Vincent Boland: The current chill doesn’t have to lead to another Cold War

Last week’s first meeting between US president Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping did little to reduce the gulf between the two superpowers but there are some reasons to hope that the world can avoid a prolonged conflict

US president Joe Biden’s virtual summit with Chinese president Xi Jinping. Xi reportedly greeted Biden as ‘my old friend’, but that seems to have been the high point. Picture: AFP/Getty

It all began with a few games of ping-pong. Fifty years ago, the US was bogged down in Vietnam and desperate to leave, and China’s relationship with the Soviet Union was falling apart, as any clash of rival totalitarian systems is fated to do. Then, out of the blue, the US ping-pong team attending a competition in Japan was invited to play in China.

After a bit of diplomatic to-and-fro, the team was given the ...