Analysis & Opinions - Aljazeera

Not your grandfather’s cold war

| May 23, 2023

The US-China rivalry is escalating, but its dynamics are very different from the clash between the US and the USSR.

As tensions between China and the United States are escalating, there is much talk among scholars and commentators about a new Cold War between the two powers. US officials have also indicated that they are thinking of relations with Beijing in those terms.

Yet, the situation in global politics and economy today is quite different from the post-World War II era, when the Soviet Union and the US faced off. Back then, countries were stuck between a rock and a hard place and had to choose a side.

Of course, there was the non-aligned movement, which promoted decolonisation and sought to stave off an escalation into a nuclear war between the USSR and the US, but many of the members of the movement still had to choose a camp to join.

What sphere of influence a country would fall into was determined not only by ideology and the interests of political leaders, but also by threats and coercion coming from the great powers. Indeed, throughout the Cold War, Washington and Moscow backed a series of coups and insurgencies in Africa, Latin America and Asia, trying to sway countries into their spheres of influence.

Today, the ability of superpowers to instigate regime change with impunity is considerably more limited. That is because they risk an immediate and massive backlash from global public opinion, which is amplified by technological interconnectedness and social media.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Arezki, Rabah.“Not your grandfather’s cold war.” Aljazeera, May 23, 2023.

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