We are constantly attempting to make feeling of the current by achieving into the last. not so long-ago stylish discourse from the rivalry involving the us and asia summoned up a sage of ancient greece. the athenian historian thucydides predicted inescapable dispute between a proven hegemon and increasing energy. now, the favoured parallel for the sino-american conflict may be the wests combat soviet communism. neat as it may seem, that example is much more confusing than illuminating.

The cool war drum is being beaten many loudly by donald trumps united states administration. you can easily understand why. mr trump believes his belligerent stance towards beijing is really worth votes in novembers presidential election. not too sometime ago he was boasting about hitting a trade handle chinese president xi jinping, now, because it condemns beijing on every front, the trump white home desires to rally us allies towards the cause. exactly how easier to do this than to draw an evaluation using the wests resolve to conquer soviet communism. the example is really as careless of history as it is heedless of present geopolitics.

The usa administrations matchless ignorance was on display a week ago in a message by mike pompeo, the secretary of state, designed to set the terms for a united western stand against beijing. speaking ominously of communist asia together with totally free worlds future, mr pompeo prefaced next many years 50th anniversary of then president richard nixons popular orifice to asia.

Perhaps imagining himself given that george kennan of our times, mr pompeo declared that securing our freedoms through the chinese communist party could be the mission of our time. kennan, obviously, was the us diplomat whom set the framework for americas cold war policy of soviet containment. it absolutely was obvious from mr pompeos speech he had look over neither kennans famous lengthy telegram from moscow nor glanced on once-secret plan papers aiming the objective of nixons outreach to beijing in 1971.

Mr pompeos idea was that nixons objective was indeed to create maos china in to the western democratic fold. thereon basis, he said, it had been time for everyone to admit that policy of orifice had unsuccessful.

The record for the negotiations between nixons envoy henry kissinger and after that chinese top-quality zhou enlai tell yet another story. kissinger ended up being an arch realist, scornful of permitting values to get in the way of hard-headed diplomacy. he performed nothing to push the cause of freedom. their function, plain and simple, was to separate moscow.

The synchronous drawn between the ambitions of mr xis china and that associated with the previous soviet union is similarly inaccurate. the cool war was challenging between competing systems. todays sino-american rivalry is a contest between states.

The chinese regime has actually grand aspirations. it would like to drive the us out from the western pacific and establish its hegemony in eastern asia. it's a fair assessment that long-lasting goal is change the usa since the worlds strongest nation. but, to borrow from kennans characterisation of soviet goals, beijing is not looking for the defeat of capitalism around the world.

Moscow delivered society with an alternate means of ordering community. it had fellow travellers, allies and agents in established functions around the globe. it was a contest that only one side could survive. beijing believes regarding spheres of influence. mr xi is not anticipating what mr pompeo calls the worldwide hegemony of chinese communism.

This is simply not to reject the most obvious clash of ideologies. thereon rating, however, mr pompeos rallying weep for freedom is hardly assisted by mr trumps frequent general public applause for unpleasant autocratic regimes, including that of mr xi. because of the account of their former nationwide protection adviser john bolton, the president provided private backing to mr xi for brutal crackdown against muslim uighurs in xinjiang province.

The communist partys repression yourself is definitely matched by an increasingly intense international plan: deploying army might within the south china sea, economic sanctions against governing bodies that dare to criticise it, and an unsightly mixture of coercion and threats in promising nations. but its position is the fact that for the 19th-century great-power rather than the 20th-century soviet union. it knows, also, that its claims have to be managed into the framework of economic interdependence with the western. the soviets thought they are able to crush capitalism. asia hinges on it.

Truly america as well as its allies should speak down about human liberties abuses and draw solid boundaries against intense behaviour because of the chinese and be willing to protect its values and interests in setting the framework for the commitment.

Mr trump and mr pompeo, but are seemingly ignorant of the very most crucial piece of advice in kennans dispatch from moscow. as important since it had been your west resisted any soviet advance, the solution wasn't provocation or war but so that the health and vigour of our very own culture.

Kennans last phrase might-have-been written especially for mr trump: the greatest danger that may befall us in dealing with this issue of soviet communism, is the fact that we will enable ourselves in order to become like people that have who we are coping.

Follow philip stephens withmyftand ontwitter

Letters responding to this line:

Xis asia is certainly not exactly what nixon had at heart / from zia ebrahimzadeh, washington dc, us

West should watch out for chinas global ambition / from george magnus, university of oxford china centre, oxford, uk