The Conundrum of the New Cold War between US and China

I said, “It seems a new Cold War has already begun” in my post “The beginning of a new Cold War: On Putin’s Beijing visit” on June 6, 2012. At that time, US pivot to Asia aimed at containing China forced China to seek alliance with Russia to resist US containment.

I described the two sides of the seemingly emerging new Cold War respectively in my posts “The new Cold War: The autocracy camp” on June 7 and “The new Cold War: The democracy camp” on June 11.

On March 25, 2013, I believed that the new Cold War had really instead of seemingly emerged in my post “The emergence of a new Cold War”.

Wars need not be declared. As long as there is real military fighting, there is the war so that the US is fighting a war in Afghanistan though it has not declared the war.

A cold war, on the other hand, is the fighting without fire so that it is even more unnecessary for the parties to declare the cold war though everybody knows a cold war is being fought when the cold war has emerged.

So is the Cold War between the democracy and autocracy camps I described.

It has to be made clear that the democracy camp consists of those who regard themselves as democracies according to their definition of democracy while the autocracies in the opposite camp are regarded by the democracy camp as autocracies. If free election is regarded as major standard of democracy, Russia, Pakistan and Iran are democracies while if Lincoln’s government for the people is regarded as the most important one of the three standards for democratic government: of the people, by the people and for the people, even the United States cannot be regarded as a democracy as it is a split nation with politicians fighting for the different parts of American people.

Even US President Trump is making efforts to do things he has promised to those who voted him. What about those who voted against him?

From that prospective, China, a one-party autocracy, can be regarded a true democracy as the party regards “putting the people first” as its doctrine. The government of that ruling party has indeed done a lot for Chinese people, having lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and greatly improved people’s living standards.

Let’s return to our topic the new Cold War. Neither side of the old Cold War has declared their cold war, nor have the two sides of the new Cold War.

I regarded US pivot to Asia as the beginning of the new Cold War as it gave rise to the China-Russia alliance while the US was making great efforts to attracting Japan, Australia, the Philippines and Vietnam into its camp to encircle China, but failed.

America’s Indo-China Quad is the real establishment of its democracy camp of cold war. As the Quad is military in nature so that SCMP China affairs columnist Cary Huang says in its article “US, Japan, India, Australia … is Quad the first step to an Asian Nato?” on SCMP today, “The aegis (the Quad) these democracies create has the potential to develop into an Asian Nato – and dramatically change the region’s security landscape in the decades ahead.”

Mr. Cary Huang sees that the Quad is a Cold War organization in nature so that he predicts that it “has the potential to develop into an Asian Nato”. He is right that compared with pivot to Asia directed at China but confronted by China-Russia alliance, the Indo-Pacific quad can really be regarded as the establishment of the democracy camp of the new Cold War though no cold war has been declared.

In my previous post I said that the US Quad will perhaps be countered by the quad of China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran as those four except Pakistan are the countries that the US has been trying hard to contain, but they only resist US containment and have no enmity towards the other three countries in US Quad. Pakistan, however, will not oppose US Quad if India is not a part of it.

Anyway, as there is balance of strength between the two quads, it will remain a cold war without fire. Peace will still prevail. Even if US quad is Asian NATO, it will be an organization for peace in a cold war just like the European NATO established for peace in Europe.

However, I would like to point out that Mr. Cary Huang is wrong in saying “The new strategy to confront China head on with a unified front underscored a growing regional competition between Beijing and Washington.” There is only US containment of China but not China’s competition with the US. China’s Belt and Road initiative is mainly conducted in Central Asia, Pakistan and Eastern and Central Europe without reduction of US influence there. Even the Belt and Road in Southeast and South Asia are not within US sphere of influence and are open to participation by other countries.

Moreover, Belt and Road is for peaceful win-win cooperation while US Quad is solely for military alliance. Competition between peaceful win-win cooperation and military alliance? Weird idea!

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s article, full text of which can be found at

6 Comments on “The Conundrum of the New Cold War between US and China”

  1. Btan says:

    Cary Huang is wrong when he says that the Quad is a Asian Nato. It is not a Asian Nato as all these quad countries depend on the largest market China for their economic livelihood. It is basically a collection of countries fearful of Chinas rise, who come together as a hedge just in case China decides to punish them for treating China badly in the past.

    The real cold war against the Soviet Union took place in an environment where there was no economic or trading relationship between the Eastern Bloc and Western Bloc. Each party could seriously provoke each other without any economic consequences.
    Eg; Cuban crisis and Afghan war.

    Today it is different as the quad countries are careful to not push China too much and generally maintain good relations with China. Trumps visit to China is an example. The half hearted Freedom of navigation is another example. Trump also keeps quiet about the South China Sea.

