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At war with otherness

The Cold War never ended for some and they are still battling for the end of history


Talk of a new Cold War between China and the United States has been common in recent months. The similarities between the Cold War and the current situation are striking and increasing, and the difference among pundits seems limited to whether a new Cold War is coming or if it is already here.

But before delving into any analysis of what's new this time around, there is another question to be asked: Has the last Cold War really ended? The truth is that for some in the West, the Cold War will not be over until "the end of history" achieves total and complete victory, which means that for them it will not be over until there is no form of government other than a handful of Western capitalist states and no system of global governance other than the Pax Americana.

Hence, any state except for that of Western domination and active subjugation is a state of Cold War. Ask Cubans, North Koreans, Iranians, or Russians and Venezuelans, the Cold War waged against them by the West has never ceased. Simply put, the Cold War did not end with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the socialist states in Europe, rather it is hiding in plain sight or disguised by the new systemic crises of global terrorism, identity politics and financial meltdowns. This pervasive and persistent warfare against "otherness" is the central political, economic as well as conceptual problem of our time.

One needs look no further than the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to realize that the Cold War is very much alive. This Cold War instrument has continued even though its mortal enemy, the Warsaw Pact, is long gone. Not only has it been utilized in the Balkans, Middle East, and Africa, and expanded deep into Eastern Europe toward Russian borders, now it's been coerced to interfere far beyond its geographic mandate in the affairs of the Indo-Pacific. Whatever the form of the problem, be it domestic unrest, regional conflict, global terrorism, geopolitical competition, gray zone operations, or cyber-attacks, all can be assimilated into the Cold War framework and policed by a US-led Western disciplinary force.

People tend to forget that West Pacific was the biggest victim of the Cold War and it remains the most diehard Cold War battlefield in the world. When US diplomats speak about maintaining post-World War II order in the region, what they actually mean is securing the Cold War status quo, otherwise they should be upholding the Tokyo Tribunal, not bolstering the US-Japan Security Treaty.

The world is rapidly and irreversibly changing, but the so-called Cold War warriors refuse to move on. Because for them, the implosion of the Soviet Union and the socialist movement three decades ago not only proved the superiority and universality of the US system, but the effectiveness of their Cold War strategies. It is therefore not surprising that when humanity faces grave challenges such as the novel coronavirus outbreak and accelerating climate change, all the think tank experts and politicians in Washington can think of is to revive, resume and reinforce Cold War acts and institutions so that the US can prevail against another Cold War adversary.

The Cold War mentality and animosity run directly against multilateralism and pluralism which global peace and governance should be built on. Today, people around the world should be alarmed that ideological intolerance and the Cultural Darwinism behind it are being repackaged in the euphemistic form of the so-called rules-based international order. By fabricating a dichotomy of "democracy versus authoritarianism" and making it a central theme internationally, the Western elites who are still sleepwalking in the Cold War want to accomplish three things: overcoming domestic populist polarization created by their own neoliberal policies; diverting global efforts from economic development and poverty reduction that requires antimonopoly and fairer redistribution; and capturing the dominant narrative that controls public opinion so that they can continue enjoying support for the current "rules".

The discussion of a new Cold War is thus misleading. In fact, what countries really need to focus on is to unite against the one that is still ongoing and creeping up through intentionally fabricated lies, such as coronavirus lab-leak conspiracy, Xinjiang "genocide" or media as "foreign agents", all of which are aimed at reinforcing the outdated Cold War alliances. Being "woke "to gender, racial and income inequality only addresses half of the Cold War repression against humanity, only waking up to the information and knowledge mechanism that sustained artificial schism among cultures, peoples, and institutions around the world will finally address the other half.

In the end, the fate of the future is not and should not be determined by the outcome of an undesirable ideological and geopolitical power struggle between great powers. That future has to be invented by abandoning and dissolving the Cold War not as a physical bipolar system but as a paradigm that's been preached and been governing people's mind for generations.

The author is director of the Department of International Political Studies at the National Institute for Global Strategy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.