Foreign Policy

The New Cold War with the Chinese Government

The Geopolitical Struggle for Leadership in Advanced Technology will determine whether the 21st Century Stays the American Century
Dec 20, 2021 By Will Hurd
Updated: Dec 27, 2023
Tyranny is Never Invincible
Photo Credit: Kin Cheung/AP

The People’s Republic of China is trying to replace the United States of America as the sole global superpower and this reality needs to drive USA foreign policy. Preventing this from happening will require more than staging a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics. This is not my opinion. I didn’t come to this conclusion from collecting intelligence on the Chinese Government when I was in the Central Intelligence Agency. This conclusion isn’t some interpretation of a Confucian saying. This is what the Chinese Government and Chinese President Xi Jinping has said about themselves in English since at least May 2015.

This is not just a concern for the Biden Administration, his National Security Council or his State Department. Every member of American society should care about this New Cold War with the Government of China not just because it should drive our foreign relations, but because we face a potential future where Mandarin and the yuan, not English and the dollar, dominate international trade.

This conflict will influence U.S. foreign policy and diplomatic relations towards the Middle East, Latin America and the European Union. This contentious U.S.-China relationship will affect how the world deals with rogue actors like Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korea and terrorist groups. This struggle will affect how international organizations like the United Nations and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) handle world affairs like climate change and forieign trade collaboration like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This competition will define whether technologies like artificial intelligence uplift humanity or are used as tools to control humanity.

Whichever country wins this generation-defining struggle will not just affect the American economy but will shape international trade policy and foreign affairs for the rest of the twenty-first century for the entire world.

The phrase Cold War has evolved since the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Here is why I call this American foreign policy issue a “New Cold War:

  • While we are not shooting at each other with conventional weapons yet, or heavens forbid a nuclear weapon, the word “war” can describe our relationship because the Chinese Government has made it clear that their most important overriding foreign policy objective is to replace the United States of America as the sole global superpower by 2049.
  • This conflict is currently “cold” because the Chinese Communist Party is willing to use all means at their disposal, to include armed aggression if they must, to achieve their main goals.
  • It’s “new” because it’s occurring with a “frenemy” who has shown a complete disregard from human rights and who is a peer and potentially a superior — not a “near-peer.”

Let me be clear about an important point: this New Cold War is with the Government of China, not the Chinese people nor Chinese culture. This conflict is definitely not with Chinese Americans. The discrimination and hatred that our Asian American brothers and sisters have had to endure over the last few years because of racism associated with the pandemic has been entirely unacceptable.

  • Over the past year, one out of every five of our Asian American and Pacific Islander fellow citizens have experienced a hate incident and we all have a responsibility to help stop this hate.

As a government and as a society we must be clear-eyed that our adversary is not the Chinese people nor folks of Chinese descent, but our adversary is the Chinese Government

As a government and as a society we must be clear-eyed that our adversary is not the Chinese people nor folks of Chinese descent, but our adversary is the Chinese Government; An authoritarian government run by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that stripes the freedoms from the people of Hong Kong, threatens its neighbors in the South China Sea, imprisons its own people for dissenting, wipes any traces off the internet of people that fall out of favor with the government, and violates international law by forcing their own ethnic minority populations into concentration camps for “reform.”

Chinese and American Currency

For years, the CCP has threatened global supply chains, economically bullied smaller countries and eroded U.S. national interests by stealing American intellectual property by orchestrating some of the largest data breaches in U.S. history. They are working with their fellow BRICS nations to diminish American economic influence around the world.

The U.S. and China can and should coexist. We can prevent world war and achieve harmonious international relations. Maintaining peaceful relations and a profitable trade relationship with China should be the policy goals of our foreign policy agenda. The economies of the U.S. and China are intertwined in a way we never were with the former USSR or Russia. China is a major customer for U.S. businesses, and it is integral to the supply chains of American industry.

  • China will become the world’s largest economy by mid-century, if it hasn’t already, while the U.S. will potentially sink to third place in global GDP ranking, behind India.

…we must be able to out-innovate our competition and build alliances that will administer consequences when global rules are broken.

To deal with a Chinese government more interested in rewriting international laws and norms rather than adhering to them, we must be able to out-innovate our competition by understanding why technology is important, and build alliances that will administer consequences when global rules are broken. In two weeks, I will talk about what is required to refresh our political operating system so that it doesn’t get distracted by culture wars, but can instead take the necessary steps to ensure this century stays our century — an American reboot.

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Will Hurd has spent the past 20 years on the front lines of the most pressing fights facing our nation, in the Middle East, Congress, and the highest levels of business and tech.

Will has spent his life fighting for our country, and he will take those decades of experience with him as he fights for all us.

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