History of New Cold War


The rivalry between the U.S. and China is referred to as the “New Cold War” in this context. Other names for the same phenomenon included the Sino-US trade war, Cold War 2.0, and geo-political rivalry between the U.S. and China. To begin with, it’s important to comprehend the United States strategic stance. The U.S. ability to project power over wide distances gives it a strategic advantage. Its extended policies and the forming of allies are important to its strategic behaviour.

The unipolarity of the U.S. is in danger due to China’s ascent. The U.S. animosity toward China is likewise rooted in the communist objective. But the U.S. didn’t directly embark on an endeavour to combat China until 1995 to 1996. At the time of Taiwan’s first presidential elections, China launched unarmed ballistic missiles in Taiwanese territorial seas. In retaliation, the U.S. sent two aircraft carrier groups of the “NIMITZ” class in the direction of the South China Sea.

However, China’s security was affected in contradictory ways by the fall of the Soviet Union. It was obvious that a major war was utterly improbable. This prompted China’s decision-makers to focus on limited scale small wars. China’s focus at that time was not towards strategic competition rather it was on preparing and planning for small wars. China’s building of Anti-Access or Area-Denial (A2/AD) strategy represents their aggressive defence at home. The building of artificial islands and then inhabiting them by militarizing them goes to show their preparedness.

Whereas, the U.S. position in East Asia was seen as being seriously threatened by China’s expanding conventional capabilities. However, it is claimed that the U.S. response was alleged for a number of reasons. The U.S. post-9/11 foreign policy was primarily concerned with Central Asia and the Middle East. The U.S. financial priorities also influenced their policy, which turned them away from restraining China.

China, on the other hand, had long feared from the U.S. escalation. Chinese decision-makers are afraid that the U.S. can call in international help at any time as a result of the U.S. decisive defeat of Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War (1991). Similar to how the war in Kosovo showed that the U.S. might not even need to enlist the support of the United Nation (UN), but rather some of its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members, and can go on any undertaking. China’s military strategy, which includes certain offensive measures, was shaped by this. China opted for the hitting first policy. It was a famous quote in the PLA that ‘Strike first, Strike Deep, Hit Hard’. PLA also worked and made successful the formulation of an Active Strategic Counter Attacks on Exterior Lines (ACSEC).

In response to the danger to their position in East Asia, the U.S. has also developed some aggressive methods. A direct strategy in the South China Sea battleground has been suggested by a number of U.S. strategists. Destroying China’s A2/AD capabilities is the goal of the direct approach. Other U.S. policies include the construction of a long-distance blockade that would isolate China from the rest of the globe. Any U.S. action would have an immediate impact on trade with China. Furthermore, there is no assurance that the deployment of strategic bombers and Unmanned Under-Sea Vehicles (UUVs), which would target Chinese military and commercial ships in any crisis situation, would prevent China from using nuclear weapons. There is no treaty or any agreement where the opponents can talk out any such situation.

To some extent, these are the ground realities of the ongoing conflict and its possible future aspects. This is also one of the several fronts at grand strategic level between the two great powers. They come across each other at several diplomatic and economic fronts. The blame game and the use of persuasive rhetoric, specifically from the U.S., has been part and parcel of this strategic competition.

It’s crucial to comprehend that there is no existential ideological conflict between the two in this strategic rivalry. In some parts of the U.S., people have a more sensitive perception of the threat. Whereas, China has no intent to overcome the U.S. or to replace it in a unipolar world. China rather comes up pursuing a narrative of global multi-polarity which its leaders have usually been seen talking about. It poses a danger to the U.S. hegemony in the world, and its leadership position at the global level. China is willing to offer a substitute for the U.S. system of government. The U.S. is currently under this kind of threat.

Therefore, the U.S. should develop a revised strategy in light of the potentially disastrous outcomes of any crisis scenario brought on by military escalation between the two superpowers. In the South China Sea, aggressive military conduct may have unintended consequences. Internally, the U.S. is unable to contend with the other force that is remote from their homeland while maintaining its military and protecting allies. They often justify the militarization of matters that are not principally within that scope by blaming China for their domestic problems. To normalize the relations, the U.S. would need to acknowledge the strategic realities of China. China should reconsider its East Asian policy, on the other hand. Both states should meet at the table to resolve the issue, despite the fact that the U.S. is concerned about losing its throne.

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Nadir Ali

Written by Nadir Ali

Nadir is associated with the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI). He has written for Pakistan Today, Pakistan Observer, and numerous other publishers. He tweets at @hafiznadirali7 and can be reached at

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