    Provoking China too much could result in China deciding to put economic sanctions on these countries. Look what happened to South Korea. These countries could also find themselves locked out of the worlds largest consumer market as China will very soon be the worlds largest economy. It would be foolish for these countries to provoke China too much as once you are locked out of Chinas market it is hard to get back in without having to “kowtow” to Uncle Xi Jin Ping. Even Japan realises that it needs Chinas consumers to reverse its serious economic decline. Shinzo Abe is literally begging to meet up with Xi Jin Ping to cut a trade deal but he gets rejected all the time by Uncle Xi.

    Thats the reality today. There will be more geopolitical competition in the world today but the real cold war will never come back again. Everyone depends on each other too much to start a war.


    • Dr Wu Mao says:

      Agreed. When you see a country using its airlines to heavily promote travel or tourism to its country – in this case, Japan – it means that country’s economy is in more serious straits than one realises. Usually when all other economic measures fail and people’s income drop, tourism is one of the fastest and quickest way to help direct foreign money into your country and tbereby into your peoples’ pockets. Japan must be suffering more economically than she would admit and more than we know.


  2. Steve says:

    This Autocratic Govt. of China, the CCP truly benefited the population by lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty, modernised China with infrastructures and transportation that can only be be admired worldwide. China’s concept of win win cooperation, such as, the Belt and Road initiative, the establishment of AIIB, etc, is in fact a world community of European and Asian network. The eternal foundation of a nation’s development is deeply rooted in education and the wealth of a nation is its economy, without it, Ignorance and poverty prevails. China seeks global partnerships in trade and economy. Make money not war, bankrupt the US economy without firing a single shot.

    In contrast, when the US taxes cannot meet the burden of American welfare needs, the Scoundrels (US) will wage war external to its domestic woes by interfering, creating chaos and invading other countries. Unfortunately, for the US, the Trump and former Obama govt. can no longer wage war on other countries, seeking external benefits to satisfy it’s domestic pressure. China is too strong politically, economically, militarily and especially with its, ‘Ally’ Russia. Also, IS terrorist stronghold in Syria is now defeated which also means a defeat for the terrorism sponsored US. The Indo-Pacific Quad is a military initiative limited to the oceans and these quad countries are largely dependent on its economic relationships with China.

    So, Can there be a peaceful win win solution in relation to the US led Quad. Yes, because its a fabricated cold war mentality to contain China. These quad crap countries especially US, still need to engage China in trade to get rich. China is a powerful leadership player within APEC, ASEAN+1, FTAAP, SCO, BRICS, in LatAm countries, etc. China should not be too concerned with these quadrilateral ‘Asian Nato Crap’ countries,’ because there is no container to contain with unless deep in Thucydides trap which is non existential, at least not in Asia. Is the USA panic stricken.? Has the US found a new Indian mistress.?


  3. Simon says:

    Actually Asia’s Nato started long ago in the post war era with ASEAN. Of course ASEAN has been fragented for a long time and now comes under China’s control.
    The so call Cold War by the Quad is a quasi defence and economic alliance but meaningless if their economy is threatened, and Trump offers nothing in terms of economic benefits to the other three. In fact all 4 Quad countries has more important econmic relations with China than they do with each other especially When Japan and America are actually competitors for the Chinese market. The biggest loser in this Quad is India, they risk losing Russia as military arms supplier, risk being surrounded and risk being robbed by American arms companies. Australia also put their economy at risk should they do anything to upset China.


  4. Lu Xun says:

    Insofar as I see it and in relation to contemporary U.S and China is concerned, it is not “cold war” per se but politics.

    Washington has been playing politics with China using all tools at its disposal to make China look bad – Be it slanderous or smear words, physical threats, bullying, concocting “timely” embarrassing incidents, policies to undermine China such as special visa for rich Chinese to buy property in U.S., and so forth.

    On the other hand, Washington uses the same communication and related tools, to make themselves and their vassals look good; Downplaying negative incidents and playing up positive incidents influencing their image, while doing the opposite for China. For example dictating even how Hollywood films, History Channel, National Geographic, Discovery World, YouTube, CNN, BBC, etc., should project America and its vassals, and China and her partners.

    It’s all about soft power. About image making. And Beijing is like a babe in the woods in this field. For too long.

    The good news however, or the positive signs are that Beijing has started to move bright, able, younger and better educated Chinese into positions of power and that is making a big impact as they seem more aware of the shenanigans Washington is playing and are able to identify and split hair on the issues created and thereby articulate or activate more effective responses. Unlike the petrified ignorant older generation.

    Beijing needs to be more politically savvy and raise their standards a few more notches to counter “Opposition” America. It needs to get more and better educated, honest and able English educated officers well versed in communications to maintain China’s image vis-a-vis the world in face of Washington’s derisory “attacks”.

    It’s not about diplomacy but politics and soft power. It’s about image.The world had been hoodwinked too long by America’s doublespeak.


    • Dr Wu Mao says:

      Yep, war is but an extension of politics. The “cold war” using the “Quad” to contain China, until it goes kinetic, is but still politicking – ie how to make your opponent (aka “enemy”) look bad and thereby lose influence or softpower, insofar as Washington is concerned. So far Mr Xi is doing a good job. He understands the significance of image. Kudos to him.