Skip to 美中全球议题对话项目 Full Site Menu Skip to main content

响应: 辩论新冷战的前景

A New Cold War is Approaching? Similarities and Differences between U.S.-China Relations and U.S.-Soviet Relations

Zhaoqing Li


With the escalation of U.S.-China trade frictions and a series of derivatives, voices have appeared in both Washington and Beijing warning about the danger of a new Cold War between America and China. Compared to the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, similarities do exist in current state such as the balance of power and ideological confrontation. However, under the circumstance of globalization, there are more differences in present bilateral relations, making the chances of a new Cold War slim.

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the international structure has transformed into the one with one super power and multiple big powers. Over the last 40 years, thanks to the reform and opening up, China has embraced the globalization and showed great potential in every aspect of society especially economy and military. At present, China has become the only nation that can rank with the United States. Therefore, it is no wonder that some scholars compare U.S.-China relations with U.S.-Soviet relationship because the balance of power is similar. As for ideology opposition, China once was one of the closest allies of the Soviet Union and is still one of the few socialism countries in the world while American is a typical capitalist country. Due to the deep influence of Leninism and Stalinism, both the Soviet Union and China established bureaucratic centralism to maintain the regime without adequate democracy and freedom contrary to the core value of America. Although efforts have been made on modest democratic reforms in China, the constitution amendment to cancel the term limits of president and premier implemented last year has been regarded as a huge frustration to China’s democratic reforms and reinforced America’s wariness against China.

Nevertheless, there is little prospect of a new Cold War for the differences between these two pairs of relationships. First off, the foreign strategies are different. Such cases are often that national aims contradict. The point is whether the controversy intrudes on the core interest. After the Second World War, the common enemy Nazism of the United States and the Soviet Union disappeared. Two countries had intensively different ideas about post-war international system. Both of them wanted to be the leader of the global society and hence there was little room for negotiation. However, China has no intention to challenge America’s leadership and still concentrates on its own economic development. It can’t be denied that the One Belt and One Road Initiative (BRI) is a tool that China attempts to expand its international influence and stretch its external trade channels. It maybe to a certain degree impinges on America’s traditional sphere of influence such as the Middle East and grabs some of its interests, but it also brings benefits to America in another way. Most of the countries along the routes are underdeveloped countries with poor economic situation and huge development potentials. One of the most important aims of BRI is to help these countries generate economic growth and prosperity. As we know, the huge gap between the North and South brings about numerous social problems and seriously hinders the sustainable development of the global community. Thus, better economic situations in these countries will maintain social order and create a safer investment environment for companies. With regards to ideological confrontation, the mainstream ideology is considerably desalinated among young generation in both countries. Ideology is not the dominant factor in bilateral relationships any more. Most importantly, the connection between America and China is much closer than ever before in the Era of Globalization. Both countries are the No.1 trade partners of each other. Countless items of both countries have unwittingly permeated into every corner of people’s life. American people’s living expenses would increase dramatically without the supply of cheap Chinese goods. It would create a hardship for the Chinese people without the imports of cultural commodity from America such as Hollywood movies and Disney animations. Millions of people from both nations travel, study or immigrate to the other party. Accordingly, it will place an endurable strain on both nations if all the contacts are completely cut off. The U.S.-China trade war has already demonstrated the seriousness of a slight friction between two countries not to mention the upheaval of breaking off.