Global Pairings

The 21st Century Cold War

Talk of a new Cold War is becoming ever more pervasive. In its 21st century rendition, it is China, not Russia, that is in the U.S.’s crosshairs.

Credit: patrice6000 Shutterstock.com

Takeaways


  • Talk of a new Cold War is becoming ever more pervasive. In its 21st century rendition, it is China -- not Russia -- that is in the US’s crosshairs.
  • During Cold War I, the Soviet Union always claimed to be the victim of capitalist machinations -- and Washington played the adult to Moscow’s teenager.
  • In today’s rendition of the Cold War, with Trump in the White House, Beijing is playing the adult to the US’s whining and very short-sighted teenager.
  • China is a perfect candidate for a new Cold War. It fits the template of the old conflict between democracy and godless communism.
  • China is quite different from the erstwhile Soviet Union. On the economic front, it is communist in name only.
  • China’s CCP government censors the internet the same way the Soviets used to jam Western radio broadcasts.

Talk of a new Cold War is becoming ever more pervasive. However, in its 21st century rendition, it is China, not Russia, that is in the U.S.’s — not just the Trump Administration’s — crosshairs.

Godless people

As it is turns out, China, still ruled by the same old communist party as at the time of Chairman Mao, is a perfect candidate for a new Cold War.

After all, it fits the template of the old conflict between democracy and godless communism.

China: As if the Soviet vision had actually worked

True enough, today’s China is quite different from the erstwhile Soviet Union. On the economic front, it is communist in name only (“CINO”).

In fact, Marx, Lenin and Mao must be busily spinning in their graves. At the time of Mao’s death less half century ago, pretty much everyone in China still wore identical Mao jackets and hats.

Plus, people aspired to no bigger worldly possessions than a bicycle. Now, the country has nearly 400 billionaires. That puts it second only to that citadel of imperialism, the United States.

Another leader for life

But don’t worry. In many other ways, China’s Xi Jinping proves himself a worthy heir to the communist leaders of the past. Like almost all Communists of yesteryear, Xi is planning to rule his country for life.

Under his leadership, the Chinese government is also becoming a “masterful” (i.e., unflinching) repressor of dissent at home and seeks to put an end to freedoms in Hong Kong.

China’s CCP government censors the internet the same way the Soviets used to jam Western radio broadcasts. It is needlessly secretive, leading most recently to widespread condemnation of its handling of the COVID 19 outbreak.

It ain’t the good old U.S. anymore, either

Of course, the United States is now a very different country, too. During the early post-World War II decades, it could very effectively counter Soviet claims of building a workers’ paradise.

The United States actually had what the Soviet Union always only claimed — strong wages, stable jobs and comfortable lifestyles of its unionized blue-collar workforce.

These days, American unions are in shambles and Americans without a college degree, like true proletarians in the Marxist sense, struggle to make ends meet with no benefits or job security.

Soviet-style leadership at the White House

In the old days, the United States could brag about its fourth estate — the highly respected and even feared free press, reporting the truth and “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” in contrast to communist propaganda hacks.

At least for another five months, the United States has a president who attacks the country’s largest news organizations as purveyors of fake news. And he knows no limits in channeling his inner Uncle Joe Stalin by calling journalists “enemies of the people.”

Of course, sending out the U.S. military on peaceful American protesters — on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre no less — surely didn’t make for good propaganda material either.

Painful role reversal

But this is only half the problem. The truth is that the roles of the Cold Warrior sides have been reversed. During Cold War I, the Soviet Union was always a sullen bully with a giant chip on its shoulder, claiming to be the victim of capitalist machinations.

Washington, on the other hand, played the adult to Moscow’s teenager. It often yielded to Russia’s unreasonable demands — because the United States was so strong that it could afford to be magnanimous.

The Soviets always threatened aplenty, almost always without following through and thus appeared weak. Meanwhile, the U.S. side worked to engage them and to find the common ground.

Who is the mature power now?

In today’s rendition of the Cold War, with Donald Trump in the White House, it is stunningly often Beijing that is playing the adult to America’s whining, bad-tempered and very short-sighted teenager.

Donald Trump is always ready to complain how China, the bad guy, takes advantage of poor and weak America, whether on trade, technology or now the coronavirus.

China, meanwhile, is working to diffuse tensions. Most recently, when Donald Trump threatened to exclude Chinese airlines from flying to the United States, Chinese officials simply lifted pandemic-related restrictions on foreign flights to China, depriving the Trump Administration of a chance to escalate the conflict.

Trump, the “shoe banger”

During the Cold War, it was the then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev who, when angered by something during his speech at the United Nations, took off his shoes and started banging it on the desk.

Today, it is Trump, not Xi, who’s more likely to engage in such a stunt.

Conclusion

The first Cold War was won by the stronger, adult player — meaning at the time the United States.

Whatever we may think of China and the distasteful ways in which it oppresses its own people, we must recognize that, at least for now, it is China that acts like the adult in the room.

That is not a good omen as to the outcome of the second Cold War.

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About Alexei Bayer

Alexei Bayer is a Senior Editor at The Globalist, based in New York. [United States]

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