trump chinese premier Thomas Peter-Pool/Getty Images

Why a Sino-American Cold War Won’t Happen

Rather than a superpower standoff, the world is more likely to be heading toward an international system led by four powers. In this scenario, the US, China, Russia, and Germany dominate their respective regions while seeking the upper hand in international negotiations.

OXFORD – It is often said that the US and China – superpowers at economic, geopolitical, and ideological loggerheads – are heading toward a new cold war. And the rhetoric – at least from one side – has come to resemble that of Winston Churchill’s 1946 “Iron Curtain” speech, one of the inaugural events of the Cold War. Just this month, US Vice President Mike Pence accused China of predatory economic practices, military aggression against the United States, and attempts to undermine US President Donald Trump.

But despite the media hype, a new cold war is not inevitable – or even likely. To be sure, Chinese leaders, fearing disorder and any weakening of the Communist Party of China’s legitimacy, are determined to prevent the US from forcing changes on China’s political and economic system. China will continue to pursue reforms at its own pace and in its own way. For Chinese President Xi Jinping, a top priority is to merge the CPC with the machinery of government in order to reduce corruption and burnish the state’s ideological credentials. Any attempt to interfere in this process would be crossing a red line.

Fortunately for Xi, Trump has no interest in “democratizing” other countries, and he doesn’t seem to have been swayed by the US investors, financiers, and technology titans who want his administration to press for more access to the Chinese economy.

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