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The Cold War, Old and New: A Preliminary Comparative Study of Polarity, Polarisation, and Elements of (In)stability

Thapiporn Suporn, Poowin Bunyavejchewin, Pattanarat Faugchun and Natthanont Sukthungthong

Pertanika Journal of Tropical Agricultural Science, Volume 29, Issue 2, June 2021

DOI: https://doi.org/10.47836/pjssh.29.2.09

Keywords: Cold War, international system, new Cold War, polarisation, polarity

Published on: 28 June 2021

Recently, the term ‘new Cold War’ has become popular among the media and in academia as a description of contemporary world politics, in general, and major-power relations. Despite the connotations of its name, the Cold War period, sometimes referred to as the long peace, was associated with stability and the avoidance of an all-out world war. This study offers a preliminary examination of the extent to which 21st-century world politics reflects the features of the old Cold War. The findings show that the polarity and polarisation inherent in the current international system are similar to conditions of the early Cold War period (1947–1962), which can be classified as both power bipolar and cluster bipolar. Theoretically, this systemic condition is neither most nor least prone to war. However, similar to the pre-1962 Cold War period, when the implicit rules of the major-power game had yet reached maturity, little consensus on the proper conduct of American–Chinese relations has been reached at present, making current major-power politics highly uncertain and prone to conflict that may lead to war.

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