Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

Yesterday's Cold War Shows How to Beat China Today

| July 29, 2019

The Trump administration has been ignoring the playbook that produced the downfall of the Soviet Union.

Commentators of many stripes increasingly refer to the deteriorating relationship between the United States and China as a new "cold war." As some readers may recall, I think analogies to the earlier rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union should be viewed with some skepticism, as there are important differences between the two situations. But analytic caution doesn't mean we shouldn't try to draw useful lessons from the past and use them to inform policy decisions today. Why did the United States ultimately triumph over its Soviet rival? What advantages made victory more likely, and how did U.S. leaders exploit them? How might that earlier experience help Americans retain the upper hand over China in the decades ahead?

Here are five important lessons from the Cold War, lessons that should be guiding contemporary U.S. foreign policy. Spoiler alert: President Donald Trump has been ignoring or violating every one of them.

Lesson #1: Make sure you have the right allies....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Walt, Stephen M.“Yesterday's Cold War Shows How to Beat China Today.” Foreign Policy, July 29, 2019.

The Author

Stephen Walt