In the last five hundred years, there have been 16 times when an emerging fast-growing state has tried to replace a superpower, 12 times resulted in war.
The United States has imposed a number of sanctions on China over its actions in Hong Kong. Earlier, the North China Sea conflict, Taiwan crisis, or the Huawei conflict, the two world powers are at war with each other, and forty years later, the world fears of another Cold War.
The current US-China rift is similar to the US-Russia Cold War for six reasons.
1. Both countries have different political systems. The United States is a liberal democracy, while China is a proponent of communist socialism, and both countries are now successfully managing their own systems.
2- This is a war of supremacy and superiority of two opposing political systems.
3. Both countries claim the supremacy of their system and their traditions and values, and consider their political system better for the world.
4. It is a vast and multifaceted war of global rise and influence.
5. After the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, the world is once again being divided into different blocs, and this division will again be political, geographical, and ideological. (Maybe more than two blocs, the EU may prefer to remain neutral under the leadership of Germany)
6- Neither side is in a position to fight a clear and unequivocal war.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the great period of tension passed, the Cold War ended, the world transformed into unipolar, and the United States emerged as the only superpower. When the United States maintained its monopoly, including the New World Order, the balance of power shifted totally towards the United States. But the ingenious progress that China has made in every field over the past two decades has hurt the US monopoly and pushed the world rapidly towards a new Cold War.
The Western world, including the United States, certainly raises the slogan of the free market, but the same free-market rules have died in front of China’s giant Huawei’s 5G project. The way the US has imposed sanctions on Huawei is by no means justified. It should be noted that the Chinese company Huawei is far ahead of all competitors in technology, including the United States. So if China launches 5G, it has the potential to make billions of dollars in profits and capture a larger market than other competitors.
The European Union has signaled its acceptance of the new direction for its own interests by recognizing China as a major power. But in the wake of its recent secession from the European Union and its nationalism, the United Kingdom, on the orders of the United States, has imposed sanctions on Huawei’s 5G products and equipment. This is clear evidence that the United Kingdom joined the anti-China camp.
The source of the war between the United States and the Soviet Union was military and political superiority, but the real competition between the United States and China is economic, which means trade, investment, technological superiority, and strategic industries are the real center of the competition. At its height, the Soviet Union accounted for only 40 percent of the total GDP of the United States at that time, but China is already at 65 percent and is growing further. So the real battle between the two countries is over economic supremacy.
The United States and China alone account for 40 percent of the world’s trade. The two countries trade billions of dollars between each other (while the Soviet Union and the United States had almost no trade). If the two are intertwined, the world’s economic system will have disastrous impacts and the world will be on a path of never-ending recession.
Although the field of the Cold War is vast with potential for global trade and new alliances, the real focus of its gravity has shifted from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. This time, the focus of the war is not Europe but Asia, and Asian countries, including Indo-Pak, are key players in the game. And if there is a possibility of formal or small-scale clashes, they are in the Pacific, where the interests of the two powers are at odds.
This time, China is playing its cards more beautifully than the Soviet Union. China has invested heavily in African countries, including industrial infrastructure, roads, ports, and railways. It is also able to meet the huge demand for oil and gas from Africa and is in a position to benefit directly from African resources. China’s domestic and foreign relations are stronger and more stable than those of the Soviet Union. There is currently no prospect of major competition with Russia. China has important trade relations with Europe. Pakistan is an important ally of China in SAARC countries including Sri Lanka and Nepal. China has already strengthened its ties with the five fastest-growing economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) by forming the BRICS.
US plus points include Japan, the disputed islands of China, the South China Sea, Taiwan, and India. The United States is trying to use these countries in its siege against China. It is also in a position to use its influence against China, including the United Nations. The Western media is already criticizing China over human rights abuses in Hong Kong by Uighur Muslims in the US.
China’s One Belt One Road is actually China’s most important weapon, because the roads that China plans to build by 2049, one of which is CPEC, can change the geography of the world. The Eurasian term has already gained popularity with the merging of roads and maritime routes between Europe and Asia, and perhaps this is why the European Union is relatively leaning towards China.
The two world powers, however, cannot go to open war, and the focus of this war will be economic sanctions and economic advantage. The Huawei conflict, the complete shutdown of Western media in China, social media restrictions, and the role of the Great Cyber Wall in this war are symbolically the same as the Berlin Wall of Germany during the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States.
US President Donald Trump has come to power with the slogan of “Make America Great Again” and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who claims to bring China back to its original place, are both ambitious presidents. China is now making bold decisions to assert its importance, rather than quietly developing. The Ladakh issue with India also speaks volumes about Chinese intentions. In the wake of the global recession of 2008-9, China openly criticized Western capitalism and offered its own socialist system as an alternative.
This war is a war of economy, technology, cyber or fifth-generation war. This is not a cold war but a soft war. The United States will continue to impose sanctions on China, and China will continue to ally itself with many other countries, including Iran, and whatever the outcome of this war, like the first Cold War, it can be nerve-wracking, after which the world will never be unipolar.