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Say No to a ‘Cold War’ with China

The U.S. doesn't need and shouldn't seek a Cold War-style confrontation with China.
frank gaffney

Speaking of dishonest fear-mongers, there is a new “Committee on the Present Danger” that wants to push the U.S. into a Cold War with China:

The leaders of Committee on the Present Danger: China include Reagan administration official Frank Gaffney and former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, and its members include several former defense and intelligence officials. They are sounding an alarm about the China threat and framing the U.S.-China relationship as an existential struggle between two civilizations that have irreconcilably opposed plans for the world order.

The U.S. doesn’t need and shouldn’t seek a Cold War-style confrontation with China. It would be very expensive, and because it is unnecessary all of that expense would be wasted in stoking a conflict that the U.S. and China can avoid. If we were in an “existential struggle” with Chinese civilization, one of the oldest continuous civilizations in human history, I would be a bit worried, but this is nonsense. Outside of the South China Sea, there is nothing that could conceivably be called “Chinese aggression.” It is foolish to suggest that the U.S. needs to oppose China over territorial disputes on its own doorstep. It is also difficult to imagine how the U.S. would conduct a “Cold War” against our largest trading partner without suffering significant economic upheaval. There is bound to be some competition and tension between the U.S. and China, but those tensions need to be managed instead of inflaming them with proposals for a zero-sum “struggle.”

The name of the group gives away that the project is alarmist fear-mongering at its worst. Previous versions that have used or reused this name are always exaggerating foreign threats to justify hard-line and confrontational policies, and this one is no different. The conceit is that the CPD members understand something about the “present danger” that the rest of us do not, but they don’t. They pretend that they are not ideological, but the presence of Gaffney and Bannon in their ranks proves the opposite. They appeal to the public’s “common sense,” and claim that they are simply presenting people with the facts. In practice, they are just interested in appealing to people’s fear, riling people up, and blowing things out of proportion in an attempt to intimidate Americans into adopting their disastrous and costly recommendations.

Like a bad remake of an old film, the new CPD seeks to copy Cold War-era containment of the USSR and apply it to China instead:

According to this new group, the United States has no choice but to make the containment and eventual ending of Chinese Communist Party rule the premier mission of U.S. foreign policy — essentially engaging in a new Cold War.

There is no compelling U.S. interest in doing any of this. We very much have a choice not to go down the path of another decades-long rivalry that will further militarize our foreign policy, cause new wars, and fritter away our resources on “containing” a state that doesn’t need to be contained. The U.S.-Soviet rivalry was a highly unusual one that emerged out of the wreckage of the largest armed conflict in history. Fortunately, it does not have to be repeated, and it should not be taken as a model for how to handle relations with any other state.



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