The new cold war
OCTOBER 2022 marks one of the most historic moments in the history and rise of China. Xi Jinping has been elected as the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) and confirmed as the President of China for the third term.
This is unprecedented and makes Xi the most popular leader, perhaps on its way to overshadow the reign of Chairman Mao Zedong.
This is a time of continuous revival, rise and empowerment of China. The third term of Xi means that China will maintain its current policies of growth, economic superiority, global and regional connectivity and internal integrity.
There are no hindrances in the path of the dragon. The world is merely reacting to the advancement and hegemony of Beijing while the western world and the United States in particular is in awe.
There are deep lessons for foreign policy experts and leaders of the world regarding how they conducted their matters with China and what the future outlook looks like.
After the Second World War, the United States emerged as a superpower. And with it, the Soviet Union became a direct competitor. From the end of the war till the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989, there was a bi-polar world.
The theorists of the liberal world advocated a policy of cooperation with China at the time. At this time, China was an under-developed nation. It was stuck in a cycle of poverty, wars and disintegration.
To keep China from falling into Soviet hands, the United States introduced China to the western world and brought it into the mainstream of world trade. According to experts like Mearshimer, this was an incorrect policy as the politicians of the time ignored that with its size, China would soon pose a threat to the United States.
While the Americans were busy ensuring their dominance over Europe, China slowly but surely developed its economy. It did so, by industrializing itself and acting on a policy of technology transfer.
With superior numbers, it was able to act on a policy of export-oriented growth. Industrialization and commerce became the cornerstone of the CPC.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, America inherited a unipolar world. And it continued to act on liberalism instead of realism. China was allowed to grow unchecked. It was never perceived that China would one day become an open competitor to the United States interests in the region.
And with it, the allied countries like Japan, India and Australia would also be under threat. China became one of the key members of the WTO. Its cheap labour and continuous hard work and consistency brought American companies to the doors of Chinese factories.
At one time, Chinese products were considered inferior but gone are the days, as a majority of top American and European companies have moved their manufacturing to factories in Shenzhen and Shanghai. In less than two decades, China and its people have turned the tables.
Now, China has become a direct competitor to the United States. Its GDP has already surpassed that of the United States and Europe is already seeking economic ties with China.
China has also grown militarily and seeks to solidify its control over Asia and beyond. This is obviously not acceptable to America due to its presence in Japan and its strategic assets in Taiwan.
It can be argued that there is now a New Cold War that is even more dangerous than the Cold War that occurred between the Soviet Union and the United States. China has supremacy in numbers and has presence in many parts of the world.
The initial method of engagement between America and the Soviet Union was the decimation of the Soviet economy, which is reverse in the case of China.
China is competing with the American economy in the open and free market, which is something that the Soviets could never do.
At the time, American products, industries and economy dominated the market and through these open market tactics, the Soviets were defeated.
But now, the tables have been turned, Donald Trump as a President, openly admitted this and instigated trade-protectionism. He cited that Chinese products are selling in American markets with an unfair advantage.
It was a far cry to prove that America’s economy is losing due to unfair practices, whereas it is plain and simple failure of American industries and the cost effectiveness of Chinese exports.
In the New Cold War, America is losing to its failed foreign and domestic policy. It has committed enormous failures in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. America is in no condition to undertake any more foreign military campaigns.
Afghanistan alone is a failure of 20 years. And now, because of NATO’s provocation, Europe is at the edge of war. This time, Russian invasion of Ukraine and the support of the West for Ukraine has diminished any chances of Russian cooperation against China.
Rather, it is the other way around. China has countered many moves in the United Nations to isolate Russia. China is acting on its policy of military and economic expansion and saving its resources for progress and connectivity.
China has ensured its footprint in Asia and now it is expanding to Africa and Central Asia. It is appearing to western diplomats that they should have slowed down the rise of China by keeping it isolated and keeping it engaged in issues that plague the third world.
Now, it is too late and it is being predicted that China will be the most dominant country on the planet in less than a decade. And countries like in Asia, Middle East and Africa will be allies of Beijing instead of America.
The Realists of the Western world refer to the rise of China as a failure of American foreign policy.
It is being said that liberalism is dead and all that exists in international politics, is a balance of power based on interests and competition.
But it can still be argued that China is one of the oldest nations in the world while the Americans are a nation that is less than two hundred years old. China is committed to its policy of non-violence, to respect of other nations and mutual development.
The history of mankind is replete with shifts in power and dominance. Power is in continuous flux and nothing lasts, in this cycle of change, China might be a breath of fresh power. It could be the chance that the world deserves.
The Americans have brought the greed of capitalism to the world in the form of fast food culture, Hollywood and the waging of war in the name of democracy as it destroyed countries like Iraq, Vietnam and Afghanistan and how it has supported cruel nations like Israel and allowed them to act with impunity.
Maybe, it is the fit of things and the principles of power to shift the source of the dominance to a new nation, towards a new era.
But change is rarely peaceful in international politics and the old systems of power will not let go of their inertia, and we are at the edge of a New Cold War, one which has the potential to destroy everything mankind has achieved or usher in an age based on mutual respect, economic interdependence and global sustainability: a world without war, suffering and lust for power.
—The writer is Chairman, Jinnah Rafi Foundation, based in Lahore.