We are not headed to a Second Cold War. We are not at risk of heading to a Second Cold War. We are traveling at trans-warp speed toward the First Flash War. It will start and end quickly, laying the groundwork for WWIII and FWII to follow.
These pieces of our times are important to distinguish. Different analysts with different levels of understanding of history are trying their best to explain our times. To a novice—either to history or to the West or to the East—who just begins to understand, it may seem like we are headed toward Cold War II.
China and the US are in a growing conflict on the surface, but Russia is whispering in China's ear. Russia wants the same old thing. The US is generally unaware of Russia's intent or dismisses it.
China thinks that the US wants to retain power. China wants to rise, so Beijing feels the need to "beat back" the US.
The US knows China wants to rise and doesn't mind. The US wants to step back, but knows China is an undisciplined bully—lawless and doesn't respect human rights. So, the US feels the need to "beat down" China to make Beijing behave.
The US takes the approach of protectionism and innovation—tariffs and moving manufacturing back home. China takes the approach of its domineering culture and copying others—both doomed to fail.
One of the Chinese's biggest complaints used to justify their military aggression in the South Sea is American presence. The claim is that the US has 180 military bases throughout East Asia, rephrased "near China". Because of this, China calls America the "aggressor" and, like the burglar who thinks society stole from him first, says its military response is justified.
The US has been in many of those places since the end of WWII and after the Korean War. The Chinese didn't know about this US presence because their surveillance tech wasn't good enough. Once China reverse-engineered and stole designs for enough Western tech—because they still don't know how to invent it on their own—they started to see that Americans had been their the whole time.
The "Second Coming Cold War" argument is flawed because we've already been in such a "cold" standoff for seven decades. That's how Beijing interprets it anyway, and now the Chinese want to heat things up.
Consider the contradiction. For over 70 years, Americans have been quietly watching the seas. They didn't harass fishermen. They didn't aim missiles and launch threats. They didn't attempt to ram into other boats. They never tried to deny passage through international waters. China has done all these things, but not the US—in 70 years! So, because of that, the US is the aggressor? That's Beijing-style thinking anyway. And, that way of thinking is what Washington feels the need to defeat before it gets any bigger.
This week documented a Chinese general committing two "no-nos". Firstly, he commented on the social structure of Hong Kong—military leaders are supposed to remain outside of politics. Secondly, the thus proven military government of China thus also proved disdain for the law it must abide by. Motive is one vital burden of proof in a conviction. Not only had Beijing meddled where it wasn't allowed, but we now have an established motive.