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  • 05 Dec 2020 GS Paper 1 History

    “The rising tensions between the US and China is akin to the Cold War tensions between the US and USSR”. Discuss the causes of the new cold war and role of India in the turbulent times. (250 words)

    • Introduce by defining the meaning of the old cold war- US and USSR.
    • Explain the new cold war and similarity between the two.
    • Discuss the causes of the new cold war.
    • Highlight the role of india.
    • Conclude coherently.


    • China is soon to become the largest economy in the world. It’s growth is based on technology, innovation and trade, which sought to balance U.S. military superiority, and has fueled the strategic rivalry between the two countries. The rising tensions between the US and China have prompted many experts to warn of a new Cold War akin to the Cold War between the US and USSR.
    • In 2017, the US National Security Strategy called China as “a revisionist power” seeking “to erode American security and prosperity” and “shape a world antithetical to U.S. values and interests”. Also, China has been proactive in undermining the US hegemony on multiple fronts. COVID-19 pandemic has further aggravated the deterioration of ties between the two countries. Thus, this new Cold War between China and the United States is a major geopolitical risk of the 21st century.


    Events Signaling a New Cold War

    • China has come out with alternative governance mechanisms to the U.S.-dominated International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organization with its all-encompassing Belt and Road Initiative and institutions like Asia infrastructure investment bank, contingency reserve agreement (CRA) of New Development Bank.
    • For several decades, China’s breakneck development under the relatively enlightened authoritarianism of Deng Xiaoping and his successors was seen positively in the United States.
      • However, under Xi Jinping, China has evolved from a soft to a hard authoritarianism. There is now a president-for-life with a budding personality cult.
    • In order to contain rising China’s assertiveness, the US under its ‘pivot to Asia policy’ has launched a quad initiative, Indo pacific narrative.
      • Most recently, the US proposed to expand G7 to G-11 without including China in it.
    • China’s incremental “salami slicing” tactics in the South China Sea, first by land reclamation and then constructing artificial islands for extending extra-territorial claim, has seen sharp criticism from the US and its allies.
      • It is similar to the way dominance over the Caribbean enabled the United States to strategically control the Atlantic Ocean and thus, affect the balance of forces in the two world wars and a cold war.
    • From Trade war to tensions over 5G telecommunications to currency wars, US-China confrontation is on multiple economic fronts.
      • Further, the donor-recipient relationship between US and developing countries has weakened with China’s pledge of $2-billion amid COVID-19 pandemic, thereby starting a new phase of donation diplomacy.
    • Moreover, China perceives US support for Taiwan as an interference in its internal matters.

    Differences Over Previous Cold War

    There are several key differences between the previous Cold War between the US & Soviet Union and the Cold War between the US and China.

    • No Ideological conflict: Cold War between the US and Soviet Union was a battle between two opposing ideologies viz. capitalism vs communism, whereas there is no such ideological conflict between US and China.
    • No proxy conflicts: Previous Cold War was full of proxy conflicts between the US and Soviet Union like in Cuban missile crisis 1962, Soviet afghan war 1979-89, etc.
      • However, till now there are no proxy wars between the U.S. and China.
    • Multi-polar world: Today, the world is also not bipolar anymore. There are countries like Russia, India and Japan, which act as swing states,as they have a choice whether or not to align with the US or China.
    • Economic interdependence: Unlike the US and Soviet Union, the economies of US and China are closely integrated through investments and markets in a hyper globalized world.

    Role of India

    India is a rising global power and citing its importance both the US and China sought to attract India in its camp. Foreign policy experts in the US argue India Is a Natural US Ally in the New Cold War. On the other hand Chinese’s Ambassador in India has suggested writing “together a new chapter” with “a shared future for mankind”. In this context:

    • India can promote new multilateralism under the aegis of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam- which relies on restructuring both the economic order and societal behaviour for equitable sustainable development.
    • India must take up intensified diplomacy with global powers so that Asian Century can be defined in terms of peaceful co-existence and global interest.
    • Apart from it, India Should acknowledge that national security now relies on technological superiority in artificial intelligence (AI), cyber and space, and not expensive capital equipment.
      • Thus, India should become self sufficient in the domain of critical technologies.


    As India joins the UN Security Council (non-permanent seat) and chairs the BRICS Summit and hosts the G-20 in 2022, the development will bring opportunity for India to assume leadership role and propose a new globalisation model based on humanity, fairness and equality has wide support in a more equal world rather than a world divided by Cold War.

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