Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence announced what could already be described as the beginning of World Cold War II, with Washington and Beijing as the first belligerents but soon the stage will be global.

Pence spoke at the Hudson Institute, a think tank specializing in interdisciplinary issues related to international relations, culture, defense, economics, technology, and other strategic issues. Like most NGOs in the U.S., the Hudson Institute is funded by tax-deductible contributions from large taxpayers.

There Pence formulated what many observers compared to Winston Churchill’s 1946 “Iron Curtain” speech. The U.S. Vice President, recognizing, in fact, Washington’s defeat in the current trade confrontation with China, proclaimed what amounts to a declaration of cold war:

“China now spends as much on its military as the rest of Asia combined and has prioritized capabilities that erode U.S. military advantages on land, sea, air, and space. China wants to drive the United States out of the Western Pacific and prevent us from coming to the aid of our allies. We hoped that economic liberalization would lead China to greater partnership with us and the world. But it opted for economic aggression, which in turn encourages its growing army. (…) Beijing is conducting a comprehensive and coordinated campaign to undermine support for the President, his agenda, and our nation’s most cherished ideals. (…) China is also applying this power more proactively than ever before to influence and interfere in this country’s domestic politics and politics. Worst of all, China has embarked on an unprecedented effort to influence American public opinion, the 2018 elections, and the environment leading up to the 2020 presidential election. To put it bluntly, President Trump’s leadership is working and China wants a different American president. (…) There can be no doubt: China is meddling in America’s democracy.”

“But should China endure the insult and retreat? Of course not,” says an editorial in the Global Times, the English-language Chinese newspaper sponsored by the People’s Daily, which is itself an organ of the Government of the People’s Republic of China. “If China were to respond belligerently to recent US provocations and define Pence’s speech as a declaration of Cold War, it would become a reality.

“China must firmly safeguard its rights and legitimate interests, from trade to defense, and take its own measures against American provocations. We must refrain from increasing friction with the U.S. and not increase the atmosphere of strategic confrontation. Do not allow the conflict with the U.S. to dominate China’s foreign relations or determine the path to be taken by the Chinese government.

“In fact, U.S. efforts to contain China is limited and a trade war will inevitably harm the United States. It would be a stupid choice. It is not realistic to establish a NATO-style organization to attack China. It is impossible to isolate and contain China, given the expansion of its business abroad and in domestic markets.

“It will be difficult for the White House and Congress to mobilize a campaign against China in U.S. society. Gone are the days when the public was willing to step forward in the so-called national interest. As long as China remains calm in the face of hysterical U.S. political elites, the so-called Cold War will not take shape,” the Global Times editorial explains.

“At that point, China should play tai chi with the United States. This is the unique strategic wisdom of the Chinese nation. We must make America feel the pain of trade war and not allow unscrupulous action in the South China Sea and Taiwan Straits. But we must act calmly. China will continue to open up. A deteriorating outside world will not change that picture. China is not the Soviet Union, and the United States cannot deal with China the way it did with the Soviet Union,”  the Global Times editorial concludes.

It has been a reprehensible practice in the United States, during many election campaigns, for the ruling party to manipulate some kind of threat of war from abroad in order to obtain public support for the government through subliminal stimulus. No one should be surprised if, on the occasion of the mid-term elections to be held on November 6, something just like this in North America.

This is a CubaNews translation by Walter Lippmann.


Manuel E. Yepe is a lawyer, economist and journalist. He is a professor at the Higher Institute of International Relations in Havana.