By Sam Tilley
The fall of the Berlin Wall is often lauded as the climax of the Cold War; the end of a period of hostility that had the world fearing open nuclear warfare between the two superpowers of the twentieth century. So how is it that only thirty years later, there has been renewed talk of a second Cold War breaking out and who, if anyone, would take up the mantle left by the Soviet Union?
With the election of Donald Trump as the most pro-Russian U.S President in living memory, political analysts were hoping for a thaw in the constantly-frosty relations between the Obama administration and Putin-led Russia. Whilst officially, relations between the US and Russia have remained tense, one only has to look at the recent expulsion of Russian diplomats in response to the Salisbury attack, it cannot be denied that on a personal level there has never been an American president more open to reconciliation with a Russia that has become more and more brazen in its actions against the West.
Therefore, it is not surprising that many commentators have speculated that any “Cold War II” would not be a rematch between Russia and the West, instead the emergent power of China would prove to be a major player in any hypothetical ‘round two’. The growing influence of China can be best seen in the military manoeuvring deployed in the South China Sea; the construction of a network of vast network of artificial islands by the Chinese has risen to become potentially the greatest diplomatic crisis outside the Middle East. US military support for South Korea in the region has merely added more fuel to the growing fire, with the Chinese state-controlled Xinhua news agency even stating in 2016 that a “New Cold War looms large” over the US’s decision to deploy the THAAD missile defence system in the Korean peninsula.
Perhaps the greatest indicator that a new Cold War is on the horizon is the escalation over the summer of trading tariffs; the majority implemented by the White House. Tensions have skyrocketed over the US decision to place tariffs on a number of Chinese goods, an act that former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has described as the beginning of a “trade war, an investment war and a technology war”. Time will only tell if he is right.