The Cold War Defrost with a Divorcing Chimerica and the Usual Indian Restriction

Updated: May 26

Manohar Samal,

Research Analyst,

Internationalism Research.

Introduction and Brief History of Relations

Early traces of heated relations between China and the United States of America can be traced back to the year 1949 and since then, relations between the two have been a combination of tense standoffs, international rivalry, intensified diplomacy and intertwined economies (Council on Foreign Relations, 2020). Recorded conflicts between the two have arisen during the Korean War (1950) followed by First Taiwan Strait Crisis (1954), Tibetan Uprising (1959), Tiananmen Square Massacre (1989), Belgrade Embassy Bombing (1999), U.S.- Sino Spy Plane Standoff (2001) and continuous trade disturbances up till this date (Council on Foreign Relations, 2020).

It would be wrong to infer that no attempts were made between the two nations to normalise relations. This is mainly because President Nixon’s visit to China in the year 1972 has been seen as one of the early moves to improve country relations (Usher, 2020). Since then, various attempts have been made by both nations to ensure progressive relations. However, the year 2020 has explicitly shown that escalation between China and the United States of America is manifold. The apparent opposition from the United States of America in China’s move to enact a stringent national security law in Hong Kong and opposition against the treatment of Uighur Muslims in China, inter alia, ultimately led to China ordering the United States of America to shut down its consulate in Chengdu (Usher, 2020). The deteriorating relations between the two countries sped up colossally after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. This is mainly because official statements and documents from the United States of America have repeatedly blamed China for the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, accusing the Chinese Communist Party of using the coronavirus disease as a bioweapon (Fuchs, 2020) and has also shown concern over the defective pandemic relief medical products being sold to the allies of the United States of America such as Spain, Britain, Australia and Netherlands (Su, 2020). The other fueling factors include the severance of trade relations by the commencement of trade and tariff war, technological battle through the ban of Chinese technology companies in the United States, the expulsion of Chinese graduate students from the United States and the expulsion of journalists and media workers from the American Press located in China and the limitation imposed by the United States on Chinese news reporters being able to work for Chinese news agencies in the United States (Gladstone, 2020). The looming threat of controlled war between the United States and China in the South China Sea cannot be ignored in this instance as it has been one of the most pressing global concerns (Bradley, 2020).

Cold War Aspect

The Cold War lasted from around 1946 to 1991 and was a period of tense conflict where aggressive arms race, ideological bids and proxy wars took place, without any overt physical conflict between Russia and the United States of America (Blakemore, 2019). The state of things between the United States of America and China being witnessed presently in the international sphere have led to alarming concerns that the Cold War framework seen between Russia and the United States of America will now be witnessed between the U.S. and China (Karabell, 2020).

The past decade of disturbances between China and the United States of America have shown that both the nations could be adopting a cold war strategy in tackling their issues extending over to a plethora of matters related to defence, trade, technology and human rights (Gladstone, 2020). There have been six identifying parameters which have shown the parallel nature of the deteriorating U.S.- China relations with the Cold War and these parameters have been enlisted below (Dupont, 2020):

  1. The United States of America and China are two superiorly powerful nations, both having Permanent Membership at the United Nations Security Council and have vast ideological differences with the United States of America being a liberal democracy and China being a communist country.

  2. Both the nations are aiming for supremacy, global influence and dominance.

  3. Although there is significant power play involved, it is inextricable and intertwined with the respective ideologies of liberal democracy and communism followed by the United States and China.

  4. The ultimate aim in these stages of clashes and conflict is global ascendancy.

  5. The inevitable result of incessant conflict between the two nations could be geopolitical bifurcation of the world.

  6. Both, China and the United States of America have avoided military intervention and conflict up till this date.

However, at the same time, it is important to also note that albeit the similarities and parallel-ground for viewing the U.S.- China clashes with a Cold War angle, another school of thinkers and researchers have laid down the differences which might show that the U.S. and China are not entirely heading towards a Cold War framework. This is mainly because during the cold war the tensions between the United States of America and Russia were mainly political and militaristic in nature with extremely scarce trade whereas, although there are various underlying factors, the tensions between the United States and China have primarily been economic with investment, trade, technology and strategic industries related aspects forming the epicentre of the conflict (Dupont, 2020).

Despite the fact that various trade and tariff barriers have been introduced in the form of a trade war between China and the United States, China still remains as an extremely large producer and distributor of U.S. origin products. Moreover, China reportedly holds 1.1 Trillion U.S. Dollars in the securities of the United States Treasury and similarly, hundreds of billions of U.S. Dollars worth factories and capital stock in China are owned, maintained or constructed by companies originating from the United States (Karabell, 2020). In fact, the high amount of interdependence between the economies of both these nations has even led to these nations being popularly referred to as “Chimerica” when addressed together (Karabell, 2020).

The Indian Angle and Conclusion

Although the United States had a major role to play in the escalation of the 1962 Indo- China War (Singh, 2020) and it had clearly decided to not intervene in the Doklam confrontation between India and China in 2017, the 2020 scenario has yielded different fruit. The United States has decided to side with India after the Galwan clashes in 2020 (Rajagopalan, 2020). Moreover, India has also explicitly supported the technological war initiated by the United States by the ban of 59 Chinese owned apps (Vipra, 2020). These events can prove to be extremely beneficial for India. This is mainly because the incessant trade wars between the United States and China has resulted in the United States to look for Asian alternatives. Therefore, it would not be wrong to infer that India’s improvement of trade relations and volume with the United States since 2019 is an inevitable result of the latter’s clashes with China (U.S. Department of State, 2020). In fact, a primary shift in preference to India over China is already being witnessed in the global sphere presently due to the lack of confidence and frustration faced by most of the countries in the world against China, caused out of its behaviour after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic (The Economic Times, 2020).

The pressure for decentralisation of Chinese influence and power in the global sphere is presently being advocated by multiple stakeholders, actors and nations. This is evident from the rising pressure from the West after the formation of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (Chakravarthy, 2020) and from the East after plans for strengthening the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue have emerged (Samal, 2020). It is noteworthy that the United States is part of both these initiatives, undoubtedly benefiting it on a paramount scale. It is an undeniable fact that India’s relations with China have consistently been worsening in 2020. But, at the same time, its relations with the United States and most of the world have been consistently productive, resilient and positively progressive. Therefore, irrespective of whether U.S.- China relations turn into a Cold War framework or not, the fruits of India’s reliability, confidence and friendliness in the international sphere will blossom in the days to come.


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