In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. In 1991, the Soviet Union disintegrated and Deng Xiaoping (
Deng hit the nail on the head -- 15 years on, we can already see the outlines of a new cold war. But Deng didn't get it all right, for he saw the new cold war in terms of a direct confrontation between a socialist nation with Chinese characteristics and a capitalist America.
But in fact, the new cold war seems to be shaping up as a confrontation between a Chinese-Russian alliance and the US, Japan, South Korea and the EU on the one hand, and a battle between Eastern authoritarianism and Western democracy on the other. In the power politics of this struggle for hegemony, the new cold war is not much different from the old cold war. But in regard to the ideological struggle, there are some differences.
I have often pointed out, especially in countering the arguments presented in Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations, that this conflict is not between Eastern Confucianism and Western Christianity, nor is it a clash between Christian and Islamic civilization. In fact it is a battle between Eastern authoritarianism and Western liberal democracy.
Recently, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan have all released new national defense policy reports. Most notably, Japan's national defense white paper for the first time clearly points to the rise of China's military capability, noting that China's military budget now exceeds that of Japan, and that the threat posed by China is a fact that Japan can no longer afford to ignore.
Japan believes it must now rethink its national defense strategy and strengthen its military preparations, building up its security and defense system on the basis that China is its primary adversary. It has established an Asia-Pacific strategic security network with the US, North Korea and other Asian countries and has hinted at Taiwan's participation.
A cold war between Japan and Russia has persisted ever since the end of WWII due to the unresolved issue of Japan's "northern territories," which has caused Japan to see Russia as an enemy.
In addition, the North Korean nuclear weapons issue is still unresolved, and Pyongyang and Tokyo are caught in a hostile face-off. Problems abound in the region and the alliances between Beijing and Pyongyang, and between Japan and the US, make the atmosphere of a cold war inescapable. It is palpable even when you are aren't looking.
Japan and the US are making huge strides with the development of a missile defense system, and not only has Japan purchased AEGIS-equipped destroyers, it has even violated its "peace constitution" by selling advanced missile defense technology to the US. Naturally, combined Japanese, US and South Korean military exercises are taking place with increasing frequency. Looking at China and Russia, we see that they have finally resolved border disputes that have plagued relations between the two nations for half a century, with Beijing making considerable concessions.
In the aftermath of the Soviet collapse, Russia sold vast quantities of advanced military technology to China, including missiles, fighter jets, Sovremenny class destroyers, kilo-class submarines and radar systems. There are even rumors that the Russians are considering selling China aircraft carriers. Recently, the largest ever Chinese-Russian military exercises were held, and analysts believe that the trend these exercises represent for Chinese-Russian relations cannot be ignored.