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Averting a Cold War of Choice

Although the COVID-19 crisis has further fueled talk of a looming Sino-American confrontation, it is not too late to salvage the situation. De-escalation is undoubtedly in every country's long-term interest, not least that of the United States and China.

MADRID – Western societies are currently gripped by the ominous idea that we are entering a new cold war, this time between the United States and China. This narrative started coming to the fore as a result of the Sino-American trade dispute, and now the COVID-19 crisis has given it the final nudge to center stage. Better to brace ourselves, the argument goes, than naively to ignore the hegemonic clash that will define the “new normal.”

But these intended wake-up calls disguise fatalism as realism, and choices as facts. America and China may be rival superpowers, but they are not necessarily reenacting the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union.

Today, however, even official documents contain implicit cold-war references. United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China, a report issued by US President Donald Trump’s administration in May, states that, “Beijing openly acknowledges that it seeks to transform the international order to align with CCP [Chinese Communist Party] interests and ideology.” The Chinese system, adds the report, “is rooted in Beijing’s interpretation of Marxist-Leninist ideology and combines a nationalistic, single-party dictatorship; a state-directed economy; deployment of science and technology in the service of the state; and the subordination of individual rights to serve CCP ends.”