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A new Cold War?

发表时间:2020-09-22 11:03

Into this setting steps U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose speech in July of this year signaled to many the formal start of a new Cold War between the United States and China.  

Pompeo chose the Richard M. Nixon Library as the venue for his speech. Though Nixon is most remembered for the Watergate scandal that brought down his presidency, he rose to power during the 1950’s Red Scares as one of America’s leading anti-communists. Pompeo, his own political fortunes tied for the moment to Donald Trump’s now uncertain re-election prospects, is staying a step ahead of a group of ambitious conservative U.S. senators (Rubio, Cruz, Cotton and Hawley) all eying the presidency in the post-Trump era.   Like Nixon, these conservatives welcome talk of a Cold War, and style themselves as America’s new, anti-communist cold warriors.  

Nixon’s improbable 1972 visit to China to meet Mao was seen as a pivotal event in China’s opening to the West. Nixon’s efforts, said Pompeo, were well intentioned, but failed to change China.

“The truth is that our policies and those of other free nations resurrected China’s failing economy only to see Beijing bite the international hands that were feeding it. We opened our arms to Chinese citizens only to see the Chinese Communist Party exploit our free and open society.”  

Treading just short of a call for regime change, Pompeo urged the world to oppose China’s government.   “We, the freedom-loving nations of the world, must induce China to change. . . Securing our freedoms from the Chinese Communist Party is the mission of our time . . .”

Pompeo used Cold War ideological themes to suggest a righteous global struggle against China. But what is the true nature of this conflict?   Will the coarse excesses of 1950’s McCarthyism come back to infect American politics once again?   Will the U.S. and its allies be fighting Chinese-armed communist insurgencies across the developing world?   Will the U.S. and China get into an arms race or even a shooting war?

Why this isn’t another Cold War

Many American conservative politicians see political opportunity in positioning China the same way conservatives viewed the Soviet Union during the Cold War: a threat to American values that could end up on our shores if we aren’t vigilant. It was a winning strategy for a previous generation of U.S. conservatives.   Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were all leading cold warriors, and became their party’s presidential nominees on a foundation of fervent anti-communism.  

Here I hope to pierce through the messaging of U.S. politicians, which is primarily directed at a domestic audience, and attempt to get to the heart of the matter. Today’s U.S./China contest is really about two issues: the future of western-style, private market capitalism and American technological leadership. First, I will discuss issues also present in the U.S./Soviet contest that are, at least for the moment, of secondary importance.


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