The recently reported Cyber attack from China on the Google accounts of top American officials heralds a return to the modern battle between capitalism and communism held in shaky balance between fierce competitiveness and all out war.
A survey carried out by the nationalised Chinese newspaper Global times in early 2010 indicated that over 55% of people in China believed that “a cold war will break out between the US and China” and since then incidents such as cyber attacks have been on the increase as China prepares to muscle in as a world superpower not just financially but also on a military front.
However it is of my opinion that if the new cold war were to escalate then it would not take place on a military front until events became critical. Instead, I think cyber attacks will become a lot more potent and possibly more frequent. Also, as China expands into other markets and fortifies it’s domestic consumers it may be able to drop the subsistence on American debt and cripple the USA financially.
Other events could signal a further deterioration in relations between the USA and China. For years China has sought to humiliate the American president Barack Obama by only sending low level officials for inter-country meetings, some have regarded this as a test of the President’s resolve. On the other hand America hasn’t been completely spotless through it’s constant involvement in the Korean conflicts and also the armament of China’s democratic cousin, Taiwan. Additionally, on a visit to China last year, Obama sought a meeting with the Dalai Lama, leader of the Buddhist faith and a political activist seen as a threat by the Chinese government.
As a constant ally of the USA, Britain needs to be careful to avoid a conflict of this magnitude. It’s not that we wouldn’t be of help militarily but that we wouldn’t be able to cope with attacks on other fronts. In terms of cyber attacks, Britain has not developed such contingency plans that have been outlined recently by the United states which leads me to believe that our leaders do not recognise them as a significant threat. Such ignorance may lead to complications if we are drawn into a conflict with such a technologically advanced enemy as China. We are not in the age of guns any more, enemies can disrupt our infrastructure while sat in their offices in Beijing which could be partly due to the over influence of the Internet in society (See recent article The Plague of the Internet).
With new American legislation branding cyber attacks as acts of war it is of great interest how far they are willing to tolerate Chinese, and also Russian, attacks. It could be that the new Cold War could quickly turns into the new World War if America has the guts to pull the trigger. Whether the ever diplomatic Barack Obama has those guts seems unlikely but if someone as brash as Sarah Palin gets into power then it’s not outside the realms of possibility.