It is "distressing and dangerous" for the political establishment in Washington to drum up a new cold war with China, a trend that risks jeopardizing the interests of both countries along with the cooperation that the world badly needs, a high-profile US politician noted on Thursday.
In the article "Washington's Dangerous New Consensus on China" published on Foreign Affairs, US Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont challenged what he said was a "fast-growing consensus" emerging in the US that views US-China relations as a zero-sum economic and military struggle.
"The prevalence of this view will create a political environment in which the cooperation that the world desperately needs will be increasingly difficult to achieve," wrote Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats and twice ran unsuccessfully for the party's presidential nomination in 2016 and 2020.
The chair of the Senate Budget Committee noted the unprecedented global challenges the US faces are shared global challenges, which require increased international cooperation — including with China.
But a growing bipartisan push for a confrontation with China will set back US goals in security, prosperity and the international system and risks empowering authoritarian, ultranationalistic forces in both countries.
"It will also deflect attention from the shared common interests the two countries have in combating truly existential threats such as climate change, pandemics, and the destruction that a nuclear war would bring," he wrote.
Sanders, the longest-serving independent in US congressional history, cautioned that Americans must resist the temptation to try to forge national unity through hostility and fear.
The rush to confront China, he noted, has a recent precedent: the global "war on terror" waged nearly two decades ago.
"Almost two decades and $6 trillion later, it becomes clear that national unity was exploited to launch a series of endless wars that proved enormously costly in human, economic, and strategic terms and that gave rise to xenophobia and bigotry in US politics," he wrote.
Unsurprisingly, in a climate of "relentless fearmongering" about China, the US is experiencing an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes, noted Sanders.
"Right now, the United States is more divided than it has been in recent history. But the experience of the last two decades should have shown us that Americans must resist the temptation to try to forge national unity through hostility and fear," he added.
Confronting China has become one of the few issues that unites both parties in Congress at a time of intense partisan division.
Last week, the Senate passed The US Innovation and Competition Act, one of the largest industrial bills in US history to ramp up technology manufacturing aimed at outcompeting China.
It was one of the hundreds of bills introduced on Capitol Hill over the past five years aimed at shaping US-China policy.
In his article, Sanders noted that casting China as an existential threat to the US served some purposes.
"We are already hearing politicians and representatives of the military-industrial complex using this as the latest pretext for larger and larger defense budgets," the 79-year-old wrote.
Sanders acknowledged that developing a mutually beneficial relationship with China will not be easy.
"But we can do better than a new Cold War," he concluded.
The subject of the imminent climate change crisis has been a muse for many analysts to reflect on a likely cold war between the world's top two economies, which happen to be the biggest greenhouse gas emitters.
"Whether a literal war results or not, one thing should be clear enough: if the two greatest carbon emitters can't figure out how to cooperate instead of picking endless fights with each other, the human future is likely to prove grim and dim indeed," noted Tom Engelhardt, an author and a fellow at Type Media Center, a nonprofit in New York.
While "containing" China is the foreign policy focus of the moment in the US, "this is the very time when what truly needs to be contained is the overheating of this planet", he wrote in "We Don't Have Time to Waste on Cold Wars", published on The Nation magazine last week.