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A “new Cold War” between China, US far from inevitable

By Curtis Stone (People's Daily Online)    17:35, May 25, 2020

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about a “new Cold War” between China and the United States, with some even claiming that a Cold War is already underway. Indeed, there are many voices in Washington pushing for a contest for supremacy. Just this month, for example, the Trump administration delivered a report that articulates its whole-of-government approach to China under the 2017 National Security Strategy, which envisions constant competition. However, despite the hype, a new Cold War is far from inevitable.

Competition is and always will be a part of international relations and therefore, by extension, a part of China-US relations, but the shift from engagement with China to all-out strategic competition sets the stage for a dangerous future. Those in Washington who believe that an across-the-board contest is not only unavoidable but also necessary for the future of American power are dragging the relationship down a dangerous path.

“Politicians and commentators left and right have been competing to march us into a new Cold War,” argued James Hankins, a professor of history at Harvard University. According to Hankins, who explored the question of whether we really want a new Cold War, the policy elites in Washington seem all too ready to snap back into Cold War mode and the logic of competition dominates discussions about China’s rise.

The assumption that countries are stuck in an endless game of chess is an influential assumption in the Western world, but it can also be a dangerous way to frame China-US relations. As Hankins pointed out, zero-sum thinking does not really fit China-US relations today. China’s rise is not a challenge to the United States, nor is it a part of a larger game of world domination. Certainly, there are features of competition in the relationship, but China does not seek to compete with the United States for dominance.

Being the two largest economies in the world, it is in the best interests of both countries and the world for China and the United States to work together to shape a new international order in which the two giants can coexist peacefully despite their differences.

On Sunday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a press conference of the Two Sessions that some people in Washington are taking the two giants on the brink of a new Cold War. Whatever the reasoning, a lesson from the history is that both China and the United States stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation. The two countries should and must find a way to coexist peacefully despite their differences, a point that Wang Yi drove home at the press conference.

A new Cold War does not have to become the defining feature of China-US relations. The rise of China is a transformative event in world history, but the bigger problem is letting fear of China take the driver’s seat in China-US relations. The more we are familiar with China, the less likely we are to demonize it. If Washington lets fear and hysteria of China to continue to chip away at China-US relations, a new Cold War could become the reality—a disastrous outcome. Fortunately, however, we still have time to choose cooperation over conflict.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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