"By their own terms and what [Chinese President Xi Jinping] enunciates, I would argue by definition what they're waging against us is fundamentally a cold war — a cold war not like we saw during the Cold War, but a cold war by definition," Michael Collins, deputy assistant director of the CIA's East Asia mission center, said of China in a security summit speech Friday.
Collins defined cold war as a "country that exploits all avenues of power licit and illicit, public and private, economic and military, to undermine the standing of your rival relative to your own standing without resorting to conflict," adding, "The Chinese do not want conflict."
But a desire to avoid military conflict does not preclude competition "far more [significant] by any extreme than what the Russians could put forward," Collins continued, labeling China the "broadest, most challenging, most significant threat we face as a country." The next step for the United States, he advised, is to decide whether to treat China as a "true adversary or a legitimate competitor" on the world stage.
These remarks came the same day as President Trump's threat in a CNBC interview to levy new tariffs on all $500 billion in imports the U.S. buys from China each year unless Beijing waves a white flag in Trump's trade war.