The abrupt closure of China’s consulate in Houston marks the latest incident in a rapidly escalating conflict between China and the United States.
Future historians will probably focus on 2020 as the point when intensifying strategic competition between the United States and China turned into a new cold war.
The two superpowers are now engaged in conflict across multiple geographic theatres (South Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia, Europe, Africa and Latin America) and multiple vectors (trade, investment, technology, espionage, international institutions, health policy, naval, air power, missiles and territorial disputes)
The superpowers have articulated a lengthening list of grievances and almost no significant interests in common. Both are attempting to push third countries into an alliance system that would see the world carved into two decoupled blocs. Red versus Blue. With us or against us. Total confrontation. Basically the definition of cold war.
Some policymakers and strategic studies analysts still hesitate to employ the cold war concept, wary of the analogy with the decades-long U.S./USSR conflict and its implications for international relations in the medium and long-term.
But there is no doubt both countries increasingly see and describe the conflict in existential terms. If it looks like a cold war, and sounds like a cold war, it probably is a cold war, and the concept illuminates more than it hides.