‘No to a new Cold War’
FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - October 11, 2020 - 12:00am

The Philippines should actively engage in the webinar on “No to a new Cold War” because of its strategic location. Our country has a background of historical connections with the warring countries of the Cold War between China and the United States.

Yet few Filipinos are aware of it. I was not aware of the webinar until a friend posted it to me with a note that we should help to spread it quickly and widely. It was already being used by the contending powers long before the webinar was conceived and implemented by intellectuals and politicians around the world. Actions and statements have come from Philippine government officials and the opposition that reflect this Cold War before the public was aware of its worldwide implications.

It is more than a local political issue.

“The great power contest between the US and China has been steadily ratcheting up over many years. Washington’s long-term strategy in Asia – to ensure the region is not dominated by a hostile hegemonic force – is plainly threatened by the growth in Chinese power,” writes Nick Bisley, dean of Humanities and Social Sciences and professor of International Relations at La Trobe University. He has led some of the discussions. The China-US rivalry is not a new Cold War. It is way more complex and could last much longer, he adds.

The competition that had started with tensions over trade and technology has moved beyond the economic domain.

Tit-for-tat consulate closures in Houston and Chengdu, the expulsion of journalists, ideological rhetoric from the likes of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and increased military manoeuvres in the East and South China Seas have led many to conclude the world is on the cusp of a second Cold War.

But we are in uncharted waters. Sino-American competition, if it continues on its current trajectory, will be no Cold War. It is likely to be more complex, harder to manage and last much longer.

For Americans, part of the appeal of allusions to Cold War 2.0 is that they think they know how the first one ended.

An overconfident reading of the past is accelerating the drive to confrontation in dangerous ways.

After Benigno Aquino’s election as Philippine president he visited President Obama where he committed the Philippine government to approve the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

There is no sign Washington and its fellow travelers have begun to think through, let alone prepare for, a similar multi-decade fight across all domains against the world’s most populous country.

Given China’s scale, its importance to the global economy and its technological sophistication, an escalation of the rivalry between Beijing and Washington could bring costs of monumental proportions.

Rather than carelessly invoking the past, we should be doing everything we can to stop the competition between the two sides from spiralling out of control.

Martin Jacques, author of international best seller “When China Rules the World,” visited the Philippines twice, he was at pains to explain that there was a difference between China and the US in their approach to hegemony. He thought it a wise move when President Duterte declared the Philippines would adopt its own foreign policy.

“The new Cold War will not stop US decline,” Jacques said. Why has the US attitude toward China changed so profoundly?

Here is an excerpt from his article in Global Times.

“The origins lie in the 2008 financial crisis. The relatively stable and benign period of US-China relations between 1972 and 2016 was underpinned by two American assumptions.

“First, China would never pose a threat to the US’s global economic dominance; and second, China’s rise would become unsustainable unless it adopted a Western-style political system.

“Neither of these things happened.

“On the contrary, the financial crisis took place in the US, not in China, and China’s political system has proved highly successful and sustainable. The 2008 crisis led to the undermining of support in the American governing elite for its previous policy toward China. A growing mood of hegemonic angst concerning China took hold in the US. China was increasingly seen as a threat to the US’s global dominance, a process that culminated in US President Donald Trump’s election in 2016 and China coming to be seen as the enemy.

“It is abundantly clear that the US cannot accept any threat to its global hegemony. The US as number one is regarded as fundamental to its DNA. But this is unsustainable.

“The US is in relatively rapid decline. It can no longer enjoy a monopoly of primacy in the world. It is determined, however, to resist any diminution in its authority. We have entered a dangerous, volatile and unpredictable period as the US seeks at all costs to resist the inevitable.

“As a result, we can no longer take world peace for granted. World peace is at risk for the first time since the Cold War. The COVID-19 crisis, furthermore, will surely result in an even bigger shift in power from the US to China than happened after 2008. That could result in an even more desperate American response. Until the US comes to terms with the new reality – that it must share primacy with China – the global situation will be very unstable. Declining imperial powers find it extraordinarily difficult to come to terms with their diminished position, as Britain since 1945 exemplifies. The same is true with the US but in a much more dramatic and dangerous way.”

There are now participants from 49 countries joining the webinar, including from the US.

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