Some frame the current U.S.-China relationship as the “new Cold War.” This is a mischaracterization because the United States and the Soviet Union, which is often referred to as the USSR, engaged in almost no trade during the Cold War. The two countries had little international collaboration and limited person-to-person contacts.
In reality, the U.S.-China relationship is much different; it is defined by an economic interdependence that Niall Ferguson called “Chimerica” and expansive relationships. But to ignore growing competition between the two would be naïve. While a key aspect of twentieth-century great-power conflict exists today—namely geostrategic rivalry—twenty-first-century competition is also a game of trade, economics, technology and investment.
This competition is playing out everywhere from U.S. soybean farms to Europe’s next-generation telecommunication networks. But few U.S. policymakers are focusing their energy on emerging markets, a grave mistake that Beijing has not, and will not make.
Central Asia is a clear illustration of China’s application of the twenty-first-century great-power strategy.