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Anti-China hawks in the US are eager for a New Cold War that would disentangle the two mega-economies, especially their technology sectors. They see the inevitable economic disruption as a necessary evil to bolster US national security. And there might be even a partially beneficial economic offset if a slice of Asian manufacturing returns to American shores.
But some nationalists are more optimistic about the potential economic gains from escalating the current trade conflict into something broader. According to this view, the New Cold War would pit the two economies in a high-stakes competition for technological supremacy — and thus geopolitical dominance — in the 21st century. The sense of urgency would force each side to marshal all of their resources and talent in pursuit of victory. Space Race, meet the AI race. The resulting scientific advances and tech innovation would boost both economies. And with prosperity rising, neither side would risk the cold war turning into a hot one.
The seeds of this hot-take argument might be found in the 2014 book War! What Is It Good For?: Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots. In it, archaeologist Ian Morris argues that war, over the long run, “has made humanity safer and richer,” in part because of the military-driven investment in scientific and technological research. Or maybe the inspiration was the 1998 film Armageddon which has a scene where the American president tells a global audience that “all of our combined modern technologies and imaginations, even the wars that we’ve fought, have provided us the tools … to prevent our own extinction’’ from an approaching planet-killer asteroid.