Could it be that Bush and Hu are having a Cold War and the rest of us haven’t been invited?
Howard French thinks the Chinese are following a cold war logic in their foreign policy:
As it evolves on a spectrum somewhere between Nazi Germany and contemporary Scandinavia, China will use its growing muscle in trade and finance to draw developing countries, particularly authoritarian ones attracted by its corporatist capitalism, into its embrace.
And Michael Klare thinks that so is the US:
In signing the nuclear pact with India, Bush did not allude to the administration’s anti-Chinese agenda, saying only that it would lay the foundation for a “durable defense relationship”. But few have been fooled by this vague characterization. According to Weisman of the Times, most US lawmakers view the nuclear accord as an expression of the administration’s desire to convert India into “a counterweight to China”.
(Manish has a particularly funny take on this.)
Howard French asks “So when do the masks drop? When does the challenge become explicit?” But I don’t think it is necessarily the case that the current posturing and containment policies will necessarily lead to a full blown Cold War.
For one thing, while China supports some really ugly governments, such as the Sudan, and continues to threaten Taiwan militarily, it has yet to engage in the kind of flagrant violation of international law that we see in the U.S. bid for hegemony in the Middle East. While China may be sponsoring anti-US governments in Latin America, there is currently no reason to believe it is sponsoring anti-US military insurgencies as was the case during the Cold War. I have not read anything to indicate that the post-Mao Chinese government is in any way responsible for the current rise of Maoism around the globe. As far as I can tell, China is looking to balance US hegemony by creating its own network of allies, but it is only seeking to even the scales, not to destroy a global system which benefits the Chinese elite as much as it does that of the United States.
For their part, I do think that the Bush administration see themselves in a protracted Cold War, but I’m not sure that such an attitude is enmeshed in the American psyche the same way that the last Cold War was, and I think a new administration will bring new priorities to the table.
Which isn’t to say that the current situation isn’t dangerous. A global economic crisis, or a political crisis across the Taiwan Straight could easily push things over the edge. It is no coincidence that many of the countries China is forging links with are oil-rich nations: Sudan, Venezuela, Nigeria, etc. For now there is enough oil to go around, but that situation may not last for long.
(Thanks to Michael Turton for the Klare link.)