The new cold war and its consequences
THE original cold war was an ongoing political rivalry between the United States and the (former) Soviet Union and their respective allies that started after WWII.
This ideological and political standoff between the then super powers finally ended with the dismemberment of bent upon the Soviet Union in 1991.
This rivalry was given the name of “Cold War” by George Orwell, the English novelist and writer of political fiction, in an article he wrote in 1945. The new cold war between China and the United States seems to have started in earnest.
This new cold war is essentially an economic one. The USA is derailing China’s fast economic growth at any cost.
America, thus hopes to make economic progress as difficult as it can for China, by launching the new cold war.
The China-America rivalry which had peaked during the Trump years, was at times attributed to Trump’s tempestuous nature. It seems to have taken a more structural shape during Biden’s first year in office.
During G-7 Summit held in the United Kingdom last month, the US Administration unfolded a multi-billion dollars Build Back a better world or B & W plan, as a counter weight to China’s road and belt initiative.
On the heels of G-7 Summit, NATO a traditionally Russia-focused alliance, shifted its attention to China, calling it a global ‘security risk’.
The final communique of the 30-member alliance read. “China’s ambitions and assertive behaviour presents systemic challenges to the rules based international order”.
During June this year, US Secretary of State Antony Blinkan, while in an official visit to France, tried to insert an ideological component to US-China rivalry.
He said, “France and the US are on the same page on the need to defend the free world as China gains influence”.
He further warned: “The alternative would be no global order or a China-led world”.America has, however, got its own compulsions to be apprehensive regarding China’s meteoric economic achievements.
China’s GDP has already surpassed that of the US. Militarily, China’s defence budget is still quite minuscule compared to that of the US, today, but by 2035, it is estimated to surpass that of America.
Some experts opine that by 2050, China may emerge as the single most powerful power of the world both economically and militarily.
Experts thus believe that America would go to any length to thwart Chinese breath taking progress in these fields. These attempts by the US will naturally make the cost of progress for China much steeper.
But the US will also have to dedicate more resources towards forming a united front against China.
“This will cost people of both countries” say Pof. Hu Shisbung, Director of the Institute of South Asian Studies of China’s Institute of Contemporary International Studies.
Other Chinese experts maintain that China’s only purpose is economic development. It is not interested in launching a global war against the governance system of any country.
China only tries to exert its influence by helping the economic development of other countries, it never tries to promote its political structure in other countries. Rather China strictly adheres to its policy of non-interference in the affairs of other states.
Senator Bernie Sanders of the US, in a recent article warned the US against casting China as an existential threat to the US and urged it not to start a new cold war with China.
Senator Sanders further warned that by entangling with China, the attention of the two powers will deflect from working together against true existential threats to the world like: “Climate Change, Pandemic and destruction that a nuclear war would bring”, Global Cooperation between nations will also suffer in case of a new cold war, including rival bloc of nations.
The impending rivalry between the US and China will have far-reaching implications for the whole world.
Countries like Pakistan will be facing the challenge of finding a centre-ground in its relationship with the two countries.
Pakistan’s relationship with other regional powers may also be affected. The CPEC is already under minute scrutiny by the US.
The growing friendship of America and India in the Indo-Pacific region to curb Chinese influence is a matter of concern for Pakistan.
Islamabad is in a unique situation, on the one hand it is an ally of the US, although this relationship has jaded considerably, on the other hand Pakistan’s alliance with China is full of high mutual expectations and hopes.
This basically means that Pakistan would have to play a deft game of balancing its position between the two powerful states.
It has to purse its deep and abiding ties with Beijing while manoeuvring enough latitude for cooperation with Washington.
According to Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director of the Asian Programme at Wilson Centre, “Pakistan is not in a position to choose between the two sides and I do not expect the US or China to ask it to choose sides”, China and the US both offer different set of advantages to Pakistan.
Klugelman further asserts “China is the tried-and-true partner — the reliable ally which can help Pakistan both at home and on the world stage”.
The relationship with the US is more transactional and much shakier, but it does still provide various forms of economic assistance, as well as security cooperation that includes military training and educational exchanges”.
Contrary to Mr Klugelman’s opinion, recent developments suggest that there is pressure on Pakistan from America to take a side in her strategic competition with China.
PM Imran Khan told a Chinese news channel: “Pakistan thinks that it is very unfair for the US or other Western powers to force countries like us to take sides, “why do we have to take sides? We should have a good relationship with everyone”.
PM Khan added that Pakistan would not downgrade its relations with China under any circumstances.
According to Senior Government officials, unlike China, the United States has always been pushy in its bilateral relationship with Pakistan.
The challenge for all the three countries — the US, China and Pakistan — is to find ways to maintain a healthy and profitable triangular relationship between the three countries.
There are certainly challenges which would need the support of all these three powers to be overcome.
These options can include cooperation in helping promote the peace process in Afghanistan.
Pakistan can play a role in facilitating US-China climate talks. The US private sector can be induced to invest in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Such collaboration though much desired may be difficult to achieve at the moment.
—The writer, based in Islamabad, is a former Health Minister of KP.