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The Potential of Cold War 2.0

The Cold War era can arguably be categorized as one of the most intense periods in contemporary international relations. The military and ideological competition between the U.S. and the USSR profoundly impacted the global system while it was active. 


The Cold War divided the world into spheres of influence where these competing powers fought to gain leverage over one another. By the end of their competition, the American worldview of a liberal democracy prevailed, while the USSR ideologies were dissolved. 


The dissolution of the USSR meant that the U.S. was the sole global hegemon, leaving its power unmatched for several years. However, the current international system has been rapidly evolving and developing in ways that display clear signs of a looming power struggle. 


War is raging in Eastern Europe, a revolutionary wave is simmering in Iran, nuclear threats remain from Russia and North Korea, and China maneuvers to reconstruct the power dynamics of the globalized world. All these separate events come together and provide the groundwork for Cold War 2.0.


But why exactly should we be worried about another Cold War? A critical reason to be wary of Cold War 2.0 is the nature of the actors involved. Sure, back in the day the USSR was a formidable opponent, but it lacked economic prowess and failed at convincing nations to rise to its cause. On the other hand, China has been swiftly manufacturing alliances through its ambitious infrastructure projects, trade and provision of low-interest loans to many nations in the Global South. 


Another critical factor contributing to the severity of the second Cold War is its multifaceted nature. While the first Cold War was an arms and ideological rivalry, the U.S. and China have already seen areas of severe competition in technology and economy. This—combined with China’s revisionist global stance—is a recipe for disaster. A prolonged economic showdown between the nations would be catastrophic for the whole world. 


The U.S. and China are also at odds with each other on various United Nations mandates and international laws concerning territorial sovereignty, international territorial waters and intellectual property. 


There is an excellent chance that such a tug-of-war for global power between the U.S. and China will not end in a peaceful resolution. Matters of territorial sovereignty rarely conclude peacefully. Moreover, one cannot forget the existence of Russia and its imperialistic ambitions in the Caucuses and Eastern Europe. 


China and Russia have tended to support each other, making affairs even more difficult for the U.S. However, while the future developments of Cold War 2.0 may halt the world to a standstill and negate the growth and legitimacy of international organizations, I am also optimistic about the fact that the U.S. and its allies will be able to contain the effects. 


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


Sources


Wright, Thomas. “China and Russia vs. America: Great-Power Revisionism Is Back.” Brookings, 28 July 2016, https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/china-and-russia-vs-america-great-power-revisionism-is-back/

Hass, Ryan. “How China Is Responding to Escalating Strategic Competition with the US.” Brookings, 9 Mar. 2021, https://www.brookings.edu/articles/how-china-is-responding-to-escalating-strategic-competition-with-the-us/

Rudd, Kevin. “The U.S. and China Must Act Now to Avoid a Disastrous War.” Time, 4 Apr. 2022, https://time.com/6164184/how-us-china-avoid-war/.

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