.”

  12. China, the leading global manufacturer, holds so much power to affect the economy however they see fit. Having a guest author explain his perspective of the Cold War with the United States and China was a breath of fresh air as I consider myself an avid reader of the New York Times. Let it be clear that the United States is the current global economic powerhouse, but China trails right behind attempting to close the gap. A cold war between the top two economic powerhouses will bring forth no good. China has grown to power because of its ability to become the world’s leading factory in producing quite frankly everything we see around us. If trade and economic relations were to stop between the two countries, everyone would be worse off. For example, I purchased the new iPhone 13, and when I received it from the shipping label it read that it was designed by Apple in California, but manufactured in Shenzhen China. The majority of companies in the United States choose to manufacture their products in China because of the low-cost production. China’s skilled large quantity labor force allows companies to sell their products to consumers at a low price. If a cold war were to happen, then all the prices for products would skyrocket and damage the economy. The United States must begin to rely on itself instead of China by lowering taxes on U.S companies to promote production, wages, and employment. Sure this plan is risky, but if executed well could end up paying for itself while boosting the economy. The United States should also work with China to reduce tensions and come to an agreement about economical issues. If the United States excluded itself from China without a concrete plan, then we’d suffer immensely. Although, I believe that no economic plan will be on par with the benefits we receive from China.

  13. With President Biden’s recent actions, specifically dealing with China, some are suggesting that these “Cold War” tactics will not result in anything good. Looking back to the actual Cold War, the stalemate that occurred was because of a tension around the uprising of nuclear weapons. Nowadays, the amount of nuclear weapons that exist compared to back then is astronomically larger, so starting anything that emulates the tension of back then is not a good idea. Also, another reason why starting a “Cold War” like event with is a horrible idea is because most imported goods are from China. Loosing the majority of our countries imported goods is not a good idea, especially when we are in as much debt as we are, so dealing with China as carefully as possible is probably the better route to take

  14. The USA and China have long been at odds. For the past decade even, this odd relationship between superpowers has had both its ups and its downs. The issue is, a “cold war outlook” on China wouldn’t work given the current situation. While China has a more than capable military force, it doesn’t seem likely, unlike the cold war situation that happened with the USSR, that China would want to wage a full-scale armed conflict with the USA. Nuclear tech is no longer new. A lot of the military technology that is being developed is becoming more and more sophisticated. If China, or the US, decided they wanted to wage war, it would likely only result in mutual destruction. That is, to some extent, what also made the cold war such a stand still. While we had our differences, and tensions were high, world leaders knew that nuclear tech would be devastating on a global scale. With China, however, the war would more than likely be waged economically. It’s not like they’re not more than capable of crippling overseas industries at a whim. China is a world super power, and much of the world’s manufacturing has come from China for the past few decades. It is necessary for the US to, instead of focusing on military action, to surpass China’s economic grasp on the world. Whether or not the US actually has an issue with the things that China is doing (namely the oppression and fascistic tendencies that seem much too common place), we simply do not have enough global power to affect it. Military threats wouldn’t work, and embargoes would likely also do very little. Their military power is akin to ours, at least technologically, and to reiterate, their economic strength also rivals ours, perhaps surpassing it in certain industries. We have become a largely import reliant economy, which means that no one is really looking to trade with America, more so they want to sell to America (unless we’re talking military tech that we sell off to the highest bidder, although that’s its own separate conversation). Regardless, the idea that our situation with China is akin to the Cold War is a bit foolish. It fails to account for the nuance of this current situation, and more so implies a level of military danger. In reality, that isn’t the case. I hope that leadership here in the US can come up with a feasible solution to the “China problem,” but in all likelihood it’ll just become worse with time. Our only hope would be a surprise economic ceasefire to be set up between our leaders, but I’m not sure how likely that is given our current, national political climate.

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