A dramatic deterioration in US-China relations in recent days has convinced current and former government advisers on both sides that bilateral ties have plummeted to their lowest point in decades.
Over the past week, the Trump administration has threatened to scrap an initial trade deal and increase tariffs on China, backed tough new export controls for Chinese firms buying American tech products, and continued to push theories claiming the coronavirus originated in a laboratory in the city of Wuhan.
The White House is also “turbocharging” an initiative among “friendly nations” to push manufacturing supply chains out of China, according to Reuters.
And a leaked report from the US Department of Homeland Security accused Beijing of covering up the severity of the virus so it could hoard medical supplies at the start of the year.
China’s state media and “wolf warrior” diplomats have ratcheted up social media attacks on US political figures in response.
Last week, a video mocking America’s handling of the coronavirus, titled “Once Upon a Virus,” was widely shared among hawkish foreign ministry officials after it was released by official news agency Xinhua.
Analysts say the gloves are now off, with any residual optimism from the phase one trade deal signed in mid-January gone, along with all hope that trade ties could help salvage the wider US-China relationship.
“The United States and China are actually in the era of a new Cold War,” said Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at China’s Renmin University and an adviser to China’s State Council, effectively the country’s cabinet.
“Different from the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, the new Cold War between the US and China features full competition and a rapid decoupling. The US-China relationship is no longer the same as that of a few years ago, not even the same as that of a few months ago.”
While the rhetoric about a “new Cold War” is a common talking point in Washington, it is used less frequently in public by Chinese advisers and scholars. After all, the original Cold War spelt the end of the Soviet Union and left the United States victorious.
But the nosedive in relations in recent weeks has slingshotted the comparison from the fringes of the Trump administration into the mainstream.