Foreign Policy Digital

The U.S.-China Cold War Is a Myth

The 20th century’s great standoff doesn’t explain the emerging dynamic between Washington and Beijing.

This week, the U.S. Navy conducted drills with ships from Southeast Asian countries in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea—an apparent sign of Washington’s renewed interest in the region and in challenging China.

Close U.S. partners such as Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have warned of growing tensions between the two superpowers and urged restraint by both sides. Washington has been deepening security and diplomatic relations in the region, even with former adversaries such as Vietnam, which has been locked in a tense maritime standoff with China since July.

In recent years, the notion of an emerging second Cold War, this time between the United States and China, has gained credence. As early as 1995, China scholar David Shambaugh warned of deteriorating relations in titled, “The United States and China: A New Cold War?” Last year, Cold War analyst Graham Allison, the Douglas Dillon professor of government at the Harvard Kennedy School,  of a “new cold war,” and articles published in the , , the , and across the mainstream media have this narrative. But the Cold War paradigm is not the best way to understand today’s strategic landscape. The Cold War paradigm is not the best way to understand today’s strategic landscape.

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