12. September 2023

The Second Cold War: US-China Competition for Centrality in Infrastructure, Digital, Production, and Finance Networks The Second Cold War: US-China Competition for Centrality

Philip Nock et al.

Philip Nock, Research Fellow and PhD Candidate at CASSIS, et al. are conceptualising the "Second Cold War" between the US and China in comparison to the First Cold War in an article for the "Geopolitics" Journal.

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Relations between the US and China have deteriorated to their lowest point since their rapprochement in the 1970s. To make sense of contemporary geopolitics, our objective in this article is two-fold. First, we historically situate contemporary US-China rivalry to conceptualise the Second Cold War (SCW). We argue that in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, both the US and China launched ‘restorative’ political projects that harked back to imagined pasts. These projects are mutually exclusive and animate contemporary geopolitics. Second, we conceptualise the spatial logic of great power rivalry in the Second Cold War. In contrast to the first Cold War, when great powers sought to incorporate territory into blocs, the US and China currently compete on a global scale for centrality in four interrelated networks that they anticipate will underpin hegemony in the 21st century: infrastructure (e.g. logistics and energy), digital, production and finance. We review the state of competition in each network and draw two broad conclusions: (1) this mode of competition makes it difficult for either side to conclusively ‘win’ the Second Cold War, and (2) many countries are likely to remain integrated with both the US and China.

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